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KNOWLEDGE

LA MARINIÈRE

Knowledge The striped sailor’s jumper became the official undershirt of the French navy in the spring of 1858.

Variations of striped clothing had been worn by seamen in Western Europe since the 1600s and the sailor’s jumper originated as a fisherman’s garment, famously worn by onion and garlic merchants on the English Channel and on the Brittany peninsula. The striped jerseys were adopted by artists and intellectuals on the French Riviera in the 1920s and later became emblematic of the nautical style.

An official bulletin specified the exact number and width of the stripes, stating that the body of the shirt should be patterned with 21 white stripes and 20 or 21 indigo-blue stripes, the white stripes being twice as wide – 20 millimetres – as the blue.

Tightly knitted from unwashed sheep’s wool, it provided protection from wind and water on the seas, and, made with a seamless tube construction, it was gentle and comfortable against the skin. The contrasting stripes made it easier to spot a man overboard. In the 1910s and 1920s, traditional workwear was copied and adopted by artists and intellectuals, and by fashion design. The sailor’s jumper, also made in combed cotton, became a trend in the bohemian communities of Saint-Tropez and Antibes on the French Riviera; and together with soft jersey knits and a more androgynous silhouette, the ‘nautical style’ was an important inspiration for the modernisation of womenswear.

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