A Different Stripe

Though closely associated with denizens of the financial district, striped tailoring in fact possesses multiple personalities — and a history spanning sports, politics, commerce and the Old West.

Oliver Reed wears a double-breasted pinstriped suit with a 3x3 button stance, wide lapels and high break whilst smoking a cigarette, 1969.

Think of pinstripes and one line of work will instantly spring to mind. (Clue: it rhymes with “ship’s anchor”.) Savile Row legend has it that in the 19th century, British banks dictated that their employees wear distinctly striped trousers, the patterns marking their allegiance to the particular institution they served. A predilection for stripes stuck, so they say.

It’s a nice story, but probably apocryphal. In any case, over recent years, stripes haven't been nearly as popular as they once were in London’s square mile — perhaps because of their predictability. “The banker in a bold striped suit is a cliché of amateur dramatics and lazy TV dramas,” says Chris Modoo, cofounder of gentlemen’s clothier Kit Blake.

“When I worked for uber-trad outfitter Ede & Ravenscroft in the ’00s,” Modoo recalls, “the only store that performed poorly with bold stripes was our City branch [catering to the finance crowd]. They were popular in the legal district with seasoned barristers, though — a flash of a rope stripe under your wig and gown is a confident and rakish statement.”

Published

January 2020

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