Here at Number Six, we're big fans of the Breton stripe. It's something that's steeped in appreciation by menswear-heads and French style fanatics alike… Don't forget the sailors. Now, though, we're going to give you a little bit of history behind exactly what makes it so great. As a staple or a feature, it's something we're always looking towards for the best styling platform.
Originating from Brittany, North-Western France, the blue Breton stripe has now become synonymous with everything French. This isn't by accident either, in 1858 a decree was passed introducing a new striped shirt for all French Navymen to wear as uniform. Of course, with an origin like this, it was designed to be massively practical. The length covered the lower back but wasn't too loose to stop it catching on anything onboard the ship.
“Synonymous with everything French”
With its tightly knitted cotton and eye-catching design, it also helped any men who accidentally went overboard. It’s said the stripes meant they could be easily spotted by fellow Navymen. It’s come a long way since then, but it’s still as striking today. It’s stayed true to its roots for over 150 years, which we can definitely respect.
Speaking of sticking to its roots, we couldn’t write about the Breton stripe without mentioning the almighty Armor Lux.
These guys have been going since 1938, and they’re still based in their hometown Quimper. This actually makes them one of the only remaining Breton stripe factories operating in Brittany. Heritage like this is something you can’t fake. It takes care, time, tradition and focus: values we can definitely get behind.
If you read an Armor Lux label, you’ll see the following:
“This shirt consisted of 21 stripes representing the Napoleon victories. Nowadays the number of stripes may vary...”
It's not just aesthetically strong, it's successfully found its place in pop culture over the last 100 years too. You can see it nearly everywhere in mid-20th Century Hollywood and the art world. From the original Hollywood legend, Marlon Brando, to the man himself: James Dean in 'Rebel Without A Cause'. As for the art scene, having figures like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso backing the Breton; you know it's a surefire hit.
On the subject of being a surefire hit, here’s what some of our staff had to say about the garment in question:
Stripes enthusiast Bryony:
“For me, Breton stripes are essential to my daily attire. I like to make more of a feature of them, it’s a quick way to look a bit more put-together. Appreciating the origins makes it even better, too.”
Layering extraordinaire Joe:
“It's the perfect layer. I'd never wear one by itself. But if you're looking for a nice simple pattern under a couple layers it's perfect for that. Something a bit different to add a bit of texture to your outfit.”