The 11 Breton Tops You'll Wear With Everything

This tee is still timeless, 163 years later.

A woman wearing a Breton striped shirt. Text overlay reads, "The Essentials."
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Welcome to The Essentials, (opens in new tab) our weekly series highlighting a must-have classic, key to building a timeless, pulled-together closet.

In 1858, the distinctive Breton stripe was officially dubbed the uniform of the French navy. The blue-and-white tee, with 21 total stripes (a tribute to each one of Napoleon's victories) was an easy way to detect the whereabouts of unlucky French sailors who'd fallen overboard on the high seas. In the '50s, the style was catapulted to fame via French (opens in new tab) cinema girls, Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Seberg. Today, the Breton stripe top is an accessible wardrobe piece for anyone.

For those who deem the tee a little too classic, we've found new fashion takes that veer away the 21-stripe requirement and traditional color schemes. Nautical by nature, a Breton-style top will look dreamy on a sailboat or amidst the French Riviera scene, but realistically it's also a smart work-from-home uniform paired with a jogger or jean. Ahead, shop our favorites.

Sara Holzman
Style Director

Sara Holzman is the Style Director at Marie Claire, covering runway trends and tracking down the latest finds to buy and wear. When she’s not writing about fashion, she pens about the best places to jet-off to. Over her six years with Marie Claire, Sara has reported on the ever-evolving world of fashion— covering both established and emerging designers within the industry. Sara has held fashion positions at Lucky and SELF Magazine and was a regular contributor to Equinox’s Furthermore website, where she wrote across their style, wellness, and travel verticals. She holds a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and currently resides in Manhattan. Follow her along at @sarajonewyork.