The Breton Stripe Shirts 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, 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 cinema girls, Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Seberg. Today, the Breton stripe 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.