The standard advice is to wear vertical stripes to make yourself look taller and slimmer, and horizontal stripes if you want to detract from your height or add width to a slim frame. But there’s way more to a striped shirt or jacket than that.
Here’s our short guide to stripes and how to wear them without looking like a deckchair.
There’s some disagreement about the precise origin of the pinstriped suit. Some say the design grew out of the striped blazers and trousers popular with the English boating set at the end of the 19th century. Others point to the fact that during the same period, employees at different banks in the City wore striped trousers with their morning suits – almost a uniform – so that you could tell where someone worked by their stripes.
Either way, the enduring attraction of the elegant pinstriped suit is undeniable; it’s a classic formal garment which inspires confidence – this is the suit to wear when you need to make a good first impression.
Pinstripes are a good example of a pattern that’s built into the weave; the warp – the vertical threads – are of alternating colours and that’s what gives the fabric its stripes.
Speaking of boating jackets – the trend for bold bright stripes made famous by boating clubs like the Tideway Scullers, Taurus, and Isis – continues to this day. But just because you’re not into boating doesn’t mean you can’t sport a stylish summer blazer.
Wear your striped summer jacket two ways. Make it the focal point of your strikingly smart ensemble for your yacht club dinner, picnic at the races, or favourite tennis tournaments. Alternatively, wear it as part of a flamboyant casual outfit – with plain jeans and deck shoes.
According to tradition, you should never clean your boating jacket. You’re supposed to wear the history of your skullduggery with pride, in the language of wine and beer stains, damage, and dirt. That’s one tradition we recommend you ignore.
Striped smart shirts
Formalwear gives you two choices when it comes to shirts: plain or striped. But within the narrow confines of what counts as properly smart clothing for the office, there’s a wealth of variation from which to choose.
Go for wide stripes if you’re already on the tall side – the width helps to dissipate the effect of height. If you’re short, do the opposite, choosing shirts which pack more verticals into the space to accentuate length over breadth.
Don’t forget that subtle stripes woven into the cloth, like herringbone twill for example, is a clever way to incorporate stripes into a plain shirt. Alternatively, make a statement with a bright Bengal stripe – these regular 1/4 inch coloured stripes alternate with white to provide a snazzy contrasting pattern that jazzes up your plain grey or navy suit.
Striped casual shirts
Match the exuberance of your stripes to the nature of the activity in which you are to indulge. Cruising? Choose stripes you can dress up or down. Go for a long sleeved shirt so you can wear it under a linen jacket, or roll up the sleeves and wear it with your shorts.
A bright short-sleeved button down collar looks great with chinos or linen trousers on a hot day. If you feel a chill, simply pull on a light sweater.
Going out for lunch or dinner? Preppy stripes in darker colours like navy and wine bring a touch of formality and can be worn with flannel trousers, moleskins, jeans, or chinos. Wear a blazer over the top, or go for a contemporary casual look by opting for a smart cardigan in teal or burgundy.
A classic striped polo is an ideal casual summer option for weekend use. Perfect for those occasions when you want to relax and unwind, it goes well with anything from your shorts to jeans, chinos and more.
If you’re a big guy and you’re concerned about the widening effect of horizontal stripes, layering-up solves your problem. Wear a striped polo under a bomber jacket – the narrow band of stripes on show will look great.
Whichever stripe you wear, make it a Samuel Windsor stripe – quality men’s tailoring at just the right price.