Are pin stripes back ‘in?’

Are pin stripes back ‘in?’

Q. While buying a shirt in the men’s department I heard a salesman tell someone that striped suits are back in style. My office is getting more formal, or at least more formal dressers have been hired, so I’m thinking of adding something more professional and wonder is pinstripe a good choice? For background, I own a solid navy blue and solid charcoal suit, and a cotton khaki suit that I wear in warm weather. I also have a herringbone sport jacket, and, of course, a blue blazer.

A. Time was, not long ago, when a man’s business core wardrobe consisted of what I referred to as the “Five-Suit Formula.” You have almost exactly this set, with the exception of pinstripes. In order of importance:

  • First suit – Solid dark blue
  • Second suit – Solid dark gray
  • Third suit – Medium-gray chalk stripe
  • Fourth suit – Navy pinstripe
  • Fifth suit – Summer tan or khaki

Although it is not a suit, another essential part of a core wardrobe is the navy blazer you mentioned and these days I would even agree that a tweed blazer in some shade of gray, blue, or brown is a must. Today, in keeping with the huge swing to less formal business attire that has changed the way men approach dressing for work and most social events, this old formula is no longer realistic. The emphasis is on fewer suits, more sport jackets, and many more unmatched casual combinations.

So, the question is should you add one of those striped suits? The answer is really about your tastes; because they are NOT fully “back in style” and, certainly, even one striped suite is no longer a necessity (let alone two). If you would like one, they are also NOT “out of style,” you just need to choose one appropriate to your work and yourself. So, familiarize yourself with the choices and see what works for you.

Of the various fabrics, the two most common and most popular are the rather bold pinstripe and the more subtle chalk stripe. Traditionally, chalk stripe is fabric that has a solid or roped white (or pastel-colored) line against a dark background, and it is a lot less formal. This relaxed look is usually preferred to the more formal pinstripe with its power suit air. It can fit into a more contemporary wardrobe. And today’s chalk stripes, like all current suits, are cut leaner and trimmer than their predecessors; the look is less mobster and more cool young dandy.

If your preference is for the older, traditional pinstripe, it definitely helps if it fits your profession, particularly if you are in the finance industry. It often leans towards pinstripes. And, especially if you work or travel frequently to a larger city, let’s say New York or Chicago. There you’ll see these more often, but usually it’s going to be in the banking, in the finance… people that deal with money… who try to keep these as the only striped suits they wear.

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