The allure of the sea was irresistible to men since the beginning and it was only a matter of time until it found a reflection in fashion of those ashore. From pirates to sailors, naval officers to fisherman – nautical style encompasses everything from sea and ships. The timelessness of this chic style is undeniable: some designers consider it their signature, trademark and often reflect it in their collections like Jean Paul Gaultier, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.
Others at least once found their inspiration in seafaring: Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s first catwalk show was The Pirate Collection in 1981, D&G presented their stripy SS’09 collection and most recently FW 2016 collections of Cédric Charlier and Tommy Hilfiger were inspired by the sea, sailors and fishermen.
Over the years designers keep finding a fresh new approach to nautical style, however it still remains classic at its core with a few traditional elements: stripes, combination of blue and white with touches of red, structured silhouettes inspired by crisp sailor uniforms, brass buttons and ship-influenced attributes: ropes, anchors, sails and sea life.
It is considered that Queen Victoria is the one to introduce nautical style into fashion, when she had her four-year-old son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, wear a copy of a sailor suit aboard the Royal Yacht in 1846. Taking over children’s fashion, nautical theme found it’s way into the ladies wardrobes by the late 1800s. The mariner’s insignia took over the dresses: stripes and anchors, middy collars and neckties.
A middy blouse with it’s unique sailor collar derived from the uniform of midshipman (short: middy) – a loose blouse with a collar that is cut deep and square at the back and tapering to the front. At the peak of it’s popularity worn as part of school uniform and in sports. It is a traditional collar style for classic nautical inspired dresses.
Stripes have been a part of seafarers’ wardrobes for a very long time, despite the fact that solid colours are meant for naval officers and stripes for sailors, there was a reason for wearing them at sea. It is considered that it’s easier to spot a man wearing stripes overboard.
The history behind the iconic breton stripes, that we associate most with the nautical style, is fascinating: 27th March 1858 Act of France introduced the new uniform for Brittany’s (French: Bretagne) French Navy. The knitted shirt was called marinière or matelot, it had a boat neckline and 21 horizontal navy stripes on a white background, with each stripe representing Napoleon’s victories. The shirt was named after Breton workers, who found the navy uniform top practical and easy to wear, thus increasing its popularity since 1889, when the garment was manufactured by Tricots Saint James company in Bretagne.
Only in 1917, when Mademoiselle Coco Chanel takes a trip to French Riviera; inspired by the sailors’ uniform, she creates a ground-breaking nautical ladies collection: at the time when trousers for women remained taboo, she not only borrows from the boys, she borrowed directly from the sailors: striped Breton jerseys and wide-leg trousers – bell bottoms – that she called “beach pyjamas”. It doesn’t take long before she takes the stripes mainstream and starts selling them in France same year at her Deauville shop. Owing to Chanel’s love for minimalism, this chic pattern found it’s way into fashion worn by everyone including James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Kurt Cobain, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol to name a few, to this day remains ageless and versatile.
The bell-bottoms mentioned earlier are on the top of popularity this summer, chic and stylish along with shorts and skirts with flap-front and brass buttons remain a classic representative of nautical style.
This season leave captain Jack Sparrow’s style aside and opt for elegant structured French Riviera inspired ensembles in white, navy and stripe for a sophisticated timeless look.
by Olga Permyakova
Photos: Courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger
Cover Photo : Steve Wells
Assistant : Remy Muntu
Styling : Victoria Kolotova