A History of Pinstripes

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There are few patterns more classic than the pinstripe. A look this iconic needs little explanation: whether in grey on black, grey on grey, cream on navy or pastel on cream, pinstripes are a simple pattern that will make a big impact.

Ubiquitous on shirts, suits, waistcoats, overcoats, socks and ties, pinstripes have the rare quality of being truly timeless. Though they’ve been popular amongst British gentlemen for more than two hundred years, pinstripes still manage to look perfectly contemporary.

There are two rival stories about how pinstripes gained a fashion foothold in men’s tailoring. In one camp we have bankers uniforms and on the other we have sporting uniforms. Let us explain…

Some fashion historians claim that pinstripes became popular thanks to the uniforms banks would provide for their employees. These uniforms were often striped, and different banks began producing different kinds of stripes in order to be able to distinguish their own employees from those of other banks. 

Alternatively, some tailoring experts claim that pinstripes came not from the professional world but from the sports one. Stripes were often a feature of sporting uniforms, particularly boating and racing sports. Just as current tailoring catwalk trends are often inspired by sports and leisure wear, so were they in previous generations. 

In the 1800s in particular, many gentlemen’s tailoring trends were inspired by sportswear. This included things like striped boating blazers which fast became a staple summer wardrobe garment both on and off the waterways. 

Whichever story appeals to you more, there’s little doubt that pinstripes are a classic look. Whether you choose to keep your stripes subtle, or want to go all out with a bolder line and a brighter colour, pinstripes are an iconic trend we’ll all be wearing for many decades to come. 

Want to talk to us about making pinstripes work for you? Get in touch to book a no-obligation tailoring consultation.