LeeMmarvin wore it in The Wild One. Picasso wore it in his everyday life. Now the Breton stripe is back in a big way, a staple of the nautical-influenced men’s collections for 2015—but French label Saint James has been in on it from the start.
The long-sleeve shirt featuring this design, known as the marinière, originated among seamen in the Brittany region of France, where the temperature rarely rises above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Saint James has been designing its Breton-stripe shirt since 1889. “We love to reinterpret our stripe shirts every season,” says Saint James creative director Jacqueline Petipas during a joint interview for M, with managing director Guillaume Jamet, in the brand’s atelier, located near Mont Saint-Michel.
“Starting by the seventeenth century, it was originally the outfit for sailors,” Jamet says.
“Stripes have long remained, in the West, a mark of exclusion and infamy, since the Middle Ages,” says Petipas. “Stripes dressed all those who disturbed or violated the established order: jugglers, musicians, bastards, prostitutes, and convicts. The codes have since changed, but this negative idea endured over time. During the twentieth century, stripes were seen on servants and prisoners. In the navy, simple sailors only wore the marinière, and officers were only allowed to wear solid colors. Still, today, naval-officer trainees are nicknamed ‘zebras’ by their peers.”
Jamet provided some history: “In 1913, Coco Chanel opens shop in the resort town of Deauville and launches a line inspired by the nautical life and sailors, which includes the marinière. Many years later, Karl Lagerfeld pays tribute to this iconic item in his collections. Starting in the forties, celebrities start adopting the marinière as a comfortable yet stylish garment: John Wayne, Jean Cocteau, and Brigitte Bardot. After Jean Seberg’s appearance in the movie Breathless, where she sports a marinière, Yves Saint Laurent introduces a deconstructed marinière in his early collections. Since the eighties, Jean Paul Gaultier’s interpretation makes him the herald of the marinière.”
“Despite all the new styles introduced every year,” Petipas said, “Saint James still manufactures the original marinière [Style Meridien II].”
How does the shirt fit into a man’s wardrobe today?
“The weekend is all about the marinière and chinos,” Petipas says. ($95)