Striped Top

Red military jacket with gold buttons, collar, sleeve cuffs and shoulder epaulettes

Knitted striped tops were originally for fishermen, to keep them warm. Horizontal stripes also made it easier to find them if they fell overboard. They became part of the official French naval uniform as an undershirt in 1858. Many French sailors came from Brittany, so ‘Breton’ became a nickname for the top. One legend is that the top must have 21 white stripes, to match the number of Napoleon’s victories.

It moved to civilian fashion with the help of Coco Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier, and is now a classic clothing piece. Stripes are now common in fashion across in woollen jumpers and many other garments.


Watch fashion presenter Amber Butchart’s wonderful video for a more detailed look at stripes in fashion:

Amber Butchart (2020) video, Stripes Dirty Laundry, available at: