Mention 'sailor chic' to guys and it's almost guaranteed they'll baulk at the mental images it conjures up -- from Jean Paul Gaultier's homoerotic sailor-boy adverts to really dodgy fancy dress outfits.
Last Halloween I went to a party dressed as a sailor but, funnily enough, the only item I had to purchase to complete the look was a captain's hat. Everything else came from items I already had in my wardrobe. And no, I'm not admitting to owning a sailor suit; certain items worn together create the effect. This is a critical point I'll come back to.
Nautical is definitely more of a style than a trend and it re-emerges every few years, never really going away. In that sense, many items with sailor chic can become wardrobe staples that you'll wear year after year (even coming in handy at Halloween).
There's a very valid reason for this. Fashion first fell in love with all things maritime nearly two centuries ago, in the 1800s, when Queen Victoria decked out her four-year-old son in a sailor suit. The look was soon emulated by parents across Britain. Since then, nautical-inspired fashion has remained in the sartorial psyche, with designers such as Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent regularly displaying catwalk collections inspired by sailing uniforms. Hence the look is still as regular as the tides.
The key to wearing this particular look well, and avoiding resembling a new navy recruit, is moderation. Just because the shops are full of various nautical elements, you don't want to wear them all at once.
There's a fine line between fancy dress and a hint of nautical fantasy, so keep it subtle. If I had to recommend only one item, it's a navy Breton stripe jumper (you can't miss them in Topman). Paired with some jeans or chinos and even a check shirt, it injects a certain je ne sais quoi to any outfit.
Although championed by womenswear, this is one of very few looks that originates from menswear. The shops have lots of shades and prints to freshen up the nautical look. The great thing about this trend is its versatility; it can be incorporated into outfits for any occasion, from casual to formal wear.
It's not all about stripes: a simple navy blazer with clean lines harks back to nautical beginnings and is a timeless investment.