The pinstripe suit is deeply flattering. Here’s how to update the menswear classic
A narrow, low-contrast stripe emphasises the line from chest to waist, lengthening and slimming the body while adding subtle business formality. In this new era of tailoring, designers from Hedi Slimane to Tom Ford are putting their own spin on the staple.
“I don’t have a pinstripe suit and can’t say I’ll be buying one anytime soon,” said Rupert Gove, a 29-year-old analyst from London. He and his office mates prefer something much more relaxed now dress codes have eased – a Patagonia fleece gilet over a formal suit and tie – and when the day-to-day reality of office life often entails “tweaking Excel spreadsheets and joining conference calls”.
Which is in many ways a shame. “Oozing timeless British elegance” in the words of legendary Savile Row tailor Edward Sexton – who knows a thing or two about pinstripes, having cut suits for everyone from The Beatles to George Soros – the style is deeply flattering. A narrow low-contrast stripe emphasises the line from chest to waist, thereby lengthening and slimming the body while adding a subtle sense of business formality.
But outside the City of London, the pinstripe suit is finding new life. In Paris, creative director Hedi Slimane opened his achingly cool Celine spring men’s show in January with a three-piece pinstripe suit picked out in crystals, evoking all the Savile Row swagger of a young Mick Jagger in his Seventies rock-aristo pomp. (It’s a look best approached with caution – unless, of course, you can muster all the swagger of a preternaturally young rock god.)
“It’s about subverting traditional menswear codes and interpreting them in a directional way,” said Nelson Mui, merchandising director at Lane Crawford. While traditional pinstripe suits haven’t always sold well for the multinational department store, Mui has seen an uptick in demand for suit separates, unconstructed soft tailored jackets and casual shirts, including those from Dries Van Noten, 3.1 Phillip Lim and Uma Wang.
To make pinstripe look more contemporary, he recommends changing up the silhouette – a shorter trouser with a polo shirt and simple sneaker would do – or pairing it with unexpected pieces, like boots.
For designers, pinstripes add a touch of formality and elegance to sportswear and casual separates. “I feel I can bring back traditional fabrics if I add something new,” said Berluti’s Van Assche. Echoing the logo trends of streetwear, he had the iconic Berluti “Scritto” design woven into the spring show’s silk and wool pinstripe to give extra dimension to the fabric.
“In this new era of tailoring, pinstripes are now popular beyond the corporate environment because they go back to giving a heightened sense of style and masculinity,” he said.
Craig Green is another designer playing with that notion of tradition, mixing the classic stripe in what he describes as “worker-style utility shapes and garments”.
The results are anything but corporate. For spring, Green has printed pinstripe-style stitch lines on to paper-feel cotton and created outerwear pieces from multiple layers of patchwork organza with pinstripe-style embroidery holding the layers together.
The change in tastes hasn’t dimmed Sexton’s own love of this business-like cloth. “Personally, I love to wear a pinstripe suit with one of my signature tab collar shirts, as much as I like to dress it down in winter with a roll-neck sweater. I tend to wear a pinstripe suit for formal meetings too,” he added. “But then I am quite traditional about these things.”