The Breton has been making sartorial waves since its inception in Brittany (or Bretagne) in 1858. In fact, it was integrated into the national naval uniform to make sailors who found themselves floating overboard more visible in the waves. Originally in knitted or cotton form, each of its traditional 21 stripes is said to mark one of Napoleon’s famous victories.
Functionally fashionable, it was quickly adopted by seafarers, locals and other French folk, including Coco Chanel. The designer was so taken with the style that she included it in Chanel’s 1917 nautical-inspired collection, permanently positioning it in the couture wardrobes of the Paris elite.
The trend thrived in France throughout the 20s and 30s, and by the 50s it had broken into Hollywood with the help of style icons like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Dean’s roguish reputation toughened up the Breton and cemented it as a menswear classic.