Photo by Salt Water New England

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nantucket Reds

Photos by Salt Water New England
Questions about Reds typically include:

1. Are Nantucket Reds the standard, and what are alternatives? What is the difference between Nantucket Reds and Breton Reds?
Regarding Nantucket Red pants and the information you have given your readers in regards to the change in manufacturing of certain companies and other factors, where would you recommend a guy purchase a new pair? I have bought several pairs from the newer lifestyle brand companies but want something more authentic, with a true Nantucket Red color that I will take to a tailor and get fitted appropriately. Any advice you can offer would be great. (Reader Question.)
What is the history of Reds? (A Reader Question) 
2. What can be worn with Nantucket Reds?  How should you wear Reds so as not to look like cosplay or a tourist?

3. Should you cuff Reds?
This summer I bought my almost 17 year old his first pair of Nantucket Reds from Murray's. I did get them cuffed, but they are way too long and I will have to have them hemmed anyway. This summer he rolled them cuff and all and they looked great. However, I began to wonder about them being cuffed...I'm not sure I like them cuffed, what do you think? He doesn't have any other cuffed pants and will be heading to college next year...would hemmed be better? (Reader Question) 
4. When is the correct time of year to wear Reds?

5. Can you wear Reds for the males in a wedding party, and if so, with what?

1. Are Nantucket Reds the standard, and what are alternatives? What is the difference between Nantucket Reds and Breton Reds?

Some sources of Reds include:

Probably long before Murray's Nantucket Reds were invented, the red pants of choice of yachtsmen and crew, were of course the 'real' Breton Reds. Long ago I picked up a pair of these classic yachting pants while sailing the Channel Races. The pants, after a while, turned a fabulous washed out red that could only be achieved by being on the ocean (not counting the Nantucket fast ferry). They were soft, the right degree of "baggy" and worn by just about every blue water sailor. (skiwithapro) 
My reds happen to be the 'original' Breton Reds, purchased in Cowes during the Channel Races one year; sunbleached, they pair wonderfully with some old salt-crusted Topsiders (yes, some of us still hit the ocean wearing those) and I wear my Reds proudly anywhere close to an ocean. They are wonderfully 'baggy' which is great as they make it easy to move around on foredeck (and I personally detest skinny pantlegs...). (Comment) 
I've been asking relatives in my family how they remembered buying Nantucket Reds back in the day, and all the old timers agreed there was a time when the pants were *not* "pre washed". When you bought them, they were stiff as a board and over time they faded to the red everyone loves. There was a period when they started pre-washing the reds. Was in the late 80's? 90's? when the trend started and *everything* was "prewashed". Ever since then, the Reds have gone downhill. I've stopped buying them. I'm intrigued by the Made In America line, but, still pre washed. I guess I'm old fashioned. I like breaking clothes in. They last longer. (Wasp Decor) 
Text from our print above: 1934 Rainbow (New York Yacht Club) defeats Endeavour (Royal Yacht Squadron):
Sherman Hoyt, wearing his famous red pants, shouts "Luff! Luff, for God's sake Luff!" to Vanderbilt as Sopwith tries to stop Rainbow passing. But Vanderbilt carried straight on, and because Sopwith was slow hoisting his protest flag, he was allowed to sail away with the vital fourth race.

2. What can be worn with Nantucket Reds?  How should you wear Reds so as not to look like cosplay or a tourist?

Salt Water New England Gallery:
They're not fashion items, nor are they ironic. At their best, they look a thousand years old and are treated with the same delicatesse you'd give a salt water-stained canvas tote bag. The "wrong way" to wear Nantucket reds is preciously. (Comment)
Love my Reds, though I prefer the shorts over the long pants. (Orange Fiji )

Nantucket Reds change color with age, salt, and sun.  Women's new canvas Nantucket Reds behind; slightly seasoned Women's poplin Nantucket Reds in front.

With Striped Button Downs and Code Flags

With Navy or White Polo Shirts

With Seersucker

With Oxford Cloth Button Downs

With Wool Aran Crew Neck

3. Should you cuff Reds?

 A quick answer: Strictly speaking, it's best NOT to cuff Brick/ Nantucket/Breton Reds or any other trousers ostensibly meant for shipboard wear as "turn ups" could catch on cleats and other objects. (Katahdin)  
If the Nantucket reds have cuffs, I wouldn't worry about it, but I wouldn't get cuffs on them myself if I were buying a new pair. I get cuffs only on wool grey flannel trousers and on summer-weight grey wool trousers. (JR) 
I prefer them uncuffed. Easier to roll up and they dry faster. If they are just "for show" with a navy blazer, go for a cuff. It's what all the other folks do at the yacht club.  (Comment) 
One can see both on-island, but the clear majority are not cuffed (particularly of the thicker, sailcloth Murray's Reds). Personal preference to some degree, but I agree with the comments on cuffs being a bit more formal. I think Reds are made to be used, not just worn, so I would go without cuffs. (John) 
No cuff for reds - they are too casual, in my opinion. (Emily)  

4. When is the correct time to wear Reds?

While summer is traditional, many think of theirs as three season, as long as they can comfortably go sockless.

5. Can you wear Reds for the males in a wedding party, and if so, with what?

Go for whatever speaks to you, but I would suggest not overly dismissing an appropriate level of uniformity and formality. It is often regretted down the road. Your wedding day is not just a casual dinner out at the club.  With that said, having everyone well fitted is important as well. I would take a snappy set of reds and a well tailored blazer over a poorly fitted rental tux any day. Careful with the bow ties. You don't want your wedding album to end up looking like a VV catalog shot. (Scott)  
How concerned are you with the costume effect? With such a sizable party it may start to look like a chorus line in "Nantucket: The Musical." If you want it to be a bit wacky and endearingly kitschy, then I say go for it. If you want something more serious then reds may not be the way to go (especially if everyone is dressed the same, uniformity may betray the casual fun of the pants). If you keep the reds, go with blue shirts with button down collars. It keeps true to the casualness look. White shirts with red(ish) pants and navy blazers may be a bit too 4th of July for some.  (FLW) 
My daughter's fiance initially wanted to wear Nantucket Reds for their April wedding. They didn't want everything to be "matchy matchy" but trying to find flower colors which went along with the faded red was a challenge that time of year. You may not have that problem with colors of fall flowers but it's also something to consider. When you really get into the nitty gritty details, the color of Nantucket Reds isn't as versatile as you may think. (sara) 
Go for it. I remember that Ted Kennedy Jr. and his family showed up for his October, 1993 Block Island wedding in blue blazers, Nantucket reds,matching ties, and topsiders (no socks). I watched as they alighted from Senator Ted Kennedy's beautiful schooner Mya, tied up in New Harbor. If the Kennedys can pull it off, so can you. (Queequeg)  


  1. A classic in every respect!

  2. Orvis sold excellent ones and still may, although I haven't bought a new pair in years.

  3. Wow! What a lot of info and beautiful photos! Am sending this link to my brother and nephew who love Nantucket Reds. Thanks!

  4. I always get my Long Reds cuffed. However, I much prefer the Nantucket Red shorts. They are extremely comfortable to wear on hot sunny days. While I do own a few pairs of "Breton Reds" from Polo, they are no substitute for the original Murray's "Nantucket Reds."

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  6. I hate to correct Queequeg, but Ted Kennedy Jr. and his groomsmen wore black tuxedos, not blazers and nantucket reds. Pictures don't lie:

  7. The original Breton red sailing pants came from France and Britain, and were made for local fisherman from heavy plain weave cotton canvas sailcloth dyed a dark-reddish brown color to preserve it from rot. In this country, they were originally worn by sailors who had done a trans-Atlantic race. The paler red twill pants now popular in New England sailing circles are a lighter and brighter color and lighter weight than the originals.