The Meticulous Knitwear Breton Shirt

The Meticulous Knitwear Breton Shirt

The Origin of the Breton Shirt

The marinière, also known as the Breton shirt, has a rich history rooted in French naval tradition. Following a decree on March 27, 1858, the combed cotton jersey and sweaters were officially adopted as part of the French naval uniform, with specifications mandating twenty-one 20mm-wide white stripes and twenty-one 10mm-wide blue stripes on the body, and 15 white stripes and 14 or 15 blue stripes on the sleeves. Legend has it that the number of stripes was supposed to represent each of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories over the British.

1. Trade cards from the "MIlitary Series" (N224), issued in 1888 by Kinney Tobacco Company to promote Sweet Caporal Cigarettes.

From Practicality to Fashion Staple

The distinctive blue and white stripes were chosen for their visibility at sea, helping to spot sailors who might fall overboard. The mid-length shirt's form-fitting yet comfortable cut, wide boat neckline, and long sleeves made it ideal for the demanding conditions faced by sailors, offering warmth and protection without restricting movement. Another notable transformation of this garment is the adoption of the ¾ sleeve length, which offered sailors more coverage than a short sleeve but was less restrictive than a full-length sleeve. Coco Chanel famously incorporated "la marinière" into her nautical collection, transforming this practical garment into an iconic symbol of liberation from the restrictive clothing of the Victorian era. It has since remained a must-have staple in every woman's wardrobe.

2. Gabrielle Chanel in marinière 1928

Reimagine a Classic Icon

When I decided to recreate this classic icon, I knew I didn't want this piece to be just another fashion item. I wanted to incorporate all the practical elements of the marinière, giving it a purpose. Everything about this piece is true to the original, from the fit, neck, sleeve, and body to the protective elements. The only change is the elevated linen cotton blend, a combination of French linen and American long-staple cotton. This blend complements the durability of linen with the softness of long-staple cotton. I also took the extra step of treating the yarn with a UPF process to provide a little sun protection. On my last note, bring it on your next trip because you never know when you will be invited on a boat.

The shirt is available in two colorways: the classic blue with white stripes and the eye-catching navy with Nantucket red stripes.



1. French Sailor, French Navy, 1886, from the Military Series (N224) issued by Kinney Tobacco Company to promote Sweet Caporal Cigarettes, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

2. Gabrielle Chanel in marinière, Wikimedia Commons


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