Declared part of the French Navy’s standard issue by the 1858 Act of France, the navy-and-white-striped shirt made it easier to spot sailors who fell overboard. In the century since, the so-named nautical stripe has exhibited some survival skills of its own. Its simple design has a beauty and a utility that make it the perfect contrast to more luxe statements—next to bolder hues and jewelry, the stripe is practically spare.
The nautical stripe has become synonymous with legends as diverse as Pablo Picasso and Brigitte Bardot. Black-and-white photos of Beat poets and Left Bank starlets imbue the striped shirt with chic insouciance, and, of course, its ubiquity on yacht decks connotes jet-set glamour. But it is not just the province of the globetrotting avant-garde. Emblazoned on swimwear, handbags and, as always, the simple cotton tee, the nautical stripe evokes a sporty, all-American elegance that works year-round, at sea or on land. Preppy with a blue blazer or boldly inventive on an evening gown, it is timeless yet modern. It is a testament to the nautical stripe’s enduring appeal that season after season it reappears as bright as ever, making it a true RL Classic.