Consider the Breton Stripe

Then wear it


While approximating Jane Birkin’s stripes, why not ponder whether stripes should be considered a neutral. Better make up your mind fast or they might rebel

Did you know that the original breton striped shirt came with 21 stripes on it?

Me neither.

Each stripe functioned as a numerical totem that tallied Napoleon’s militant victories.

It was not until 1917, when Coco Chanel first introduced the hitherto work shirt (it had been created in the mid-1800s for members of the French Navy — seamen if you will) to a collection for resort (though it was not being called resort back then) that the shirt made its first foray into the sartorial vernacular of fashion.

Then, of course, there came the Audrey Hepburns and Brigitte Bardots of the world, who seemed to emanate that sense of, “So you can’t quite approximate my full eyebrows or conversely fluent-looking bed-head? No problem. Approximate our shirts.”

And approximate ye did.

If Alexa Chung, Audrey Tautou, Kate Moss, Edie Sedgwick et al are an indication of anything when considering the horizontal slivers of navy, it is that the easy, achievable and accessible nature of the tees are exactly what make them seem so swank now.

Don’t they seem kind of swank in that way that steadily reliable friends do? You love your friend, she’s always there for you, you kind of don’t want to share your friend, but even if you do, there’s a fundamental understanding that it won’t affect how you two interact, how frequently you’re together and more importantly, how profoundly you get each other.

Of course it doesn’t hurt either that the illusion of a little French boy is consistently conjured up too. But if I’m being really honest with you, all this metaphor is to say that my money is on stripes for the imminent summer season. They’re befitting wherever they’re placed.

Pair one with a ball gown skirt and host your own Met Ball. (Please, though, call it the Guggenheim Ball or at very least acknowledge that I’ve been calling it that for three days. I likely won’t stop until you tell me to or laugh).

Shut your mind off, close your eyes and throw (literally throw, I’m dying to see this visual) a pair of high waist jeans or cut offs on. You’ll look like “you woke up like dis,” even though you are far too creative to say such a thing.

Or, try a linen sarong as a skirt and pretend you’re at the beach, unless you actually are at the beach, in which case: fuck you.

I’m kidding! Bring me back a seashell.

Or a striped shirt.

Oh! Right! Also, my current favorite is from Zara. Amelia is committed to the purveyors of stripes at Saint James and recently, I bought the photographed one from the mens department at A.P.C. and so far, I have no regrets. (The rest of the outfit includes sunglasses by Karen Walker, jeans by the anterior (also mens, they’re a size 28, and now on sale) and Christian Louboutin heels.)

I should also mention that accessories seem integral too. The right sunglasses, a gold choker. Striped shirts are a reliable friend and a loaf of bread. One that begs for fancy marination. So give it what it wants.

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  • Boyfriendsandblazers

    Amazing, I love that you paired it with a slightly highwaisted pair of white jeans, because many women are afraid of wearing horizontal stripes due to fear of appearing wider than they are. wearing the “breton” shirt loosely tucked in front or with a pair of skinny jeans are a great pump or wedge definitely helps show the body’s “real” size regardless of the stripes! Perfectly done, Manrepeller, perfectly done.

  • Sharrel

    Beautiful look! I really love the stripes in combination with the white jeans. The shoes are really stunning!


  • Interesting history on the Breton Stripe and even more interesting piece combos. I hope this look never goes out of style. And might I say, WOW, your sunglasses are killer!

  • Quinn Halman

    What a coincidence! I’m wearing my CDG Play blue and white striped shirt with an acid wash skirt from urban outfitters and neon blue converse! I look like something right out of the 1950s, especially with the letterman jacket! But I will say my favourite breton is the once I stole from my dad

  • Kate Wilson
  • GapToothedGirl

    Love the breton stripe, most of all on Audrey. I like the shoes whit that simple outfit.
    Love, Gap

  • “Or, try a linen sarong as a skirt and pretend you’re at the beach, unless you actually are at the beach, in which case: fuck you.”

    Hilarious. Thanks for that. 🙂

  • lens & anything else

    I have too many marinière in my closet, it’s my everyday uniform!
    I’ve also joined a blogger group called #rubRiga (riga= stripe in italian) and we posted striped outfit from time to time as mine today ;)!

    A truly breton shirt addicted!
    lens & anything else

  • You look so French in your marinière Leandra! I love breton stripes, of course, I’m French!

    Mafalda ❤

  • My wardrobe was starting to look like a nautical obsession with navy and white stripes. I had to go cold turkey on all new striped arrivals, this is totally making me want to break down …

  • ee_by_cc

    Nothing like a bit of history to go along with my morning Man Repeller story, I love it! On another note, those Illesteva sunglasses are THE most. I’ve been searching high and low for a good mirrored pair. I think these may be it (I hope, I hope, I hope I look cool in them!)

  • Looks amazing. A striped shirt is always a good idea!

  • My Saint James shirt is one of the best purchases I have ever made. And you’ve been wearin it for days– WHERE DID YOU GET THAT FLY WATCH?!!

  • AaronLMorales

    I like the shoes whit that simple outfit.*4784*7940

  • monkeyshines
  • I am really sorry Leandra…..
    I used to get so inspired by your fearless and fun styling. Now you post on wearing stripes…. in spring…. and you style them with white pants….
    yeah it’s a classic and all… but I don’t need to go on a blog to see my I-don’t-know-what-to wear-today outfit (that I am pretty much wearing right now and so are about three other girls at my office….)
    sorry……. I really hope you take this as constructive criticism

    • Kelly’s Gross-o

      I understand where you’re coming from Madeau, I really do. Sometimes I feel the same way. But I like to think that the changes in MR’s aesthetic can best be understood in the same way as the bands that we loved in high school can.

      Stay with me here– When we were battling our way through the trenches of adolescence, they were right there by our side, screaming their angsty teenage throats sore, letting us know that we weren’t alone, and that everything would be okay. Now that they’ve grown up, seen some success, and began to sort things out a bit, they never seem to be able to recreate that same raw edge that initially attracted us to them (I’m looking at YOU Taking Back Sunday). But if they did, would we really like them now that we’re, you know, a little bit more mature?

      What I’m saying is, Man Repeller has matured and developed in the same way that we all have, and her (their? Love you Amelia and Charlotte!) style has changed with time (as style is want to do). I myself completely abandoned the layered tutu looks that were my standard in high school, because well, I grew up a little (EEEK!).

      Change is natural, if not difficult to accept. But what keeps me coming back to MR year after year is the content– smart, funny, and relevant, I can relate to these ladies and their POVs resonate with me. These feminist fashionistas aren’t afraid to stand up amongst a sea of Pinterest-perfect blogs and scream, “BUT HEY, WHAT ABOUT ARM SCARVES?!!”

      And THAT is inspiring.

  • Stripes are to me as jeans are to most people…if that makes sense. It’s my white t-shirt when all of my white t-shirts are in the laundry. I don’t what I’d do without them.

  • Steph

    I love breton but I can never seem to see good lady shirts with a nice boxy shape; they are all cropped and body-con! Definitely checking out the tops you’ve recommmended xo

  • juliana

    I love, love, love stripes.. One of my favorites combinations is floral skirts + stripes. I posted some references about this style on my blog today!

  • juliana

    I love, love, love stripes. One of my favorites combinations is floral skirts + stripes. I posted some references about this style on my blog today!

  • JewintheCity
  • Namrata

    Breton stripes are so French! Can’t not love stripes!


  • I agree! You could wear this look in the 1950s or today and you’d still look oh so chic!

  • dear manreppeller, do youuuu happen to know where this black dress is frooom?

  • Love the maritime look! It cannot be a mistake in pairing it with white!

  • Karen

    I always have at least two Breton shirts in my closet. I pair mine with slim cut khaki pants and pink sling-backs and am always happy.

  • Amazing. I love your post.

  • I always fall back on Breton stripes – probably because all of my style icons are known for wearing them – so easy to wear and timelessly chic. My favourite marinière is a Zara one from a couple of years ago… it’s so worn out but I can’t bear to throw it away as the fit is perfect. Petit Bateau and Cos are other favourites.

  • Charmystique

    Stripes are the bestest!! I’ve many variations in my wardrobe, and never get sick of re-wearing them.

    I’ve coincidentally just written an outfit post about the Breton stripe:

  • john
  • Heleen Peeters

    This is a classic for sure.. I find Petit Bateau the best source for breton striped tees and sweaters! x from Belgium