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What exactly are: Breton stripes?

What exactly are: Breton stripes?

In a nutshell

Usually found on short- and long-sleeved cotton t-shirts, Breton stripes are horizontal and navy and white. They're an ultra classic—and one of the easiest patterns to wear.


Breton stripes hail from Brittany (or Bretagne) in Northern France, which explains their name. Thick cotton shirts with these stripes became part of the uniform for seamen in 1858, because they were decreed easy to spot in a sea emergency and because the fabric was so hard-wearing. Since then, Breton tops have become something of a French stereotype—with an enduring simplicity that looks good on guys of every, um, stripe: Picasso, James Dean and Andy Warhol were all fans.

How to wear them well

"A Breton-striped top is a really nice alternative to a plain sweatshirt," says Thread stylist Luke McDonald (whose favourite style is the Armor Lux t-shirt, photographed). "Their nautical history makes them a natural fit on holiday—but not so much in formal settings." Luke suggests pairing them with chinos and shorts, and maybe throwing on an unstructured blazer for a dinner out. And it's worth considering their optical effect: "The stripes can make you look broader," Luke explains, "which is a boon to men with slim shoulders or a narrow chest—but less flattering for heavier-set guys."