Nike announced their arrival as kit suppliers to France in 2011, with a new away shirt inspired by a classic staple of French fashion.
Adidas had made France’s kits since the early 1970s, producing some of the international game’s most romanticised designs.
Think of Platini in 1984, think of Zidane in ’98, think of Thierry Henry juggling the ball from one hand to another in 2009.
OK, not so much the last one, but Adidas were clearly going to be a hard act to follow.
Nike immediately stamped their authority on L’Equipe de France by twisting their traditional white change strip into a daring design heavily influenced by French sailor uniforms.
Casual and relaxed, yet smart and luxurious, this was ready to wear football fashion at its finest.
The Marinière as it came to be known, referenced the sweaters sported by French sailors, that went on to be worn casually across the world.
The uniform sweater with its three-quarter length sleeves and relaxed neckline was introduced in 1858 with directions that “the body shall have 21 white stripes, each twice as wide as the 20 or 21 navy blue stripes.” Yes, we’ve counted, and no, Nike’s jerseys would not have fulfilled the criteria!
Also known as the Breton shirt as so many French sailors came from Brittany, the hooped design was aimed at ensuring any “man overboard” was immediately visible to the rest of the crew and could be quickly hauled back to safety.
The look became famous when Coco Chanel drew on her memories of visits to the French coast, to create designs aimed at women that saw those functional seafaring jerseys become a little piece of luxury.
The transition from work wear to desirable fashion item continued as artists, writers and movie stars like Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Marceau, and Brigitte Bardot adopted the stripey sweater.
Yves Saint Laurent regularly featured the design in his collections in the 1960s, before Jean-Paul Gaultier brought about a renaissance of the design in the 1990s and 2000s.
The fashionista most associated with this particular shirt however, is Karl Lagerfeld.
Lagerfeld often turned to the Marinière style in his catwalk shows but contrary to popular belief and as widely reported after his death in 2019; the German designer was not responsible for Nike’s kit.
However, Lagerfeld was heavily involved in the promotional campaign, photographing the kit for its release, thereby giving his seal of approval to Les Bleus’ design.
The stereotypically French shirts were a commercial success and a marketing coup for Nike, but key figures at the FFF, including the then coach Laurent Blanc were not so sold.
Ribéry, Benzema et al only wore the shirt a handful of times before it was replaced ahead of Euro 2012, a mere 11 months after its release.
France returned to a more sober and traditional plain white away strip, meaning that sadly we don’t have a big tournament moment to remember the Marinière by.
The design received a re-work after the country’s 2018 World Cup triumph saw a pre-match training shirt with two stars above the famous cockerel crest released.
Nike again channelled Coco Chanel with the wonderful hexa-dot away shirt worn by France at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Playful, smart, and so classically stylish that you can almost smell that Jean-Paul Gaultier eau de toilette; this French shirt is the perfect embodiment of the type of shirts we love here at Sartorial.Soccer.
Simply put, this is one of the finest international football shirts of the 21st Century.
What do you think of Nike’s Marinière away shirt?
21st Century design classic or marketing gimmick?
Please let us know in the comments section below!