The Pinstripe Suit Used to Be Seen as Flashy and Now it is Respectable

There are many theories about the origin of the tailored pinstriped suit that is now almost universally a professional uniform for bank managers, lawyers and businessmen.

While it may now be regarded as indicating sobriety and respectability when the pin-stripe first emerged in the 1920s, it was seen as a bit flashy and the double-breasted suit of choice for those pursuing more dubious professions.


Hence the choice of pin stripe or chalk stripe for dressing the gangster and mafia characters like Al Capone in Hollywood movies depicting the era of prohibition and the mobs.


Gradually, though the suit’s image changed and was seen on stars like Clark Gable and Fred Astaire and began to be seen as respectable and smart.


While details like the number of buttons, the cut of lapels and double or single breasted have changed, the respectable image has remained but there seems to be no clear history of the origins of the striped fabric for men’s tailoring.


One theory is that its origin was from military uniforms or from the striped trousers traditionally worn with the morning coat by City bankers.

Another possibility is that it was inspired by the boating suit of the 1890s, which had a thin, dark stripe on a white or cream background and the sporting link continues in the USA with the uniforms worn by various baseball teams in the early twentieth Century.

The pinstripe itself is not actually a continuous unbroken line when woven into the fabric. It is woven into worsted cloth, and made up of pinhead-sized dots of yarn in either silk, mercerized cotton, or sometimes man-made materials.

The chalk stripe is thicker and bolder and shows as a wider and more defined stripe.

The background colour these days is generally dark grey or black although occasionally the material used can be a dark stripe on a light grey background.

Many men will express their personality by choosing to team the rather sober suit with a coloured shirt and a matching handkerchief in the breast pocket, rather than white or light blue shirt. Ties in general should be plain or with a very discreet pattern.

For the best fit the suit should be bespoke or made to measure by an expert tailor and the home of the best is still in Saville Row, London.


However, for those on a more limited budget, pinstripe suits can now be bought ready to wear, although the perfect fit may still require expert alterations.

Tailoring Dresses, Veils and Memories