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All Lined Up

By Stan Mukoro

Photographed by Harold Daniels Creative Direction by Reginald L. Walker

What is essential when building a powerful suit wardrobe is not just acquiring a lot of suits but a man’s mix  ability. Each suit plays a different position and sends a different message when worn. If the navy suit is president  and charcoal is vice-president, then the pinstripe is certainly secretary of state. Just as Hillary Clinton’s  personality is confidently assertive, the pinstripe suit enters a room with commanding presence. Dapper behind the  big desk of a corner office to a boardroom meeting or at a dressy social event, the single-breasted or  double-breasted version sends a message and says something definite about your personality – that you don’t follow  the crowd, you lead it.

Stripes are definitive of a typical Wednesday for me. This hump-day favorite earned its place in the middle of my  week long ago and it’s been a mainstay ever since. A classic pinstripe suit exudes confidence and competence and is  not just for the cautious. As powerful and prestigious a statement as it may make, it is not welcomed at country  clubs, black tie or ultra formal events. No sir.

Styles of stripes are debatable in terms of what’s hot and what’s not. Pins and chalks are classic and most  preferred. These standard styles tend to remain within professional and social boundaries. A half-inch gauge lends to  the timeless and understated appeal of this sartorial sophisticate.

Suits with narrower stripes have become more common too. From a distance, the quarter-inch gauge is nearly  undetectable. Purchasing, let alone wearing suiting with stripes of a three-quarter to full inch gauge is right up  there with “mandals”, you know, a man who wears socks with sandals.

“It always depends on how its done – it must not be overtly exhibitionist.”  – Giorgio Armani
“It always depends on how its done – it must not be overtly exhibitionist.” – Giorgio Armani

Deciding what to wear with a pinstripe suit brings out the rebel in some. While some men can be downright outrageous  and mix multiple patterns confidently; others are cautious and stick to what’s on the mannequin in their favorite  store. One mistake I see repeated is wearing a bold shirt or a necktie with a busy pattern. My recommendation to my  pinstripe-wearing clients is a shirt with small checks and a solid necktie. Just like Michael Jackson sang the lead  with his brothers, so should the look of your suit. Your shirt, tie and accessories are the back-up singers.

Chalk stripes need contrast. I suggest wearing a contrasting necktie or if it’s a social setting, a solid polo or  dress shirt. If you choose a narrower stripe, wearing a tie the same color as the stripe adds the perfect punch. A  printed pocket square is the finishing touch. Effortless elegance is achieved by understanding the rules before you  break them.

No matter if you choose single-breasted or double-breasted, color is very important. Black striped suits are classy,  be careful how bold the stripes are. Navy, grey and brown striped are also in vogue. Always consider what color the  stripes are and err on the side of caution if too bright. Remember, these suits are not merely solid colors with  stripes but come in variations: pinstripe, chalk stripe, shadow stripe, etc.

Riding the London Underground to school as a young man was particularly interesting. Sitting next to “Joe the Banker”  dressed in his pinstripe suit with the uppity smell of his ‘Eau de Arrogance’ filling the air around him, I often  thought how focused yet uncomfortable these men looked. I daydreamed of being dressed in the same suit, just more  refined and fashionable. No longer a uniform of the past, stripy suits are here and now. At a certain age, men should  follow their own style. When it comes to vertical vision, pin is in and chalk is all the talk. So “get in line” and  have fun with it.

Weekly tip: When purchasing a stripe suit, make certain the stripes line up and match at the seams.

©2009 Mukoro|Bespoke, LLC – Stan S. Mukoro, “The Eye of Style” is the contributing style editor of Allure Magazine.  He is a style mentor living in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact: info@mukorobespoke.com


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