There is an endless amount of garments that were influenced by the military and one the most iconic ones is the Breton top. It was none other than the Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel who took this naval shirt and turned it into the quintessential 'je ne sais quoi'-garment.
Inspired by the navy
It was Napoleon Bonaporte who introduced the striped shirt the military. The naval top was supposed to have exactly 21 stripes to commemorate Napoleon's victories, mimicking Naoplean’s Arcs de Triomphes in Paris. In 1858 the striped shirt was prescribed as the seaman’s uniform in Brittany. The top was born out of functionality as its boat neck allowed sailors to dress quickly, the horizontal stripes to easily spot an overboard shipmate and the woven cotton could withstand the elements while maintaining comfort.
Chanel introduces the Breton top
After a trip to the coast of southern France, Coco Chanel was so inspired by the sailors’ uniform that she incorporated the stripes into her 1917 collection. This style broke away from the more heavily fitted styles of the time. By the 1930s, the Breton stripe had been elevated to 'haute couture' status, making it a popular choice for fashionable upper class ladies.
I never met a stripe I didn't like
Stars like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, and even James Dean and Marlon Brando turned Chanel’s Breton Stripe Shirt into a mainstream phenomenon. Flash forward to 2016 and the Breton top is still as classic as every. We would bet there isn't a fashion-loving woman in the world who doesn't own this staple piece.
Even though nowadays the striped top is now practically sold on every corner of the high street, the classic still reminds of Coco Chanel. The iconic designer went against all the ideas of style in her time, and we still thank her for it.