3.1 Nautical Chic: The Origin



Nautical chic is a truly timeless beauty, from early twentieth century to present, it has been invented and reinvented by many extraordinary fashion designers and fashionistas for decades. Literally, anything can last that long must have something phenomenal about it. Now, lets go back in time, and have a look on the transformation this perpetual trend.


In 1858, Act of France had demanded all sailors to wear a certain kind of uniform — a marinière or matelot which was a knitted shirt with navy and white stripes on it. Since the manufactory of this uniform was Saint James, Bretagne, all the workers and laborers began to fall in love with this design, as if this pinstriped shirt could cast a magical spell on people. Soon, this shirt was popular in Brittany, thus, it had also been given another name called “Breton Top”.

At the dawn of the 20s, and one of the apexes of her career, French couturière Coco Chanel spent a vacation on the lovely French coast with her lover. While they were walking down the coastline, Coco noticed the navy who were wearing this Breton top, and devastatingly got her eyes on this item. She robbed it from a sailor and adapted it into a more feminine piece. Furthermore, after she got back home from this vacation, mademoiselle Chanel was utterly inspired by this shirt, and created the nautical collection in 1917. In this collection, she introduced various options to pair with the Breton top, like trousers, shorts, and blazer. 

Shortly afterward, when this concept of nautical chic first introduced into the fashion industry, people responded pretty fast. Many women in the late 1910s, and the early 1920s would actually want Chanel’s boundary-pushing design, because it was “a symbol of haute-bourgeois loveliness during the pre-war Riviera years”. 

However, for most people, this shirt stood out when more and more influential personalities and fashionistas chose to wear it in public in the 50s and 60s. For instance, this classic navy&white pinstriped shirt fits perfectly to Audrey Hepburn. It was a very causal piece to her, simply paired up with high-waisted pants would become a day to day look for Hepburn. Not only her, Marilyn Monroe, Picasso, Andy Warhol, etc, had all incorporated this look in to their wardrobe. 

Step into the 2000s, the one person that revived this trend of navy&white back alive is the one and only Jean Paul Gaultier. By insane obsession in Breton stripes, Gaultier not only uses the stripes but owned the stripes on everything he does. Fashion design, interior design, perfume bottles; like snails which leave sticky liquid everywhere they go, his mucus is clearly “breton stripes”. However, other fashion houses are also huge fans of sailor stripes as well, Michael Kors, Balmain, and Givenchy have all been reinventing this trend constantly. 

Over time, Breton top has transformed itself from a blue-collar uniform into an everlasting trend of all time. The reason why so many people possess one is because it radiates a glow, a glow of carefree, casual, yet elegant. I truly esteem Coco Chanel’s irreplaceable eyes of fashion.


Coco Chanel appeared in a Breton top


Audrey Hepburn liked to wear a Breton at home,
Chic and Comfortable


Jean Paul Gaultier and his Breton stripes interior design.


Gaultier's Perfume bottle is inspired by the Nautical Trend


PS. With reference to LINK


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