It's probably a bit strange to think that one of our most beloved wardrobe classics, the striped top, has a history that's nearly 150 years old. You see, while the tee might be ubiquitous across the high street and the world's biggest fashion houses, it all started in a small village called Saint James in Normandy. In 1858, it became the birthplace of the striped Breton top, which had been created for the French navy. The transition from practical, utilitarian clothing to fashion came about thanks to the long summer holidays in France, but when Coco Chanel included stripes in her collections in 1913, it had the industry seal of approval.
Since then, the Breton has been worn by numerous artists, designers, actors, and actresses—from Pablo Picasso to Jean Paul Gaultier, Audrey Hepburn, and Jean Seberg. Today, this garment is still considered a staple of our wardrobes and is the item that fashion editors still love, no matter what their personal style is.
Jean Seberg wearing a Breton top.
Saint James's Breton top, however, is arguably the ultimate version of this icon. It is the perfect slightly loose cut. Its neckline isn't too high or too low, and it can be worn tucked into trousers or left loose. It's ideal for holidays (when we can have them) and yet still looks chic under a blazer in the office. It is as versatile as the white shirt or grey jumper.
Jenna Lyons wearing a Breton under a cropped trench and white jeans.
For those in the fashion industry, I'd argue that Jenna Lyons is one of our striped-tee icons. The former creative director of J.Crew made the striped tee feel fresh and exciting again while she was at the helm of the brand. Not only did she give us fun sequin Bretons, amongst many other iterations, but she also wore stripes incredibly well herself and was always snapped wearing them in some new way.
Street styler wearing a Saint James Breton top.
In 2021, however, I can see the Breton becoming even more popular again thanks to our renewed dedication to investing in items that last. Keep scrolling to see where to shop the Saint James top and then go on to find similar Breton styles.