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No. 32: Blue-and-White Stripes

One of the many happy surprises of our p’tit week-end down south was our encounter with stripes. I was thrilled to see that particular French cliché alive and well and wandering the streets of Marseille. En fait, les rues were bursting with stripes. Once we saw our first friend dressed in stripes, we started to see them everywhere. It was good fun stalking and photographing the best stripes, turning into un jeu du chat et de la souris. The cat holding the camera while the mice scurried through town.

The more blue-and-white stripes I saw, the more I wanted to learn the history behind the stripes. I always associated the stripes with the French sea and it turns out that the striped shirt was indeed part of the official uniform of the French Navy. The theory was that if there were a “man over board” he would be more easily spotted among the waves and brought to safety if he was wearing stripes. Originally the uniform had 21 stripes, each one symbolizing one of Napoleon’s victories. At the time the uniform was conceived, the majority of the French Navy was located in Brittany, so the shirt became known as the “Breton”.

The “Breton” became popular with the non-military crowd once Coco Chanel, enamored with the sailing shirt, made it part of her fashion line for the modern woman. By the early 1930s the blue-and-white stripes were considered haute couture, and in the decades that followed, the “Breton” featured prominently in French cinema and Hollywood’s motion pictures, until it reached a sort of iconic status.

Today in Marseille you see mostly blue-and-white stripes, with a healthy handful of red-and-white ones thrown in…such a playful break from the black-on-black of Par-ee!

If you haven’t already seen Audrey Tautou in Coco Before Chanel, take a look at this teaser. Moi, j’adore ce film! Maybe you will like it too.

Vocabulaire:

En fait, les rues…  in fact, the streets…

Moi, j’adore ce film! Me, I adore/love this film.

un jeu du chat et de la souris: a game of cat and mouse

 un p’tit week-end: long weekend get-away (literally a small weekend)

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Finally! Someone explains where it all started! Fascinating!

    October 30, 2013

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  1. No. 289-290: Deauville and Trouville | 365 Things I Love About France

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