Nautical chic is one of the few fashions that has been around for more than 150 years and is still worn by the blue collar, the white collar and the runway model. Nautical chic is a recurring summer and spring fashion that incorporates many nautical visual elements. The look can be applied to the fashion and design world, but it got its start in the unlikeliest of places.


Nautical chic did not spring from the mind of an inspired fashion designer, but from an act of Parliament. Kate Carter of fashion website Motilo traced the look back to an 1858 Act of the French Government that introduced stripes as a defining characteristic of the French navy. The government designed the stripes so seamen could easily identify men who were lost overboard. The look eventually caught on with the general public and then with the more fashion-conscious designers in the early 1900s. The look officially made it across the pond when James Dean donned striped shirts in the 1950s.

Defining Concepts

Considering that the look emerged from a striped Navy uniform, horizontal stripes are a big part of nautical chic. As for colors, the navy blue, red and white found in classic nautical pieces are commonly recurring colors for this look. Whether it’s a shirt or a throw pillow, alternating, horizontal blue and white stripes send a clear, nautical signal. Other recurring elements in nautical chic include images of rope, anchors and sea shells.

Men and Women’s Fashion

Kate Carter praises nautical chic in the fashion world because of its versatility, ease of availability and wide price range. Carter states that nautical chic is equally at home on babies and the elderly. The horizontal striped shirt is obviously the starting point, but several different fashion trends have emerged over the years. Fashion critic Polly Leider points out wrap dresses, wide-legged sailor pants and navy skirts as three pieces of clothing belonging to nautical chic. According to College Fashion, anchor prints and wide stripes are ideal.

Interior Design

Nautical chic is not just relegated to fashion. You can design an entire home with the look in mind. Matters of Style states that nautical chic acts as a great look for summer while also modernizing your home. Mirrors with shell or rope borders are subtle pieces for any room. Nautical-themed pillow covers, clam shell serving bowls and even place mats in nautical colors are options for decking your home out in the style.