Classic menswear looks tend to have had their sociopolitical undertones smoothed out over the years. Take the Breton top: it was originally a staple of French utilitarian workwear, but it was then co-opted by irony merchants like Andy Warhol, complicated geniuses like Picasso and antiheroes like James Dean. Today, it is about as mass as an item can get, but it still has a flicker of edge for the “dads on the weekend” set.
If the Breton top is still cool, despite overexposure, the boat shoe (which I’m also wearing today) is definitely not. It is, however, omnipresent. With its canvas sole and leather laces, it falls somewhere between a toy shoe and something you’d find in the goodie bag at the Tory party conference.
Still, put the boat shoe and the Breton top together and you have something that was trending on the catwalks of Marni, Ann Demeulemeester and Lanvin for spring/summer 21: the nautical look. It’s a progression from the “yee-haw agenda”, which broke into the mainstream thanks to Lil Nas X in 2019 and saw us reaching for the bolo tie and cowboy boots, regressing to our five-year-old selves playing dress-up. As for the nautical trend, Dazed And Confused magazine has dubbed it “the ahoy agenda”: more dandified than its cowboy predecessor, characterised by billowing blouses, tunics and velvet.
To that end, I’m wearing a neckerchief tied at a jaunty angle (does it look a bit “am-dram production of The Pirates Of Penzance”? Actually, don’t answer that) and channelling my inner Captain Hook. It’s a fresh, springtime style and shows what can be done economically to change up a look that might feel well worn.
Am I ready to set sail? Possibly not – I couldn’t swim until I was 10 – but I feel this look has (sea) legs.