Choose pin stripes for a bold look

Choose pin stripes for a bold look

Q. You wrote last week about buying striped suits. I already have a chalk stripe suit, but never know what to wear with it. How do I match shirts and ties with a striped suit?

A. About a decade ago, men began to veer away from striped suits because they thought of them as too formal, “a banker’s uniform.” Hence, they were out of style for several years, But, as I discussed recently, striped suits are beginning to creep back into fashion. The question that men face today, beyond what kind to buy, is yours – what do you wear with a striped suit?

I’m glad your suit is a chalk stripe rather than a pinstripe. A pinstripe is easy to recognize: the pattern consists of prominent, vertical, thin stripes, usually equidistant apart. In a chalk stripe, the stripes are lighter and less apparent, making the pattern less memorable, more versatile, and easier to mix and match.

Even so, all striped suits are somewhat restricting and harder to coordinate with shirts and ties than solid-color suits. They may clash with certain shirt patterns and with may necktie patterns. The look can easily become too “busy” and distracting. Wearing a striped suit almost forces you to restrict yourself to solid-color shirts and rather plain ties. Unless you are really skilled at coordinating your accessories, too many patterns – and certainly too many stripes – can turn into a head-spinning mix.

With a striped suit, here are some useful guidelines; a few are hard and fast “rules,” and others are merely helpful bits of advice:

  • The general rule is to wear stripes only in a complete suit, never as separates.
  • Be careful about stripes in your tie or stripes in your shirt; you don’t want to have too many stripes (especially with the same distance between the stripes).
  • Despite what I have seen as online advice, I do not recommend layering a sweater under a striped suit. This is committing that old sin, mixing apples and oranges. The spirit of the two items fights with each other; a striped suit is dressy; a sweater is casual. The two do not mix.
  • For the same reason, I do not advise going tie-less when wearing a striped suit. If you are among those men who insist upon following this questionable new casual trend of going tie-less, then you should not include striped suits in your wardrobe. Make a decision about which image you want to project.

And here are a few specifics for what to wear with a chalk stripe suit:

  1. The safest and easiest combination is a solid white shirt with a dark or bright solid-color tie. You can’t go wrong.
  2. Go with the darkest color variation you can’t find, a deep blue or charcoal gray suit with a faint white stripe.
  3. A striped suit, a very light solid pastel shirt (powder blue, pale pink, or ivory), and a small, “neat” all-over patterned tie with a dark- or bright-colored background (preferably not a stripe or paisley).
  4. I cannot think of any patterned shirt to recommend.
  5. Tone down your accessories. Choose a pocket square or a tie bar, not both. If yours is a three-piece suit, leave the vest at home. And, if your suit is double-breasted, don’t add any embellishments at all.

Do these combinations all sound rather similar? Yes, they do. And that is really the biggest drawback to wearing stripes suits: they are limiting and do not allow for much variation. Nevertheless, if a man has an extensive suit wardrobe and wants something different from the standard. I can certainly see why he might own a stripe.

My own strong preference with a striped suit is this mix: a dark blue or gray chalk stripe suit, a solid white French-cuff shirt and a great-looking medium-dark solid-color tie or a patterned tie that includes a color that repeats the basic color of the suit. These are definitely what to wear when you want to look as though you’re in charge.

Be prepared for compliments.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call