Top it Off: Striped Top, Jacob. $45.

Fashion: Summer Cruising Style

The birth of the Breton top, just in time for yachting season

Just because we’re not all guests on the yacht After Eight as it makes its annual cruise around the Gulf Islands doesn’t mean we can’t dress the part (though if you are a guest, can we be friends?) Yachting, sailing or boating – whatever name you want to give this pastime of the nautically savvy and well heeled (or is it well keeled?), half the fun of coming aboard is coming up with a trendy, sea-friendly outfit.

To start it off we’re going back, way back, to France nearly four decades after the death of Napoleon — more specifically March 27, 1858, when a newly written act from government outlined that all French naval seamen from Brittany (or Breton, to the Celts) were required to wear a uniform of 21 navy-blue and white stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories.

And so, the Breton top was born. Before long, the shirt became standard fare for seafarers across the globe and, eventually, even fashionable landlubbers. After a visit to the French coast, Coco Chanel integrated her version of a Breton top into her nautical-themed collection in 1917; nearly a century later, these classic stripey tops are still synonymous with the seaside and Parisian style à la Brigitte Bardot.

If that history lesson taught us anything, it’s that if you’re heading down to the docks to check out the clippers and cutters at the Classic Boat Festival (Aug. 31-Sept. 1), a striped top is tops. A crisp pair of cropped khakis keeps the look preppy, while the wash of pale yellow helps amp up your colour quotient. The reflection off the water down by Wharf Street can get pretty intense, so definitely protect your peepers with a pair of shades.

Of course no yachting outfit would be complete without a pair of the first-ever “boat shoe,” the Sperry Top-Sider. Paul Sperry invented the shoe after watching his cocker spaniel navigate across the slick winter ice in Connecticut; he based the soles’ patented wave-like grooves on his dog’s paw pads. The traction they produce is ideal for slippery boat decks and wet docks.

Now that we’ve pulled together a handful of this summer’s top trends — Breton stripes, coloured khakis, brightly hued sunnies and deck shoes — I’ve no doubt this look will stay afloat in even the stormiest style seas.

Pastel Yellow Cropped Pants, $46, Reitmans

Sperry Top-Sider Navy Deerskin Shoes, $110, The Bay

Where to Wear It

• Music on the Dock (Aug. 2) Musician Kevin Carter with the Bald Eagles provide live music after paddlers return from a relaxing paddle in Brentwood Bay.

• Dragon Boat Festival (Aug. 16)

Watch 90 dragon boat teams from across North America race across a 500-metre water course in Victoria’s beautiful Inner Harbour.

• Classic Boat Festival (Aug. 31-Sept. 1)

Celebrating maritime heritage, a number of vessels will be open to the public over the weekend.

 

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