Style / March 2018

How Armor Lux Champions the Breton

Inextricably linked to the legacy of the Breton, Armor Lux is one of the few brands truly qualified to create the humble striped shirt. We explore the heritage of the Brittany-based brand.

Richard Beidul wears an Armor Lux cream and navy Breton stripe shirt. Photograph by Olivier Barjolle, styling by Jo Grzeszczuk.

Armor Lux’s raison d’être is, without a doubt, the Breton striped shirt. Otherwise known as la marinière (the sailor), le pull marin (the sailor sweater) or the tricot rayé (the striped knit), it’s a garment that’s sailed through time unchanged and established itself as a staple in both men’s and women’s wardrobes. With its bold and unmissable stripes, the Breton shirt has become a signifier for a nonchalant, cool and effortless lifestyle – values that are reflected in the ethos of Armor Lux.

The lifestyle brand was founded by Walter Hubacher in 1938 in Quimper, a city in the northwest of Brittany, France. Not coincidentally, this was also the birthplace of the Breton, which came into existence in 1858 with the Act of France, whereby it was issued to all seamen stationed in Brittany. At first, it was made from tightly woven wool to protect seamen from whatever the unforgiving English Channel threw at them, and when the unlucky few happened to fall overboard, they were easily visible due to the contrasting stripes, and thus rescuable. Folklore states that the original had 21 stripes, with a 2:1 cm ratio of colours, that referred to Napoleon’s 21 victories over the English. That’s a hotly contested fact – but why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the Breton striped shirt started to infiltrate the fashion and luxury sectors. Coco Chanel began selling the casual tops – which had traditionally been worn by men – in her Deauville boutique, pairing them with loose trousers and belts; thus helping to liberate the previously constricted female form. Over the years, the Breton has been popularised by the likes of Pablo Picasso, James Dean and Brigitte Bardot, and has since made regular appearances in men’s fashion collections.

Armor Lux still operates out of Brittany, and it’s also the last manufacturer of the Breton stripe shirt from the region, underlining the brand’s authenticity. “The fact that we insist on keeping our production in this region, despite the challenge that it represents, also shows how tight our bonds are with Brittany,” says Marco Pettruci, Export Manager of Armor Lux. He continues: “The end consumer is interested in local production and in the historical background, and the people understand that quality comes at a certain price. But the fact that what you buy is long lasting is a real advantage”.

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Benedict Browne

Benedict is The Rake's Associate Style Editor.