Wardrobe Staple: The Classic Breton Top

14th March 2017

We’ve been fans of nautical style for a long time and whenever and wherever we can; we like to add a splash of seafaring style to our collections with a few bright and breezy stripes. But have you ever wondered where the world’s most iconic nautical style, the Breton top came from?

joules family in sunny landscape wearing classic striped breton top

The Breton stripe shirt was first introduced in 1858 as the uniform for all French navy seaman in Northern France. The original design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories and the distinctive stripes made it easier to spot wayward sailors who had fallen overboard.

joules classic breton striped top in sea side background


Coco Chanel introduced her chic nautical collection in 1917, when seaside resorts like St Tropez were the places to be seen. Suddenly it wasn’t only rugged seamen donning blue and white stripes but impossibly glamorous, fashion conscious young women too. The nautical trend has stayed in vogue ever since.

polaroids of the history of the breton striped nautical top


Throughout the 1950s and 60s the Breton top became a favourite style of Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Bridgette Bardot, Andy Warhol, Audrey Hepburn and James Dean.


In 2006 we said hello to the Harbour Top for the first time – our take on the time-honoured Breton Top. It fast became a bestseller and famed for the fit and fabric.

styled brand rail of striped nautical inspired harbour breton tops


At Joules, we’re so fond of our stripes we bring them back again and again. We play around with our Harbour Top collection and this season have added a few fresh, contemporary twists (although we’re not sure how they’d go down with the fishermen of Northern France!) Flattering three quarter length sleeves are still a feature and each one is still carefully crafted from softest, stretchy cotton Jersey, so it not only fits well, but also feels soft and lovely against the skin. The quality of the cotton we source so carefully means each one washes wonderfully too.

Do you have a favourite print?


  • Hazel Griffiths

    26.03.2017 at 19:57 Reply

    I have at least 15 tops from Joules, my most favourite was a plain peach coloured harbour top , it came in pink and a cornflower blue, although I love the stripes and flower ones sometimes a plain one is nice. Will there be any coming out for this summer season please?

  • Jan Galbraith

    27.03.2017 at 00:47 Reply

    I love you Harbour tops and have worn and washed them for some time now.
    You are definitely on a winner.
    Thanks for your beautiful clothes.
    Jan from Australia

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