What makes a stripe shirt good?
Breaking down the key components of a natural summer basic
In the early days of Man Repeller, I used to write these drunken histories about specific garments, and one time I wrote what became 2,000 impassioned words on the Breton stripe shirt. The only thing I remember now is that the original shirt, made for French navy men, had 21 stripes on it to commemorate Napoleon Bonaparte’s 21 victories. A helpful fact when out at sea and playing marine trivia. Also helpful when breaking down what makes a striped shirt good. So, what is it? Key factors to consider are:
Fabric. Cotton, or, it doesn’t matter if it’s some blend, but you don’t want it to be so stiff that it’s more like a sweatshirt (see: this one — good for other use cases!) or too flimsy if it ventures into linen slub territory. So the ideal is not too thin that you can’t toss it over your shoulders, but also not too thick that you sweat/when you try to tuck it into your shorts or pants or skirt or whatever, you have trouble getting zipped. It should not be at all see-through. Also from Saint James: a decent example of one that works.
Body shape. Boxy, or, really, rectangular. Long enough that it covers your hoo-ha if you wear it over a bathing suit (when it’s this long, it’s also easier to knot at the hem and makeshift a cropped look if you want to do that).
Length of sleeve. Long! Like to right below that bone on the top of your hand. Reason being that you’re going to roll the sleeve over one time and possibly scrunch it up to your elbows and the styling looks more personal/real when you’re the one who does it (as opposed to when the styling is built into the garment)
Neckline. I go back and forth on what is better: a crew or a boat neckline but in the end, I think it’s a boat neck. I’d pick a crew for the simple reason that it would seem easier to layer under a jacket or shirt, but the straight-across neckline also works as an underlayer. The boat is more interesting layered over a t-neck (seasonal versatility!) and works with necklaces, especially short ones.
Color. Optic white, as opposed to ecru, and stripes that are a little bit brighter than navy, but definitely not royal blue either. These specifications make the shirt more broadly wearable than if the stripes are too dark — like this, for example. (This is because it will clash in the wrong way with garments of other, slight color variations).
The shirt that I used to assess these value propositions is from La Ligne. I bought it in early 2021 (and can’t find it anymore, here’s the closest one) after I had dinner with my friend Samira, who was wearing one under a black collarless jacket with gold buttons. I couldn’t figure out why any time I’d tried to approximate a similar combo something just didn’t work until I realized from seeing hers that my stripe colors were off.
Size of stripe and proximity. As in, how far apart are the stripes? You should be able to hold up about 1.5 fingers between the stripes, and they should be about half the size of the space between the stripes.
So those are technical variables. Now as far as how to style them, or what makes them good in the context of an outfit, I offer photographic demonstrations shot by my friend Sarah, who I met through this newsletter, is a grad student at Columbia, a member of Gen. Z and thus a natural photographer. Also a gifted poet.
Some style notes:
If you want to go all in on a beach vibe, whether or not you’re actually near one, you should!
You’ll also notice I employed the sleeve roll-over and scrunch cited in the Length of sleeve criteria. One other thing I’ll say about this look in particular is that I did wear it to the beach a couple of weekends ago and forgot to take my overnight bag but surprisingly found that with the exception of not having any underwear, I didn’t really need other clothing all weekend. So there’s also the versatility factor.
While we’re looking at white pairings, shirt’s also a compelling way to liven up white jeans, which can be so boring.
I should give credit to the silhouette of the jeans, more interesting than quotidian skinnies or baggies but the shirt does play a crucial role in bringing the picture together — the red sandals bring in a small bit of color and the fancier accessories (clutch, belt, cigar band rings) offset the casual nature of the shirt, which is actually the next point.
Can dress down fancy jewelry (and clothes, for that matter, though it is not reflected in the below)
It’s a casual garment, which makes it great if you like to wear dualisms.
Pairs well with color.
Recently I had a conversation with Amy Smilovic from Tibi and she brought something. to my attention that I had been feeling for a while (she is incredibly good at breaking down and explaining different style archetypes and how to assess, evaluate, and develop your own) about how flat pairing bright colors together feels right now.
A stripe shirt is a good tool to use to get some color in there because, partially, it is so casual but also because it’s technically a print. The simplest and most gender-neutral one out there, now that I think about it.
Pairs well with counter prints.
See this is also a great example of why the colors of the navy and white on the shirt matter. The blue isn’t so blue that it looks accidental paired with black and all of the whites are the same shade of dentist dream.
Is a good bridge garment for transition weather.
I’m glad we’re not actually there yet, but at least I know what I’ll wear.
Three good and available versions of this shirt, all above factors considered, include:
But this ThredUP landing page is gemfull — as in full of gems — too. And that sums up this edish of The Breakdown. Sincerely yours,