What it is:
Originally worn by sailors to be seen from afar; the Breton top (or marinière) has been a wardrobe staple for decades and has been largely popularised by Coco Chanel in the early days of her career. It takes its name from the French region of Brittany, in which sailors have worn this piece of clothing since the 1820s. Now a fashion must-have that’s reinterpreted each season by designers and retailers alike, it’s a timeless item to reach out for and one that belongs as much to womenswear as it does to menswear. It has been updated in endless cuts, colours and fabrics over the years while also being distressed, shrunk or transformed in other iterations such as dresses and jumpsuits.
Why you’ll want it:
The classic Breton top -- think crew neck, long sleeves and in a navy and white colour combination -- is the ideal piece in between seasons. It’ll come in handy on those chilly summer evenings that are just around the corner and is a piece often reached for once the first days of autumn arrive. A classic with a twist, the marinière embodies Parisian nonchalance and easily makes an outfit from scratch. While the timeless navy and white version stands for casual elegance and is a unisex style statement, the red and white iteration is a good option to add a pop of colour to any look. Whatever the style, it’s an item you can wear with just about any neutral, from a pair of white denim to a double-breasted blazer.
Where we’ve seen it:
The Breton stripes are incorporated into a large array of collections each season and come in styles that are as diverse as they’re one-of-a-kind. In recent womenswear collections, we’ve seen Ermanno Scervino design a bright pink sweater version detailed with flowers for its Resort 2022 presentation. At Christian Dior, the marinière came in classic black and white hues and was paired with knitted shorts and a white pea coat for a sailor-inspired total look. At Chanel, Virginie Viard created a strapless striped top she matched with a tweed ensemble. For men, we’ve seen Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello slip a finely-striped Breton top under a slim-fit suit and Federico Cina present a loose tank top version.
How to style it:
The main advantage of the marinière is its versatility. Whatever the season we’ve in, the style we’ve looking for or the fabrics we’re after - there’s a suitable iteration for everyone. G-Star RAW’s rollneck sweater is a good option to pair under a fitted blazer for the winter months; The Kooples Sport’s cropped and branded version is ideal for the end of summer and Nudie Jeans’ oversized design will look good paired with a silk scarf and straight-leg blue jeans once temperatures drop. For those still looking for some summer pieces, Madewell’s Solid & Striped swimsuit is the way to go. In the menswear department, Scotch & Soda’s navy sweater is a good choice to stay true to the classics while updating the traditional striped print.
There’s a reason why the striped Breton top has been part of both women’s and men’s wardrobes for decades: it’s a piece of clothing that’s effortlessly chic and works year-round. Plus, it comes in so many different styles that you cannot but find one that’ll match your style. What more can we ask for?
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