Saint James: an historic purveyor of iconic Breton shirts and sweaters (marinières). Located in Normandy in the commune of Saint-James, the brand is superior for its expertly-crafted products.
I acquired my first Saint James marinières in Paris during the 2013-2014 holiday season. Back then, I wasn’t attuned to French cultural codes and entered the store without a proper “bonjour.” The saleswoman wasn’t rude, but she wasn’t exactly welcoming either. There wasn’t anyone else in the small shop at 44 Rue Cler, and the experience was highly transactional. (This location has since been permanently closed.) The result of the trade: two Galathee marinières—one white with navy stripes and the other white with royal blue stripes. My original shirts are long gone (donated to a thrift shop in West Philadelphia), but only because I now prefer a different size.
This past holiday season, I acquired four new Saint James marinières, and I’ve been wearing them constantly with my collections of navy and blue J.Crew Martie pants. Instant winter uniform! (The Martie has been discontinued, and I’m now in the market for a new style of slim black pants, preferably with a hint of stretch.) The Galathee II (in white/navy stripes and ecru/navy stripes) and the Meridame II (in navy/ecru stripes and ecru/navy stripes) turn heads every time I wear them, which has been at least four days out of every week since they were added to my closet.
Saint James originally produced wool sweaters for fishermen and sailors in the French Navy, and, to this day, the functionality of the clothing has been maintained. The fabric (wool for sweaters and cotton for shirts) and stitching are superb. A few months ago, I purchased a striped tee shirt from a startup that will remain nameless (at least for now); I have to put it on gently or else the seams will rip audibly. A Saint James knit (shirt or sweater) will last for years to come if cared for properly. Drying machines are off-limits.
At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance (1890) by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
“The Breton Shirt” (T.C.E.)