Monday, May 4, 2009

Of Bretons and Capes

The NYT has been celebrating the Breton shirt, the classic blue-and white striped long-sleeve T worn by French sailors. I’ve loved this shirt for years and years, though my Breton is actually Italian (it’s from Benetton and is over 20 years old). So I guess it’s not *really* a Breton, just as Champagne is sparkling wine if it doesn’t come from France.

That’s OK, though, because when I think of Breton, the first image that pops into my mind is not this funky reimagined Balmain (above; love it!!),

nor is it Pablo Picasso in his Breton,



but rather, it is Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, home of the gorgeously treacherous Cabot Trail. I drove this with my father when I was but a wee lass and my heart was in my throat the entire time, so steep, so winding, and sans shoulder lane was it.



If I think a little more, though, I’m reminded that I just love Hemingway’s writing on Bretons in his Garden of Eden. Catherine, the creatively frustrated young bride, wears one on honeymoon with her writer husband, and reinvents herself (rather extremely) in part because her gender stifles any other kind of creativity.

Every time I read it, I want to crop my hair a la Seberg, color it white blonde, develop a golden tan, and wear that blue-and-white Breton. And, being fortunate enough to have writerly choices that Catherine didn’t, I might then go and blog about the whole enterprise.

6 comments:

hmstrjam said...

i love the french sailor stripes! I would own a whole closet just of these classic stripes in different cuts!

materfamilias said...

Can I be the first to say I'm brettin' you'll look great in these stripes? You can't es-cape that truth . . .
I'm quite keen to hit Petit Bateau this spring in Paris -- I may even outfit Nola and I in matching marine stripes, Nana-granddaughter style.

Toby Wollin said...

Ah, Cape Breton Island...best vacation our family spent..EVER. They hiked, went to the beach, kayaked with the whales and I went to a four day workshop in Inverness for Cape Breton style fiddling. A highlight; my kids still talk about it.

miss cavendish said...

Toby, My paternal grandfather was a PEI fiddler, quite in demand for square dances. I hope that my eldest daughter will take some fiddling lessons on the Island this summer (she plays Suzuki violin)--I'm sure it's in her blood! Do you fiddle much?

Am so glad that you had a memorable time in the Maritimes; I love Atlantic Canada so.

Mater--Thanks for the fab string of puns! I envy you going to Paris!!

And Jamie-- I agree! They're so fresh and crisp.

anny said...
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Quail said...

The original, original Breton shirts were made to be worn back to front and inside out and back again to spread the wear and tear. I love that. I don't think it would quite work for uber-stylishly-conscious though!