In answer to many requests for my recommendations for wardrobe staples I present to you a shirt you’ve seen a thousand times before – the Saint James “Minquiers Moderne” Striped Sailor Shirt. But why is this shirt so special? I’ve owned many Breton striped sailor shirts in my time and this one stands head and shoulders above the rest so here’s why you need this exact shirt in every color:
The perfect cut: Minquiers Moderne is technically a unisex cut so don’t expect something overly fitted, but it fits beautifully whether you wear it alone or layered over or under another piece. (I love it over this oxford shirt from Ralph Lauren, and under sweaters like this cashmere cable sweater, this cotton cable (pictured below) and my trusty Dudley Stephens turtlenecks. The slightly wide cut crewneck lays nicely when worn over a collared shirt and the fabric is thick enough that the shirt’s buttons won’t show through. The long relaxed sleeve can be worn rolled up to the elbow for a 3/4 sleeve look or full length with just a hint of stripe peeking out under a sweater. I don’t think the 3/4 versions of this shirt are a good investment since they are awkward under sweaters and don’t offer the same versatility, same goes for the drop shoulder versions, which I own but don’t recommend as strongly because the shoulder seam placement limits the styling options.
The fabric wears well for years: Saint James uses a slightly heavier gauge cotton than other brands which does not pill or warp over time. (Have you ever noticed the side seams of some tee shirts start to twist around you? I hate that and it’s a sign that the company is cutting corners.) Sure this shirt is $80, and you can get a similar style at J.Crew for half the price but the Saint James shirt will still look pristine after five years of wear, and you’ll have replaced the J.Crew version several times over.
It will never go out of style: In 1858, a government mandate introduced the striped tee to the official wardrobe of quartermasters and sailors in the French Navy. By the 20th century this nautical style was popularized by the likes of Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. Ever since then the Breton striped shirt has been known as a quintessential element of French fashion – universal and timeless.
It’s a great company: Based in the Normandy town by the same name that has been manufacturing yarn since 1067, Saint James the company was established in 1850, creating the now-famous striped shirts for the French Navy which helped make sailors easier to spot if they fell overboard. In 1990 the company was bought by its own employees, who organized the production process around independent tasks which enabled employees to work more freely and in turn, feel more fulfilled at work. Awarded the “Ethics and Governance Trophy” in 2005 by France’s Prime Minister (Jean-Pierre Raffarin) the company is such source of national pride its products are included in diplomatic gifts presented by the French government to foreign ambassadors.
There are so many different ways to wear this classic shirt, but I’ve included two simple looks that I’ve worn in the past two weeks – and likely can be recreated with items you already have in your closet!
Go full on nautical by pairing a sailor tee with a fisherman sweater, a straw bag and espadrilles. Coincidentally, I also own this sweater and these shoes in multiple colors, and have had both for years – it doesn’t get more classic than this! I’ve been carrying this straw bag non-stop since I got it and love the deep texture of the weave.
This is a great example of how well this sailor tee layers over a button down. The arms aren’t too tight, and you can’t see the buttons down the front. (Make sure your collared shirt doesn’t have a chest pocket, as that will likely show through.) It’s such a great layering piece because this striped shirt + collared shirt combo easily fits under a blazer for the office, or under a classic trench for running errands around town. (My trench is old, but I tried this one on and it’s a great fit plus I love the navy fabric under the collar!) Pairing stripes with white denim is my go-to summer uniform and my favorites are this wide-legged crop pant, these toothpick pants, and these shorts. If you’re looking for my velvet loafers I have a full post (and discount code for you!) here, and this beautiful tote can be found here.
A few other ways I like to wear breton stripes: this color tucked into this high waisted skirt, this top tucked into these paper bag shorts or ( also love this floral short), and this color under this linen blazer.
Thanks as always for reading!