There is perhaps something a bit odd about dressing up like a deckhand every year in early spring, but it’s mighty popular.
In fact, the nautical trend has never been so popular, and designers throughout the world never seem to tire of coming up with new twists on blue and white, especially when it comes in stripes.
Both men and women should be careful if taking on the traditional nautical look, because no one wants to look as if they are impersonating a rear admiral, so, if you do have a penchant for a naval-style, double-breasted blue jacket, possibly with gold buttons and braiding, do make sure that you wear it with distressed jeans, or thrown over a casual print dress, especially if you want to have a shot at spring/summer’s rock star/chick look, in which case, look for skinny scarves to wear about your neck, your wrist and your waist (though maybe not all three), and add snakeskin boots.
A bit of history. In 1846 Queen Victoria dressed her four-year-old son Albert in a sailor suit to board the Royal yacht and sparked a naval trend, with early bathing belles and beaus soon donning navy and white striped swimsuits.
The traditional Breton shirt has a boat-shaped neck, three-quarter sleeves and 21 stripes, representing each of Napoleon’s victories. Created in 1858, it was first worn by French sailors in Brittany, with the wide neck allowing it to be pulled on quickly, the sleeve length meaning it didn’t get caught in the rigging, and the horizontal stripes standing out against the sea if any sailor went overboard.
The Breton shirt became a fashion item in the 1920s when American socialites Gerald and Sara Murphy holidayed on the French Riviera, found the tops in a market in Marseilles and bought a load to give to their friends, who included Picasso and F Scott Fitzgerald. The trend was taken up by Coco Chanel and appeared on the front cover of Vogue in the 1930s. Since then, it has been a favourite fashion item down the decades, often denoting an intellectual or artistic bent, and favoured by the likes of Jean Seberg, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, James Dean, Patti Smith and on to Kate Moss and any number of boy bands, from the Sixties to the present day (especially if they happen to be making a pop video on a yacht).
Red is a natural team colour for blue and white, but this spring try a tomato red red or even orange instead. Grey and ecru are bringing a washed out, natural take on the nautical look, while the monochrome trend means that black and white stripes are super-cool (again).
Fashion has actually gone a bit stripe mad for the coming season, with all widths represented from very narrow to about 10cm wide, both horizontal and vertical.
Striped knits in both wool and cotton are ideal for trans-season dressing, another reason why the nautical look remains at the heart of spring dressing, when layering is the name of the game.