One of the easiest ways to ensure sartorial greatness is to wear tonal block colours every day. It might be simple, but it’s also almost impossible to get wrong!
However if you want to move away from your staple roster of plain black and white tees, navy blue shirts and grey sweaters, then the easiest way to incorporate pattern into your wardrobe is with stripes.
Now is the perfect time of year to start thinking about adding stripes to your wardrobe: men wearing nautical-inspired stripes for spring are as ubiquitous as women choosing to wear florals when the flowers start blooming.
It may be a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it works! Here is our ultimate guide to wearing stripes and top tips for incorporating them into your wardrobe right now:
Start With a Striped Tee
One of the most classic striped pieces that most men have lurking in the back of their closets is a striped tee. The reason we love stripes so much is because they are an easy and effortless way to inject a little character and personality into your outfit.
Stripes are also incredibly versatile, because they can be worn both during the day and in the evening, meaning that if you put a stripe tee on in the morning you won’t have to head home to change if you want to run to the bar on your way home!
When choosing to wear a striped tee, let your top half do all the talking. Pick pants in a simple and low key block colour (it doesn’t matter if these are classic blue jeans or vibrant red chinos) but avoid adding extra pattern to your outfit.
Stripes always make a stand alone bold statement, so there’s no need to add other bold pieces to this look unless you really want to. Jeans really are the best ally for stripes, and will create a classic and timeless love we just can’t be without!
Wear a white tee with black or navy blue stripes and pair with a light blue denim for a look that is perfect for spring and summer. For a more versatile all-year round look, try pairing your tee with black jeans instead.
If you don’t already have a striped tee in your wardrobe then this is the most important striped piece you need. Once you’re bitten by the striped bug, you’ll soon find that your closet is full of them! Here are some of our favourites:
Be Bold in a Striped Blazer
Once you’ve mastered the art of wearing the striped tee you might want to move your style up a notch and explore the more fashion-forward statement piece that is the striped blazer.
This is the boldest striped piece any man can have in his style armoury: it demands attention and immediately screams fashion. You’ll find this piece worn by bloggers, fans and fashionistas all over the cobbled streets of London Fashion Week.
Unless you want to look like you’ve just stepped straight out of rehearsals for your barbershop quartet, we would advise you leave the pants to match your wide striped blazer in the store.
The blazer might not be the most fashion-forward jacket shape right now (the sporty bomber jacket or biker jacket tends to be much more in vogue right now) but it is the perfect shape for wearing in both horizontal and vertical stripes.
Blazers tend to be boxy in shape, and the stripes will only emphasise this. As a result, it is important to pair your blazer with either straight legged or skinny pants and jeans. To wear anything wider will overwhelm your frame and make you look much chunkier than you actually are.
If you prefer to embrace a more modern shape then you could always replace the blazer in favour of a bomber jacket with a bold vertical stripe pattern. These have been all over the runway this season, and are incredibly popular thanks to their bold statement and figure-flattering fit. Here are some of our favourite designs:
Choosing the Right Stripe
Ah, on to the tricky question of choosing the right stripes! It’s the question that most men have been asking since the first sailor donned his stripy uniform in the early 19th century: which stripes will suit me best?
Vertical stripes are the perfect choice if you want to add a little extra length to your frame (or at least, the illusion of extra length!) Wearing unbroken straight lines up and down your body will make your body seem both longer and leaner.
Of course, wearing stripes won’t make you suddenly look 6 foot 3 if you’re 5 foot 0, but even the illusion of a little extra height can be important if you’re conscious of your height. And don’t forget that they can also help trim your waistline, making you look instantly slimmer.
So what about horizontal stripes? Well it makes sense that the exact opposite rules apply: horizontal stripes can actually make you look wider. This is great news if you’re green bean thin and want to add a little illusionary bulk to your frame.
But if you’re already carrying a few extra Christmas pounds, you might want to think about giving the horizontal stripes a miss.
When you hit the shops you’re likely to find that horizontal stripes are much more prevalent than vertical ones. This is because horizontal stripes are generally easier to wear, and easier for designers to cut to fit most body shapes.
So if you want to wear a horizontal stripe without adding extra bulk to your frame then layering will fast become your new best friend.
The Importance of Layering
Worried that you might not have the right physique to wear a classic horizontal stripe? Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that you have to avoid this timeless piece completely! Anyone can wear a horizontal stripe tee with the help of the right layers.
Layering really doesn’t have to be complicated. Pick a simple striped tee and wearing it underneath a plain blazer, cardigan or denim shirt (depending on the season and your personal style).
Button your preferred cover up so that it falls midway up your chest if you want to avoid the pattern adding excessive width to your torso. When you do this the stripes will add a small detail to a relatively straightforward outfit, ensuring that they don’t look too eye catching or overwhelming.
If you’re using them to layer then it doesn’t matter whether you pick horizontal or vertical stripes, but just don’t wear the two different patterns together! This will look messy, visually confusing, and has never been a good look.
Stripes are so wonderfully versatile that if you are using them to add detail and interest to a layered look then you can wear them with almost any colour and fabric: the more texture you are able to add to your outfit the more luxe it will look.
There is something incredibly laid back and cool about wearing a striped tee with a blazer: this is the ultimate example of Parisian Chic style, and something that wouldn’t leave you looking out of place on the streets of Paris.
Roll back your sleeves, add your favourite skinny jeans and, of course, a pair of oversized sunglasses, and you will have a cool and incredibly fashion-forward outfit that you can wear almost anywhere. This is an outfit that will carry you from day to night, and that can be worn for a host of casual and smart-casual events.
Experiment with Colour
Whilst the most timeless and classic striped combo is the black and white striped or navy and white striped tee, if you’re looking for something a little bolder and more fashion-forward then why not experiment with brighter colours?
Brighter stripes are great for injecting vibrancy to your outfits during the summer months, and will look great in the sunshine or worn with a tan. If you want to wear your stripes with your favourite blue jeans then a good rule of thumb is to look for a tee with a complimentary blue stripe in it.
Choosing a tee that blends seamlessly with your pants will create a look that has cohesion and consistency, as well as helping to elongate your body, creating the illusion of added height that wearing stripes can so often stunt.
If you’re looking to inject some colour into your outfit with your stripes then we love red, which maintains the nautical feel that stripes are so well known for, whilst being bright and bold and helping you to stand out from the crowd.
Black and white or navy and white stripes might be the most common and ubiquitous stripes on the market, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a huge range of options available for you if you’re a colour junkie.
Here are some of our favourite striped tees in a range of vibrant or unusual colours:
Stripes By The Pool
Because wearing stripes has such obvious nautical overtones, it stands to reason that they are the perfect choice for spending time at the beach or by the pool. However unless you want to look like you’re wearing a costume, avoid other nautical symbols (such as anchors or sailor motifs).
Stripes are a great way to add interest and detail into your resort wear, and they don’t just have to be limited to your tees. Striped shorts or swimming trunks will immediately add depth to your outfit, and they look great paired with crisp white shirts or tees.
The stripes you choose can be as subtle or as overt as you like, depending on how much of a statement you want to make. Even adding a striped band to your fedora hat will add depth and interest to your outfit.
Even on the beach, where our outfits tend to be a little more flamboyant than at the office, your stripes should be the only pattern that you incorporate into your outfit. Adding other patterns alongside your stripes will just make your outfit look busy and confusing. When in doubt, add plenty of white and navy blue for a classic look you can’t get wrong!
The Pin Stripe Suit
Wearing stripes doesn’t just have to be limited to your casual wardrobe: thanks to the pin stripe suit, you can incorporate vertical stripes into your work wear wardrobe too.
Fat pinstriped suits are reminiscent of Gordon Gekko and the yuppies of the 1980s, but they look just as good with an open necked shirt as they do with a Wall Street- style shirt and tie.
The pin striped suit is the ultimate power suit, and the one suit that you can wear for every occasion. Soft and subtle pin stripes are ideal for more conservative offices whilst big and bold stripes work best when you want to make a bold statement.
If you’re really committed to wearing stripes with style then team your suit with a gently striped shirt and a bold bright tie for the ultimate in power dressing. It isn’t the right look for everyone, but if you regularly wear formal wear then a pinstriped suit is a very useful tool to have in your armoury.
Opt for single breasted suiting for something modern and subtle, or go for a double breasted suit if you want to recreate the over the top 1980s style.
The History of the Stripe
Finally, if you were wondering where the striped tee originated from, we have all the answers. The striped top was first introduced in 1858 as the the uniform for the French navy. The navy were based in Breton (a region of France) which is why the navy and white striped top is also sometimes known as the Breton tee.
So how did the top make the leap from sailors uniform to the world of high fashion? Whilst holidaying in Breton, Coco Chanel saw the uniforms and liked the way they looked so much that she made them the focal point of her 1917 collection. A new fashion icon was born!
Since then stripes have been promoted by high end designers such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, and Yves St Laurent.
And the most iconic designer to promote stripes and continually keep them in the public eye is Jean Paul Gautier: no one cuts a French-style stripe like him! In fact, Monsieur Gautier likes stripes so much he has create his whole aftershave line around them:
If you don’t already have a selection of stripes in your wardrobe then it’s time to hit the shops! Stripes are a modern man’s wardrobe essential and something that every man with even a passing interest in fashion should know how to wear.
We just love stripes: they are one of the only patterns that can be worn by a four year old girl and a 35 year old man and look equally stylish on both. With its graphic nature and its bold repetition, there is something incredibly appealing about wearing stripes and we can’t think of anything we’d rather put on for a hot summer’s day.
For decades we have seen stripes dominating both the runway and the red carpet and for good reason: the stripe is a pattern that oozes style. If you want to ooze a little style of your own then get on board the stripe express today!