Although many men wear striped dress shirts, I rarely see horizontally striped shirts on the streets. Considering there is not much information available about this kind of pattern orientation, today we will share a detailed article about the horizontal stripe shirt.
Horizontal Stripe Shirt History
If at all, most people will think of Gordon Gekko when it comes to horizontally striped shirts. And while Michael Douglas’s incarnation of an investor shark indeed wore a few striped shirts of the kind, he was by no means the first one to do so.
Though it is unclear how early horizontally striped shirts were worn, the 1930s is the first period in which men appear to have worn horizontal stripe shirts consistently. However, they were not really striped all the way, but rather the horizontal stripes were confined to a “bib” with a body of white fabric and a white starched detachale collar. When worn with a vest and jacket or morning coat, you would always assume that the shirt was striped all the way, but in fact it was not. Since no gentleman would have removed his coat in public, no one ever knew what the shirt really looked like.
Of course, there were always variations. For example, here you can see a horizontally striped shirt with a bib and a detachable striped collar. This shirt is from 1936 and has a separate, white collar band.
According to Baron von Eelking, the dress shirt with horizontal stripes allover – not just on a bib- was introduced by Monsieur Filipseco in Paris in 1950 during a time, when he was leading the Sélection Ambassadeur, a French committee for men’s fashion. As such, French trade magazine called the horizontal stripe shirt Ambassadeur.
Today, there are a number of variations of horizontal stripes but the bib version is no longer available, unless you are interested enough to go bespoke.
How To Wear A Horizontal Stripe Shirt
Like I mentioned above, many people associate a Gordon Gekko look with horizontal stripes and this is especially true if you combine it with a contrasting white collar and suspenders. I do not think that imitating a movie figure style has anything to do with elegance, though I could write an entire article about that topic.
If you want to look handsome and enjoy adding a unique touch to your wardrobe, a little more subtlety is advisable. Also, bear in mind that generally vertical stripes will make you appear thinner and horizontal lines wider than you actually are.
For example, pair a plain navy suit with a shirt with fine horizontal line in light blue, and few people will notice that the stripe is different. Clothes aficionados will recognize your individuality and discreetness.
Ideally, pair it with a 3 piece or double breasted suit so only a small part of your shirt front is exposed.
If you want to stand out more, choose more vivid colors and bolder stripes.
In case you want to give darker shirt stripes try, make sure to only wear them with similarly dark suits. Since the shirt is bold, the suit should be plain or have a very subtle pattern, such as a needle head or pin point.
At the end of the day, you have to feel comfortable in your outfit.
Contrast Collar and Horizontal Stripes
Many horizontally striped shirts feature a detachable white contrast collar that is soft in comparison to the starched and highly polished collar from back in the day.
In my opinion, the white collar makes for a rather formal look and consequently, I would only wear it with a suit. Of course, the stripe width and the color of the stripes are of great importance too. Also, it increases the Gordon Gekko factor – so choose this style wisely and pair it with subtle accessories.
Striped Sleeves & Collar
As you can imagine, there is ample opportunity to change the mix of stripes on the sleeves and collar. Unlike a regular striped shirt, the sleeves can be striped horizontally, and the collar vertically. Or your can have sleeves and collar tailored just like a regular striped shirt. Thanks to our readers Richard Brown and Steve Highbarger, we have some pictures of their horizontal stripe shirts. These help to illustrate the numerous options available.
However, more style options do not necessarily make for a more elegant appearance. Gordon Gekko wore a horizontal stripe shirt with irregularly striped cuffs and collar. These details scream for attention and most people will notice them. Just be aware of this effect when choosing this style to prevent surprises when in public.
Through trial and error, I believe that the best combination for me is: sleeves and body with have horizontal stripes, and collar and cuffs with classic stripes or contrasting white. As such, I create a unique look that is elegant but not flashy.
Bold Horizontal Stripes
Traditionally, bold horizontal stripes are synonymous with prison jumpsuits. Thankfully, most shirt fabric choices today avoid such blatant associations.
All shirts with bold horizontal stripes I have seen had classic stripes in blue, black or red on a plain white background. Combinations of blue and yellow would be quite daring, considering few men wear horizontal stripes at all. Generally, the bolder the stripe, the less formal the outfit. For such a shirt, I would recommend skipping the contrasting collar.
Personally, I prefer the more subtle stripes and hence I have not added a bold horizontally striped shirt to my wardrobe yet. Here is some food for thought from Etutee.
Subtle Horizontal Lines
Finer stripes have the advantage that they look solid from a distance and striped in close proximity. I definitely prefer this kind of stripe over the bolder variations for that exact reason. Of course, there are many variations.
For example, this one is made from a Thomas Mason fabric with multiple blue stripes on a white background.
On the other hand, I do have a very subtly striped summer shirt in light blue from Siniscalchi. The horizontal lines are the result of the open fabric weave and the white color. In this case, the stripe is not just decorative but also wears cool and airy.
For summer wear, I think this is a fantastic solution: subtle, functional and elegant. Unfortunately, this kind of fabric is usually not available for ready-to-wear or made-to-measure shirts, and so you have to either source the fabric yourself or find a skilled custom shirtmaker who can do that for you.
With horizontally striped shirts, the proper choice of accessoires becomes a little more important. As I mentioned above, suspenders can certainly have an Gordon Gekko effect but if you keep on your jacket, no one will ever see them. However, everybody will see your shirt and tie combination. Etutee used a great comparison of pictures to illustrate the importance of the right tie/shirt combination:
Light blue tie combined with light blue, horizontal stripes – a subtle outfit:
Where to Buy Horizontally Striped Shirts
Generally, not many RTW brands offer this style. Currently, it seems like Paul Frederick is one of them, but for $40 you get an inferior cotton that won’t last you long. Also, I really dislike their stiff interlinings. Pricey options include Robert Talbott and Turnbull & Asser.
For a few dollars less you can find a MTM provider of shirts, where you can choose your stripes and discuss all the style options with them. They will also use your measurements, and the fabrics come from Thomas Mason or Tessitura Monti and should last you for years to come.
Last but not least, every shirtmaker should be able to create a horizontal stripe for your specifications. Of course, you will end up paying at least twice as much as with a MTM shirtmaker, but you will probably get great personal service in addition to learning a lot about the fine details of a shirt.
What is your opinion on horizontally striped shirts? Do you wear them, would you wear them? Let us know!