How Wide Should My Stripe Be? How Big My Check?


Someone wrote to me recently about their virginal visit to the vaunted stores of Jermyn Street. However, instead of gushing passionately about paradise, breaking down like Mia Farrow and sobbing with euphoric ecstasy about “such beautiful shirts”, this gentleman had wandered around initially unimpressed and eventually left, empty handed and rather disappointed. It was clear to him that far too much fuss had been made of this rather inconsequential little street behind Piccadilly.

One of the problems for this gentleman seemed to be the plethora of ‘modern shirts’; funky striped things worthy of Duchamp and Paul Smith, and the lack of something traditional like a white collared Bengal striped shirt. He also mentioned that he had seen some of the largest stripes and checks he had ever seen in these wooden-walled emporiums; and not simply large, but elephantine. The stripe was apparently so obese that a butcher’s stripe looked like a pinstripe and the checks were so vast in size and small in repeat that the garment, apparently, looked like it had been fashioned from “the world’s largest picnic blanket.”

Naturally, after introducing these Wonders of the Sartorial World, this gentleman then enquired what I thought of them. To be honest, I think that huge checks and huge stripes do have an appeal; a childlike optimism. They do not need to be brightly coloured, nor excessively accessorised, as they are so unusual and striking that their ‘statement’ is loud enough on its own. In actual fact, I think that any accessories, aside from a very plain pocket square poking out of an accompanying jacket, are rather unwelcome – and that includes neckties. With a small checked or striped shirt, a plain necktie looks like the perfect counterweight; with an enormous check or stripe, it starts to look a little clownish. Like Lego.

I think attempting to ‘sober up’ one of these mighty examples of patterning is a mistake though. These shirts are, for want of a better description, ‘fun shirts’; covering them in a sensible suit covers their appeal. The ‘V’ of a suit, no matter how low cut, is actually a small window onto one’s shirt. With microscopic patterns it’s irrelevant but when you cannot even see the pattern repeat it’s a problem. A casual jacket unbuttoned yields more pattern display but ideally, the shirt would be worn without a jacket; to be appreciated in all its glory. Scale up the checks and stripes by all means, but adjust your look accordingly.


  1. JCR said:

    Winston, per usual, I appreciate your opinion on this matter. However, I must agree, in part, with your anonymous writer. As an American, I was rather surprised to see so many patterned shirts that verged on the border of vulgar when I first visited Jermyn Street approximately one year ago. Mind you, I do not consider myself a boring dresser as I do most of my fellow American citizens, who generally care little about the fit, cut, style, proportion, color, etc. of their sartorial ensembles. By no means, however, was I disappointed with the selection of shirt offerings in those shops. Amidst the garish were classic staples. And it was these that I scooped up for the most part. Yet, I agree to some extent with your writer. Many of the checks, patterns, stripes, and colors were inappropriate, in my opinion, to pair with a suit and tie. (See, for example, TML’s tone on tone herringbone slim-fit Windsor shirt in bright CANARY YELLOW). Nevertheless, your writer, while blinded by the ridiculous, failed to see the treasures that solidify Jermyn Street’s position as “the” street to purchase men’s shirts. It is nearly impossible, stateside, to find a slim-fit, double cuff, spread collar shirt that doesn’t cost a fortune ($100-150+), let alone superb customer service and unparalleled guarantees of fit and quality. I suggest your writer take a second gander.

    July 8, 2010
  2. Barima said:

    A bright canary yellow shirt is delightful when paired with shades of black, navy blue, brown, green or sand

    I could do, perhaps, without the herringbone, however


    July 9, 2010
  3. Ricky said:

    Thanks alot for the advice on men’s shirts, I really think it will help my look!

    July 11, 2010

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