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 manâ€™s mixÂ ability. Each suit plays a different position and sends a different message when worn. If the navy suit is presidentÂ and charcoal is vice-president, then the pinstripe is certainly secretary of state. Just as Hillary Clintonâ€™sÂ personality is confidently assertive, the pinstripe suit enters a room with commanding presence. Dapper behind theÂ big desk of a corner office to a boardroom meeting or at a dressy social event, the single-breasted orÂ double-breasted version sends a message and says something definite about your personality â€“ that you donâ€™t followÂ 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 myÂ week long ago and itâ€™s been a mainstay ever since. A classic pinstripe suit exudes confidence and competence and isÂ not just for the cautious. As powerful and prestigious a statement as it may make, it is not welcomed at countryÂ clubs, black tie or ultra formal events. No sir.
Styles of stripes are debatable in terms of whatâ€™s hot and whatâ€™s not. Pins and chalks are classic and mostÂ preferred. These standard styles tend to remain within professional and social boundaries. A half-inch gauge lends toÂ 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 nearlyÂ undetectable. Purchasing, let alone wearing suiting with stripes of a three-quarter to full inch gauge is right upÂ there with â€œmandalsâ€, you know, a man who wears socks with sandals.
Deciding what to wear with a pinstripe suit brings out the rebel in some. While some men can be downright outrageousÂ and mix multiple patterns confidently; others are cautious and stick to whatâ€™s on the mannequin in their favoriteÂ store. One mistake I see repeated is wearing a bold shirt or a necktie with a busy pattern. My recommendation to myÂ pinstripe-wearing clients is a shirt with small checks and a solid necktie. Just like Michael Jackson sang the leadÂ 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 itâ€™s a social setting, a solid polo orÂ dress shirt. If you choose a narrower stripe, wearing a tie the same color as the stripe adds the perfect punch. AÂ printed pocket square is the finishing touch. Effortless elegance is achieved by understanding the rules before youÂ break them.
No matter if you choose single-breasted or double-breasted, color is very important. Black striped suits are classy,Â be careful how bold the stripes are. Navy, grey and brown striped are also in vogue. Always consider what color theÂ stripes are and err on the side of caution if too bright. Remember, these suits are not merely solid colors withÂ 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 â€œJoe the Bankerâ€Â dressed in his pinstripe suit with the uppity smell of his â€˜Eau de Arroganceâ€™ filling the air around him, I oftenÂ thought how focused yet uncomfortable these men looked. I daydreamed of being dressed in the same suit, just moreÂ refined and fashionable. No longer a uniform of the past, stripy suits are here and now. At a certain age, men shouldÂ follow their own style. When it comes to vertical vision, pin is in and chalk is all the talk. So â€œget in lineâ€ andÂ have fun with it.
Weekly tip: When purchasing a stripe suit, make certain the stripes line up and match at the seams.
Â©2009 Mukoro|Bespoke, LLC – Stan S. Mukoro, â€œThe Eye of Styleâ€ is the contributing style editor of Allure Magazine.Â He is a style mentor living in Atlanta, Georgia. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org