Featuring 21 navy and 21 white stripes, the original Breton shirt, or “tricot rayé,” was made the official undergarment of the French Navy in March 1858. One thought was that the shirts were to help sailors stand out amongst the sea, another that the stripes symbolized Napoleon’s naval fleet’s victories against the British.
Popularized by artists, socialites and movie stars, alike—including Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso and later James Dean—stripes became a staple of chic leisurewear throughout the early and mid-1900s, associated with wealthy bohemian artistic circles.
Amongst the key influencers of the trend were wealthy US expatriates Gerald and Sara Murphy, whose French Riviera villa became home base for the Jazz Age social set looking for a seaside escape. Gerald was said to have picked up a collection of striped shirts from a boat supply shop to distribute to his guests.
In the 1940s, stripes were brought deeper ashore into the jazz clubs of Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, where artists, writers and intellectuals like Boris Vian and Jacques Prévert dressed in authentic striped sailor jerseys.
Meanwhile, the emergence of the“mode Riviera” was spurred on by Brigitte Bardot appearing at one of the first editions of the Cannes Film Festival in a red version of the striped sailor jersey. From there, it hit the silver screen, and by the ’60s, had been adopted by the Beatnik community.
The French Stripe Collection—inspired by the casual elegance of artists at sea. Now available online.