Breton stripes for safety
Where do the Breton stripes find their origin?
Well, as the name states, in Breton (formerly known as Brittany) in France.
The fishermen in the beginning of the 19th century wore striped woollen shirts called marinière or matelot. These sturdy shirts, knitted by their wives with a special and very secret technique preserved by generations of mothers and daughters, protected them from the elements and were practical in use. The stripes were meant to make unfortunate seamen who had fallen overboard more visible for their potential rescuers.
The sweaters soon became the trademark of the garlic merchants, and adopted the nickname of Chandail, a shortened version of marchands d’ail.
On March 27th 1858, a law called the Act of France declared the striped shirt a part of the regulatory Navy uniform. This version of the Breton shirt was made of tricot with a boat neck and counted 21 blue stripes, symbolising all Napoleons victories and thus giving the practical stripes a patriotic colour.
The garment soon found its way to sailors and fishermen all along the northern French coast. It had probably more to do with its practicality and ease of use than its fashionable looks or patriotic symbolism.
But it really made its cross-over to the fashion world when Coco Chanel spotted the shirts during her stay at Deauville. She combined the striped shirt with a pair of high-waisted wide trousers. Not for men mind you, but for women.
Nowadays the Breton stripe has become iconic for everything marine-orientated. So whether you’re in or out of the water, wear the Breton stripe, just to be safe.