Nautical Style: the Evolution of Sailing and Seaside-inspired Fashion

Nautical Style: the Evolution of Sailing and Seaside-inspired Fashion

March 25, 2015
River & Warren
Although nautical style is said to have launched when Queen Victoria dressed the young Prince Albert Edward in a sailor suit, there’s something about the crisp lines, navy and white striping, and jaunty sportiness of nautical fashion that seems quintessentially American. Perhaps it’s the pragmatism of fashion that draws on military uniforms for inspiration, or maybe it’s the association with classic New England modes of dress. Certainly nautical style—in clothing, décor, even language—is perennially fresh and optimistic. A straightforward person is “above board,” a tidy space is “ship shape,” a fresh new idea or state of being is a “sea change.”

The grand age of sailing was the Age of Exploration that led to the discovery of the New World. And just as that era’s seagoing super powers—the Netherlands and England—eventually ceded their global authority to the United States, sailing as sport was also recentered away from Holland, which invented the sport in the 17th century, and England, which popularized it under Charles II, to America, which founded the America’s Cup in 1851, when the New York Yacht Club’s America beat its British counterparts. The United States then subsequently won every America’s Cup until 1983 (and has won it two out of five times since).

It’s appropriate, then, that nautical style is popping up in some of the new developments in Manhattan’s tonier neighborhoods. There’s a nautical-themed children’s room at River & Warren, which offers new Battery Park condominiums for sale right on the Hudson River. Tribeca luxury condos likewise offer views of grand ocean liners passing Lady Liberty, and Tribeca is also home to the splendid nautical-themed iron fence around P.S. 234. New York Nautical, a shop that has sold instruments and charts to mariners for 75 years and counting, is a great local stop if you’re looking for decorative accents for a nautical-themed apartment. River and harbor views encompass the original New Amsterdam settlement, harkening back to a time when Old World trading companies commanded the seas.

Residents of lower Manhattan might well decide that nautical motifs, whether in clothing or home design, appropriately reflect their geographic and historic location. The clean lines and bright contrasts that characterize the style are both fresh and classic, and can evoke either businesslike practicality or refined leisure. With the opening of Brookfield Place and the renewal of Battery Park City, the neighborhood itself carries a bit of the patriotic and optimistic spirit that characterizes the style as well.