compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying: Breton-Striped Shirts

The author, age 3, in a Breton shirt and overalls. Photo: Courtesy Chloe Malle

Breton shirts began as a mandated uniform for the French army in the 1850s, the 21 blue and white stripes (one for each of Napoleon’s victories) easier to spot on seamen cast overboard. Now, though, they’re a favorite of civilians, an off-duty uniform for Sunday brunchers and morning school drop-offs.

The author again at age 3 with her uncle Kris Bergen and mother Candice Bergen. Photo: Courtesy Chloe Malle

I’ve collected variations of the classic marinière shirt since high school (and as old photos prove, even earlier), a not-so-subtle nod to my French heritage. A teenage dream to look like casual Coco Chanel morphed into a collegiate desire to mimic gamine Jean Seberg, and now at 32 they just make me feel like me. I don’t buy plain T-shirts, just striped ones. I can’t help it. I just keep buying them. Even after the duchess of Cambridge integrated them into her wardrobe rotation and they lost a bit of their Rebel Without a Cause insouciance, I persisted. I like them all — both the classics from Saint James or Armor-Lux and the new brands like La Ligne and Kule that have spun entire lines around the idea of the striped shirt. I’m a traditionalist, though, when it comes to shape: I like a classic boatneck collar with long sleeves. These are the ones I love and own (plus a few I’m eyeing).

The Breton-striped shirts I own

Saint James Minquiers Moderne Striped Sailor Shirt
$75 at Nordstrom

The classic. You can’t get more authentic than the historic, Bretagne brand. I personally prefer the soft cotton of this style but they also have many in the thicker cotton.

La Ligne US Navy Tee
$115 at Spring

The softest cotton and perfect slouchy shape. I actually already had this in classic blue and red but couldn’t resist this new sherbet colorway.

A.P.C. Nikki long-sleeved striped cotton top
$135 at Matches Fashion

A hip update on the classic silhouette and color combo. I wear this one in the fall with a satchel bag and blazer and pretend I’m in Love Story.

Armor-Lux Breton Striped Shirt
$63 at Armor-Lux

Another classic French brand, Armox-Lux makes a striped shirt with a slimmer cut and neutral dusty rose that I like for layering under sweaters.

Everlane Heavyweight Tee
$45 at Everlane

In a darker grey and black, this Everlane option is a great winter workhorse. I wear it at home when it’s inhospitable out or layered under cardigans and coats once I venture outside.

Kule Boyfriend Shirt
$128 at Spring

I love how this newer brand sticks to the original sailor shape with the boyfriend style. It’s long enough that it hits mid-bottom, which I like with the roomier fit. This shade of blue wouldn’t help a seaman be more visible overboard but I swoon for it.

Petit Bateau Iconic Breton Long Sleeve Top
$85 at Petit Bateau

You may think of Petit Bateau as being a kids’ brand but that would be a grave mistake. Their striped boatnecks are the perfect weight cotton, plus I couldn’t resist the French color description of this one: Poussiere/Ble (Dust/Wheat).

And the ones I want

M.I.H. Jeans Simple Striped Cotton-jersey Top
$72 at Matches Fashion

I like how thin these stripes are, and with the colors it makes me think of a Willy Wonka lollipop, and who doesn’t want to wear that?

J.Crew Striped T-Shirt with Grosgrain Trim
$55 at Nordstrom

This bright cherry color, kicky cut and subtle grosgrain sleeve detailing make it irresistible to any East Coast prep (i.e., me).

MDS Stripes Charlotte Boatneck
$95 at Spring

The triangle detail on the back collar of this boatneck is what makes it stand out, and the three-quarter sleeves and fitted silhouette make it perfect for tucking into a skirt or dress pants.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

I Can’t Stop Buying: Breton-Striped Shirts