It has the elegance of simplicity. With its navy blue and white stripes, the marinière never goes unnoticed. This global icon of French chic is “a must in the wardrobe of the perfect Breton,” smiles Hermine, 21. The young Finistère, exiled to Nantes for her studies, has a dozen in her locker room. “I match them with all my outfits, they express my strong attachment to my region. So many childhood memories during the summers spent with my grandparents in Concarneau! Over the years and my growth spurts, my little brother inherited my sailor tops that were too small. »
But what makes the marinière so typically Breton? Its colors that evoke the blue of the ocean? No doubt, because it is the work of the seafarers that forged the identity of this garment. By a decree of March 27, 1858, the Navy imposed the wearing of striped knitwear on quartermasters and sailors, who until then had no uniform and wore their own clothes. “The stripes made it possible to identify the sailors in the marine hierarchy. They were at the very bottom, they were in charge of maneuvers,” explains Pascal Aumasson, author of Work clothes, from work to fashion *.
The formal codes of this “knitting” were precisely detailed by the maritime authorities: 21 white stripes 20 mm wide, 20 or 21 indigo-colored stripes half as thick, dyeing being expensive. The sleeves, meanwhile, had 15 white and 14 or 15 blue stripes. This alternation of color would make it easier to spot a man who had fallen overboard. The garment had to come down to the top of the thighs of the sailors on duty. Well tucked into the pants, so it also served them… as underwear. The marinière hid the skin of the buttocks during the most acrobatic maneuvers.
* Ed. Coop Breizh, 224 p. ; 39 €.
When, in the 20th century, seaside tourism gained momentum, the bourgeoisie vacationing on the Breton coast adopted the dress codes of the locals. At the beach, stripes are found on bathing suits. “At the same time, the locals are breaking away from this habit representing work. A social divide is revealed through this garment,” analyzes Pascal Aumasson. For some Bretons, such as Soizic, 29, the divide remains. When she finds her relatives in Moëlan-sur-Mer, in southern Finistère, the young woman does not wear the famous striped piece: “At home, I no longer have to claim my belonging. Putting on the sailor would almost have a folkloric side. “However, the young woman recognizes it:” When I left for the United States for an exchange with my university in 2015, I liked to display this French side by wearing my favorite striped sweater. »
If the marinière is known worldwide, it is thanks to Coco Chanel who, by adopting it, allowed her to enter the world of fashion. In its wake, many celebrities have sported it: from Brigitte Bardot to fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, including… the players of the French football team, who in 2011 wore a striped jersey. The following year, the Minister of the Economy, Arnaud Montebourg, made the cover of the Parisian Magazine dressed in an Armor-lux sailor top. “Clothing then becomes a standard of French industry”, analyzes Pascal Aumasson. The success of the popular striped knit is well established. “The marinière is a timeless classic,” adds Bleuenn Seveno, a stylist who regularly collaborates with Breton brands, such as Breizh Mod, sold in supermarkets. And behind its apparent simplicity, we must remember the precious heritage forgotten between the blue lines…