NAUTICAL STYLE LEGACY
By Sam Higgins, 25 February 2017
Historically, throwing on a classic Breton or ribbed beanie would signal an imminent voyage out to sea. But, over the last century, the uniform of seafaring men has become a perpetual menswear mainstay. Here are some of the pieces that have their roots anchored in all-things naval.
It was back in the 19th century that the Breton shirt (and its Russian equivalent, the telnyashka, pictured here) became a sailing style stalwart, helping crew members be more visible among the waves should they find themselves overboard. Arguably the most iconic takeaway from fisherman fashion, the striped tee was adopted by locals in the French region of Brittany, before being hoisted into the style stratosphere with a helping hand from Chanel and its 1917 nautical-inspired collection.
Fast forward to 2017 and the details that were once purely practical have become exactly what makes nautical-inspired pieces appealing. Vibrant hues, once intended to keep wearers conspicuous in adverse conditions, now adorn our land-based wet-weather gear more for peacocking purposes than anything else. And while fisherman beanies provide the thickness needed to keep your ears cosy in biting winds, you’re more likely to find them perched delicately on the heads of the street-style elite, providing more seasonal styling than necessary warmth.
Another piece of sailor style that has stood the test of time is the boat shoe. In 1935, after noticing how his dog wouldn’t slide when running over ice, Paul A Sperry cut grooves into the soles of his shoes in an attempt to replicate his pup’s agility on slippery surfaces. The resulting shoe kickstarted his own brand of boat shoes – Sperry Topsider. Until the 70s, the deck-ready design didn’t stray from functional footwear, but the style’s laid-back design quickly grew into a preppy regular, worn sockless with a pair of chinos, or – as Niall Horan does here – with some indigo jeans and the cuffs turned up to show off the neat detailing.
Few occupations have produced a greater haul of style takeaways than fishing. Seafaring style, unlike many other workwear trends, carries a timeless and enduring edge that helps each key element slot seamlessly together, without ever looking costume-y. One look at this full-kit anchor confirms it – whereas today, his beanie, fisherman-knit jumper, pea coat and neckerchief wouldn’t look out of place outside a fashion week show, if he wore this getup in a 19th-century port town, he’d be quickly press-ganged into several months at sea.
It’s not just the heritage menswear set that’s adopted the nautical style, either. Lil Yachty’s whole aesthetic and hip-hop identity is naval-themed, taking the nautical fashion from the sea to the streets in style. Him and his gang – the aptly named Sailing Team – kit themselves out in everything from the staple seafaring Breton, to the more niche, but nevertheless on-trend, neckerchief. What’s more, even his red beaded twists glow like a lighthouse. All aboard the Lil Boat.