One of the highlights of the most recent Platinum Jubilee festivities was the picture of Britain’s Prince Louis wearing a small sailor costume.

However, not only royals wear the famous blue and white striped clothes. The history of nautical-inspired fashion is rich and diverse, and it has endured for decades as a preferred trend for high-end and mass-market designers.

What is Nautical Fashion?

Nautical is used to describe the sea and ships. nautical designs, which draw their influence from naval uniforms, yachting apparel, sailor style, yellow slickers, or fisherman’s sweaters, convey the romantic concept of life on the high seas, with fresh air, sunshine, and the boundless ocean as far as the eye can view. 

Horizontal stripes, sailor hats, jackets with brass buttons, peacoats, and anchor prints are just a few examples.

However, to look stylish on land and at sea, one does not necessarily need to be a ship captain or yacht owner. The key to nautical fashion is using materials and cuts that are fresh, comfortable, and natural, wearable by both men and women.

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Modern nautical clothing continues to draw inspiration from historical maritime dress customs.

Occupational Sailing

The term “Jack-tar” refers to a type of 16th-century European sailor who protected himself from the elements by donning a hat and a leather jacket that reached his waist. Tunics made of canvas or coarse linen were worn, together with loose breeches called “slops,” to make movement on the ships easier.

The slops were frequently striped or red in colour. In addition, during bad weather, a tarpaulin, a canvas petticoat coated in tar, was frequently worn over the slops.

The knit wool cap and neckerchief provide additional head protection. The tarred jacket gave rise to the traditional pea coat people know today, but fishermen continued to use tarpaulin throughout the nineteenth century.

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Unsplash/Representational image

The official Navy uniform was first worn in England in the mid of eighteenth century, which made the difference between a sailor and a fisherman’s occupational attire more obvious. The Navy’s official colour scheme was blue and white with gold and silver trim for officers.

This is where the phrase “navy blue” first appeared. Later in the century, American-tar wore a necktie, cropped pants with a knitted striped shirt, and a short jacket with blue or black tar.

A Brief History of Nautical Fashion

In general, the enduring popularity of nautical fashion may be attributed to Queen Victoria’s reign in mid-19th-century England. The British Royal Navy played a vital role in building up the British Empire’s strength and preserving a commanding presence in the international arena throughout this so-called Victorian era, while the British Empire was extending its dominance across the globe. 

As a result, naval uniforms stood as a symbol of bravery and loyalty, and the navy itself turned into a representation of a nation’s power.

The British King’s choice to order a child-sized sailor suit for his son, Prince Albert Edward, in 1846 is largely responsible for the fact that it all started with children’s apparel.

Prince Louis, Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee, Nautical Fashion, Nautical Style, Navy Colour,
Royal Collection Trust

Soon after, everyone in high society was wearing nautical-inspired clothing, and these looks swiftly rose to the position of a symbol of wealth and status. As the naval style generated a sense of national pride and camaraderie, maritime fashion would likewise achieve peak trend levels prior to the First and Second World Wars.

Not just the British have an impact on maritime fashion trends. The striped Breton shirt, one of the most classic maritime designs, originates in France. La marinère, as it is known, was first worn by fishermen in Brittany, and it was formally recognized as a part of the French navy uniform in 1858. History has it that the 21 stripes stand for Napoleon Bonaparte’s triumphs.

French fashion designer Coco Chanel was inspired to use the marinère style in her 1917 collection after visiting the French coast. This was a bold decision since the shirt was considered men’s apparel and was much more liberated than the era’s women’s outfits.

Prince Louis, Elizabeth Platinum Jubilee, Nautical Fashion, Nautical Style, Navy Colour,
Getty images

The style was further cemented in the public consciousness decades later when fashion designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, and Jean Paul Gaultier used nautical styles as inspiration for their own collections.

Fishing, sailing, and other maritime activities are the roots of many classic outfits; in fact, many people would have worn nautical-inspired clothing without even realising it.

Wide-legged pants, cable-knit sweaters, roll-neck sweaters, striped Breton shirts, peacoats, duffle coats, rain slickers, and swim trunks are just a few iconic pieces. Espadrilles and deck shoes are classic examples of footwear, and these types of footwear are frequently fashioned from organic materials like hemp and canvas.

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Vogue Archive

Navy blue and white is a timeless classic colour combination, but other, more vibrant tones like red, orange, yellow, green, and turquoise are also having a moment.

Watch this video explainer:

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