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The sailor top: history, trends and fashion advice

The sailor top is an iconic and timeless garment , which has crossed time and borders. Today it is an essential item in many people's wardrobe . In this article, we invite you to discover the history of the sailor top, its evolution in the world of fashion and some tips for wearing it with style.

The sailor: a rich and fascinating story

The origins of the sailor top

The sailor's shirt has its origins in 19th century France , when the French Navy adopted this piece as part of the official uniform of sailors in 1858. It was made up of 21 white stripes and 20 or 21 blue stripes, representing the 21 victories by Napoleon Bonaparte . Originally, the sailor top was made from wool knit, which allowed sailors to stay warm at sea.

The sailor top in fashion

The sailor top quickly conquered the fashion world. It was popularized by Coco Chanel , who included it in her collection in 1917, inspired by the outfits of the sailors she met on the Côte d'Azur. Over the years, many designers and fashion houses, such as Jean Paul Gaultier , Yves Saint Laurent and Comme des Garçons , have offered their own interpretation of the sailor top.

The sailor top today: a timeless trend

The key numbers

  • More than 50% of French people have at least one sailor top in their wardrobe (source: Ipsos survey, 2020).
  • The sailor top is the 3rd best-selling item of clothing in France, just behind jeans and t-shirts (source: Fédération Française du Prêt-à-Porter, 2021).
  • The sailor top is now produced in more than 25 countries, with annual production estimated at 150 million copies (source: Le Monde, 2022).

Variations of the sailor top

Over the years, the sailor top has come in many versions. We now find striped sailor tops of different widths, colors and styles. Some models are decorated with embroidery, sequins or other details to bring a touch of originality and modernity to this classic piece.

The personalities who marked the history of the sailor's shirt


The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso was a great fan of the sailor top. He often wore this piece during his stays on the Côte d'Azur and in his workshop. Its iconic silhouette, combining the sailor top with wide-leg pants and a pair of espadrilles, helped to popularize this outfit among artists and intellectuals of the 20th century.

Brigitte Bardot

French actress and fashion icon, Brigitte Bardot also participated in the popularization of the sailor top. She wore it regularly, both in the city and at the beach, and combined it with short skirts, slim pants or denim shorts. Its relaxed and sexy style has made the sailor top a symbol of femininity and freedom.

Jean Seberg

The American actress Jean Seberg became famous thanks to her role in the film "Breathless " by Jean-Luc Godard, in which she wore a sailor top. This simple and elegant outfit, combined with cigarette pants and a pair of ballerinas, left its mark and inspired many women around the world.

The essential sailor brands

Saint James

Created in 1889, the French brand Saint James specializes in making striped sailor tops and sailor clothing. It is today recognized for the quality of its products, made from carefully selected raw materials and respecting traditions. The Saint James sailor top is considered a true classic , worn by sailors and fashion lovers alike.


Armor-Lux is another essential French brand for lovers of striped tops. Founded in 1938, it offers a wide range of marine clothing for men, women and children. Its sailor tops are made from quality cotton and are available in several models and colors. The brand is also committed to an ethical and sustainable approach, favoring short circuits and ecological materials.

Little boat

The Petit Bateau brand, created in 1893, is famous for its quality cotton clothing for children. It also offers a range of sailor tops for the whole family, which combines comfort and style. Petit Bateau sailor tops are made of Oeko-Tex cotton, guaranteeing the absence of substances harmful to the skin and the environment .

Current trends around the sailor top

The sailor top revisited

Today's designers do not hesitate to revisit the sailor top to bring it up to date. We thus find sailor tops with oversized , asymmetrical cuts or even with rolled up sleeves. The materials used can also vary, with sailor tops made from linen, organic cotton or recycled fabric.

The sailor top in ethical and sustainable fashion

More and more brands are focusing on sustainability and ethics in the making of their sailor tops. Some use recycled materials or ecological fibers , while others are committed to reducing their environmental impact by opting for production methods that are more respectful of the environment and the working conditions of their employees.

The sailor in decoration

The marine motif is not reserved for clothing: it is also found in interior decoration . Cushions , curtains , rugs and even decorative objects featuring the famous sailor stripes bring a touch of freshness and originality to your interior. They go perfectly with a refined, Scandinavian or seaside style.

Events and collaborations around the striped sweater

Sailor’s Day

Since 2015, Sailor's Day has been celebrated every year on June 23 in France. This event is an opportunity to highlight this emblematic garment and raise awareness among the general public of its history and its importance in French culture . Many events are organized in schools, businesses and public places, and participants are invited to wear a sailor shirt to show their support.

Collaborations between brands and creators

The sailor top regularly inspires collaborations between ready-to-wear brands and renowned designers. These collaborations make it possible to offer new and exclusive models, which combine the codes of the traditional sailor shirt and the creative universe of the designer. Among the most notable collaborations, we can cite that between Jean Paul Gaultier and Armor-Lux, or that between Petit Bateau and the French fashion designer Carven .

Tips for wearing the sailor top with style

Combine the sailor top with basics

The sailor top goes perfectly with basic pieces in your wardrobe, like raw jeans , chino pants or a straight skirt . Neutral colors, such as beige, gray and black, help highlight stripes and create a harmonious outfit.

Play with accessories

Accessories can add a touch of elegance and personality to your outfit. Opt for a colorful scarf, a bib necklace or leather bracelets to enhance your sailor top. If you want to stay with the marine theme, you can also choose rope or driftwood accessories.

Focus on overlays

The sailor top lends itself perfectly to layering . You can wear it under a blazer , a knitted vest or a denim jacket to create a casual and chic look. Don’t hesitate to play with textures and materials to add depth to your outfit.

Dare to mix patterns

The stripes of the sailor top go well with other patterns, like polka dots, checks and flowers . To succeed in this mix, choose patterns in the same tones as your sailor top and be sure to respect a certain consistency in the proportions.

Conclusion on the sailor top

The sailor top is a timeless piece that has stood the test of time while remaining timeless. From Coco Chanel to Jean-Paul Gaultier, it has been adopted by the big names in fashion and continues to inspire today's designers. Whether you are a fan of the classic style or like to dare with daring combinations, the sailor top is an essential to have in your wardrobe. So don't wait any longer to adopt this iconic and versatile garment!

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