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The marine style

The marine, seafarer look has central emblematic pieces – the jumper, the oilskin, the pea coat and the jacket.

The sailor’s jumper

In time gone by, sailor’s jumpers were made from raw wool with the primary function to insulate the Breton and Norman fisherman who were sailing to Newfoundland. Over time as fabrics evolved, the knit became tighter and tighter – so much so that it was said to be waterproof. It was worn shorter and closer to the body – almost becoming a second skin. The iconic buttoning down the side was to simplify the task of getting in and out of it. That’s about when the French Navy appropriated the look. From there it evolved towards the better known striped version – for good reason – to allow sailors to be easier to spot if they fell into the sea. In the 1960s and 70s, the jumper took to the streets. It has a timeless style and is a symbol of resistance. Gradually it appeared in versions made of merino wool or cotton which were less rough and more comfortable in an everyday context.

The oilskin / waxed cloth jacket

Waxed fabrics were the original waterproofs worn by sailors. They were canvas based, soaked in linseed oil and left to dry. In 1941, Charles Goodyear vulcanized rubber by impregnating it with sulphur and from then on the canvas could be rubberized instead. The bright yellow coat is a staple garment for marine wear. The colour meant that a man overboard would be quickly spotted and on deck would be protected, dry and warm. These original oilskins, although totally practical, were heavy and uncomfortable. A lighter waxed cotton was popularized in the 1960s and was the identifying feature, the ‘uniform’ of the tourist in Brittany. Whilst yellow is still the classic, other versions are popular now – blue, red and khaki.

The pea coat

This is a short, warm, waterproof coat worn as outwear. The precursors were first used by pirates in the 15th to 17th centuries. The collar is wide and there are defining hip pockets usually with a flap. It may or may not have a hood. A pea coat is commonly darkly coloured (black or navy blue) with a double breasted front and six buttons each marked with an anchor symbol. Early European navigators popularised it use in the naval context and it was adopted by the naval forces in the 1800s.

The jacket

A sailor’s jacket is a short anorak made of thick canvas. It is the same as that worn by certain military men and women, notably sailors and quarter-masters in the French Navy. The typical Breton jacket is a characteristic garment with a split neck on the front that can be held in place by an inside button, with one or two internal pockets. The history of this inside button relates to the attempt to keep a clear front to avoid getting caught in the ropes or nets on board. The sailors jacket is usually made of a tightly woven fabric to guard against the wind and is often reversible – one side for sea, one side for land.

Our stylists offer you iconic pieces from the marine style, notably the Royal Mer brand, but also reinterpreted versions by brands such as North Hill and Mont Saint Michel. They’ve had some fun with the style, shaking up the classics and breaking a few rules. That’s what fashion is, after all, a stage for your individuality.

See our selection here 

Credits : DR