Classic suits breakdown – The chalk stripe suit

There are many ways of defining a classic suit, both regards to fabric, color, how, when and for how long (historically), people have been wearing it. The chalk stripe suit is one of those rare examples of a suit that survives the test of time. Having been through pandemics, economic depressions and world wars it is still one of the most classic statement pieces you can wear when it comes to suits. Few suits send such a clear message of power, wealth an seniority as the chalk stripe suit. But is there more to it than just being a “power suit”? Of course. How, where and what you wear in terms of suiting is a constant evolution – although some things are best left as they’ve always been.

Brief history of the chalk stripe suit

In short, the chalk stripe suit has a bit of a controversial reputation, partly because of the early 1900’s adoption by people within banking and finance. Bankers later set up their own rules as to how and who could wear it and it quickly became a status symbol, available only to people higher in the company hierarchy. The chalk stripe suit also got adopted by the American Mafia community during the 30’s, clearly as the chalk stripe suit worked both as a symbol of status and perhaps more so – power. Naturally, these adoptions of the chalk stripe suit helped built the reputation, making it synonymous with money, wealth and power. A reputation it has kept during more or less a decade. Although it is seen through a broader perspective today, eligible to a broader audience and styles, it remains one of the most classic (if not the most classic) statement pieces.

Pinstripe vs chalk stripe - the difference

The pinstripe suit, although very similar to the chalk stripe suit has a few differences worthy to highlight. The easiest way of noticing the difference between a chalk stripe suit and a pinstriped one, is in fact the obvious – to look for either a line that looks like it is drawn from a tailors chalk, or rather formed from small pinheads in a straight line to become a pinstripe. Other than that, a few different tendencies can be seen (described below), but in general they can both be found in a variety of fabrics, widths and colors.

  • In general, the chalk stripe suit tends to have a slightly broader area of usage in terms of suiting (especially for flannel suits) making it looks slightly more informal
  • The pinstripe suit tends to work best for lustrous, formal fabrics such as superfine wool suits (e.g. Super 130’s – Super 200’s).

Ultimately, the decision is yours as the two are very similar. Our choice remains the chalk stripe however – predominantly because we love the look of a chalk stripe flannel suit.

How to wear and style it

The chalk stripe suit is to be considered a formal piece, no doubt. It is perfect as a business suit although it can be worn in other occasions as well. A double-breasted chalk stripe suit offers one of the most confident looks a suit can provide (a reason why some people might consider the chalk stripe suit shouldn’t be worn before a certain age or seniority).

We generally don’t recommend to break up the chalk stripe suit in separates, as it is very hard to style in a decent way (without creating a mess for the eye). Rather, “keeping it simple” is our best advice when it comes to styling a striped suit. Because of the fact that the stripes is a big statement in itself, the best looks enhance the beauty of the chalk stripe. We recommend you pair the chalk stripe suit with;

  • A white dress shirt with a fabric similar or equal to the fabric choice of your suit (for example pairing a flannel shirt with chalk stripe flannel suit – a truly magic combo).
  • Matching tie in terms of fabric or structure. In terms of color or pattern we suggest to keep it solid (one color) in a tone or color scale that works well with the suit fabric. As the stripe is expressive in itself, a patterned tie can create a bit of a messy look.
  • If you’re looking for a more casual styling choice (not applicable for classic business occasions though), is using knitwear instead of a shirt underneath your chalk stripe suit. For fall & winter, a tone on tone 2-ply cashmere rollneck will create a refined look.

Dark grey chalk stripe suit

Chalk stripe suit Q&A

Everything from luxurious Super 180’s wool to sturdy british flannels. If you’d like our help in picking the perfect fabric you can always schedule a consultation with our style experts.

No, not unless you are very cool or work as an experienced stylist.

It depends on the when and how you plan to wear it, but we do love us a nice flannel.

Choose a fabric with less lustre and more structure – like flannel. It gives you a much more relaxed approach to the garment.