Tony Sylvester lines up the story of one of this season's key designs, the distinctive barré stripe.
The Barré or Breton stripe is synonymous with the sea. Pioneered by the Marins of Northern France, the stripes were hand applied to cotton and wool undershirts with local indigo dye for aid with the rather grim necessity of spotting a hapless sailor and fishing him out of the water. A French parliamentary act of 1858 pressed the stripe until official uniform, codifying the standard of 20 navy stripes and 21 thicker white stripes, each signifying a Napoleonic victory. Over the next century no article of clothing would become more entwined with the French.
The stripe made its way up the sartorial ladder thanks to the Edwardian pursuit of new sports, where its visibility proved a boon for jockeys and cyclists, and via the early 20th century vogue for the holiday resorts of Deauville and Biarritz. Visiting gentry adopted the clothing of local fishermen as a louche tribute to this relaxed climes, and in 1913, Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in Deauville interpreting luxury takes on maritime utilitarianism.
It is said that the horizontal barré stripe made the final leap to formal via notorious clotheshorse and "King Of The Dudes" Evander Berry Wall, the American ex pat socialite. Settled into a routine of shuttling between his tailors in Paris and hotels on the fashionable Atlantic riviera, the European social elite were delighted by the bright, colourful countenance of the "Last of the Great Edwardian Dandies" as Cecil Beaton referred to him. His Paris home at the Hotel Meurice was a short walk from his shirtmaker, who would run up his bold patterns and signature stripes.
Drake's summer shirting features a dashing linen stripe as bold as anything seen in those heady days. Pair with espadrilles, french navy and a block coloured knotted sweater over the shoulders for instant seaside chic. For less casual days, a smaller stripe will give a nautical lift to tobacco or chocolate suiting.