15 of the best Breton tops to see you through spring and beyond

The best Breton tops quickly become the hardest working pieces of clothing in any wardrobe. Whether you favourite a traditional look or are after something a little more outside of the box(y fit), here’s what you need to know.

The history of breton tops

Breton tops were first worn as the uniform for the French navy, favoured for their comfortable fit and practicality, as the stripes made the wearer easy to spot in the sea during an emergency. The design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victories, and followed a set pattern – white for 2cm and then blue for 1cm.

Coco Chanel pictured at her home in 1930. Image: Rex Features

So far, so fashion-free – but when Coco Chanel introduced the striped pattern to a nautical inspired collection in 1917, after visiting France, the style set quickly got wise.

Audrey Hepburn looking stylish in stripes. Image: Rex Features

As the years passed, they remained popular thanks to stars like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn sporting them off-set – and today, they’re still one of the most versatile basics on the rails, with everyone from the Duchess of Cambridge to Alexa Chung incorporating them into their looks.

The Duchess of Cambridge has worn multiple takes on the Breton. Image: Rex Features

How to wear a breton top

It sounds unhelpful to say ‘you can’t go wrong’, but honestly, it would be difficult to. Whether you team them with denim, smarten up with wide-leg trousers or tuck into a slinky skirt or under a slip dress, Bretons are effortlessly stylish in almost every situation. Oh, and don’t be afraid of clashing prints.

The original Bretons featured set stripes and shades, but now, the options are endless, in terms of fit, length and colour.

So, ready to shop?

15 of the best Breton tops

Striped Top, £12.99, H&M

A slouchy fit and cuff and long sleeve make this the best weekend throw-on.

Long Sleeve Breton, £28, Boden

It’s a classic for a reason – and it’s under £30.

Soft long-sleeve top, £10, Monki

We love the contrasting collar on this high street bargain.

Saint James

Minquiers Moderne Authentic Breton shirt, £49, Saint James

Saint James’ stripy tops are iconic, and come with a unisex fit.

Emma Organic Stripe Top, £55, Baukjen

Organic cotton with a colour twist and relaxed fit.


People Tree Organic Cotton Stripe Long Sleeve Top, £40, ASOS

French navy + soft white = very Parisian chic.

Kate Striped Long Sleeve Tee, £18, Weekday

Timeless black and white will never go out of style.

Kin Elliptical Hem Breton Stripe Top, £49, John Lewis & Partners

Effortless oversized Scandi cool.

Dino Dinosaur Breton Stripe Top, £30, Joanie Clothing 

For those who like their stripes with a touch of whimsy.

Stitch Detail T-Shirt, £15, Next

You’ll never regret a Breton tee – especially at this price.

Striped Boat Neck Top, £22, Warehouse

Show off your shoulders with a slim fit and boat neck.

Top With Gem Button, £17.99, Zara

Puff sleeves and a gem button back add interest to a stripy style.

Breton Striped Top, £35, Cos

Weighty cotton for an easy, breezy everyday favourite.

Striped Long Sleeve Top, £23, & Other Stories

A finer fabric take which also comes in turquoise.

Striped Long Sleeve Top, £25, Marks & Spencer

A slash-necked beauty to treasure for years to come.