Show Your Stripes

My last article on checked blazers, along with watching ‘Skyfall’ a couple of times, really got me thinking about other more traditional forms of tailoring that are starting to make a comeback – in particular, the pinstripe suit.

Let’s face it, the pinstripe has had a bit of a bad rap the past few decades. With its origins firmly planted in the British history of banking or sports (depending on what history books you read), the pinstripe gained popularity during the 1920s as the suit of choice when attending a speakeasy, with actors such as Cary Grant and Clark Gable also bringing it to the attention of mainstream Hollywood.

It quickly became an essential purchase for every man’s wardrobe and was considered neither unusual nor particularly iconic. However, thanks largely to its association with bankers (or at least Hollywood’s portrayal of bankers) since the 1980s, most modern men tend to steer clear due to the negative connotations that can accompany it.

The Modern Pinstripe

Luckily for us, a new breed of pinstripe suit has been popping up this year – featuring an improved cut and shorter jacket length – giving the style a much more contemporary appeal. With the right accessories and a carefully considered shirt and tie combination, a pinstriped suit isn’t the sole reserve of annoying Wall Street wannabes anymore, but an excellent purchase for anyone who’s looking to add a bit of pattern and variety to their existing tailoring.

Personally, I think more traditional pieces of tailoring (like the pinstriped suit or the patterned blazer) are having a resurgence due to the direction that menswear is starting to take. We’ve gone through our 1960s inspired period of skinny suits, shirts and ties, which evolved into more expressive elements such as bold patterns and brightly colour pieces.

Now it’s time for a slightly more 1970s twist to be incorporated, with designers, tailors and the high street all edging towards a fuller, more confident and masculine cut within formal wear collections, which is ideal for classic items such as the pinstriped suit.

Buying A Pinstripe Suit

The first thing you need to consider when choosing a pinstripe suit is just how pinstriped you want it to be, because there are a wealth of options out there. Generally, the distance between the stripes on your suit will correlate to the amount of confidence you have when wearing a suit.

If this is your first time delving into the murky depths of tailoring, you may want to stick to stripes that are close together. On the other hand, if this is just another suit shaped brick in your sartorial wall, then why not go bolder with a wider stripe? With each added millimetre, you’ll need to have an equal increase in confidence.

You then need to decide the details. Suit colour? Stick to monochromatic colours such as navy, grey and black. They’re the most versatile when paired with other pieces and will help cement the traditional formal aesthetic. Stripe colour? I prefer a chalk stripe for the statement that it makes but there is no end to what you can find. For a more conservative look go tonal, such as navy and light blue. For a bolder look, maybe go for navy and red. It’s up to you.

Lastly, decide on what to wear the suit with. If you want to keep things simple, do so. You’ll never go wrong with a white or blue dress shirt paired with a solid neutral tie and black Oxford lace-ups. But this is 2012 guys, and these are a new breed of suits. So why not step it up a bit?

Men’s Pinstripe Suit Lookbook

Men's Pinstripe Suit Lookbook

How To Wear: Ideas

Here are a few ideas for you to consider when dressing up your new pinstripe:

  • Mix It Up – The one thing you won’t find a guy in finance doing? Pattern mixing. Try pairing your suit with a plaid dress shirt in a complementing colour. Just remember that the key to pulling off two different patterns is making sure each pattern is a different size!
  • Protect Your Neck – If you have opted for a wider stripe on your suit, then you’ve given yourself a chance to make a statement. Why not pair this luxury piece of tailoring with a similarly luxurious item such as a cashmere/cotton turtle neck jumper? Keep things tonal to avoid too much going on at once.
  • Go Bright or Go Home – On the other hand, if you have opted for a micro stripe on your suit, this gives you a bit more room to play with when it comes to colour. Grey and navy suits are the perfect anchors to most colours, so why not go for it? At the moment I especially love yellow/lilac with navy, and mint green/pink with light to mid grey.
  • Heritage Inspired – Aside from Britain’s financial history, striped suits are also cemented in our sporting legacy, with the striped boating uniforms of the nineteenth century. Why not take inspiration from this association and pair it with a polo shirt? Keep things simple with a classic pique polo in a complementing colour such as blue, grey or white. The more advanced could introduce another pattern such as a bold horizontal striped version.
As Separates

Of course, as with any suit, the pinstripe can also be utilised as separates. The blazer is the most versatile piece of the set, and can be worn with everything from wool trousers to jeans if you style it correctly. Just bear in mind how formal your particular suit is – tonal and boating inspired versions are the easiest to dress down.

For those of you who are still not convinced about the credentials of the modern pinstripe suit, or those that have no real need for formal wear, why not consider a striped blazer instead? Much like the checked blazer can effortlessly upgrade your tailoring collection; the classic boating blazer is a worthwhile addition to any modern wardrobe:

Men's Striped Blazers Lookbook

Men’s Pinstripe Suits & Blazers
  • Burton Grey Tailored Fit Stripe SuitBurton Grey Tailored Fit Stripe Suit
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Bold Stripe SuitAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Bold Stripe Suit
  • Reiss Harvest Double Breasted Pinstripe Suit GreyReiss Harvest Double Breasted Pinstripe Suit Grey
  • Ami Slim-fit Wool And Cashmere-blend Suit JacketAmi Slim-fit Wool And Cashmere-blend Suit Jacket
  • Mr Bathing Ape Grey Wide Stripe British 3 Piece SuitMr Bathing Ape Grey Wide Stripe British 3 Piece Suit
  • Vito Pinstripe BlazerVito Pinstripe Blazer
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Navy Stripe JacketAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Navy Stripe Jacket
  • Austin Reed Contemporary Fit Grey Blue Stripe JacketAustin Reed Contemporary Fit Grey Blue Stripe Jacket
  • Mens Hugo Boss Black James Striped SuitMens Hugo Boss Black James Striped Suit
  • Reiss Gadsbury B Two Button Pinstripe Blazer BlueReiss Gadsbury B Two Button Pinstripe Blazer Blue
  • He By Mango Striped BlazerHe By Mango Striped Blazer
  • Alperton Pin Stripe Navy Regular Fit Suit JacketAlperton Pin Stripe Navy Regular Fit Suit Jacket
  • Archway Grey Pin Stripe Regular Fit Suit JacketArchway Grey Pin Stripe Regular Fit Suit Jacket
  • F&f Signature Grey Striped Wool Tailored Suit JacketF&f Signature Grey Striped Wool Tailored Suit Jacket
  • Heritage Navy Stripe Three-button BlazerHeritage Navy Stripe Three-button Blazer
  • Tailored Saint Pinstripe BlazerTailored Saint Pinstripe Blazer
  • Our Legacy Unconstructed Pin Navy BlazerOur Legacy Unconstructed Pin Navy Blazer
  • Paul Smith – Ps 1312-169 Grey JacketPaul Smith - Ps 1312-169 Grey Jacket
  • Dolce & Gabbana Unstructured Chalk Stripe Wool-blend Suit JacketDolce & Gabbana Unstructured Chalk Stripe Wool-blend Suit Jacket
  • Mens Circle Of Gentlemen Graham Striped BlazerMens Circle Of Gentlemen Graham Striped Blazer
  • Reiss Ledbury Boiled Wool Blazer NavyReiss Ledbury Boiled Wool Blazer Navy
Final Word

Finally, the main point I cannot stress enough when it comes to the pinstripe suit, or just tailoring in general, is to know yourself! Know what it is you want your tailoring to do and what you’re comfortable wearing – then wear the hell out of it. And I mean wherever and whenever you want. Once those things fall in to place, you’ll start wearing the suit, not the other way around.

As always, I’m more interested in hearing what you guys have to say about the subject. What would you pair with a pinstripe suit? Would you even buy one to begin with? Let me know in the comments section.

Matt Allinson