How to Wear Vertical Stripes: Men’s Guide to the Style Trend

By Ivan Yaskey

Stripes? In style? Of course – but not really. Stripes, in terms of menswear, always seem to be there – a blue button-up with fine white lines, a tee sporting nautical vibes, or a Wall Street-type suit with light pinstripes. None of it’s especially trendy nor dated. It’s just simply there.

That’s why vertical stripes feel like a refreshing change of pace. More literally, however, it’s a staple flipped around and adapted, frankly, to be better. How many of us have avoided anything with horizontal stripes because it makes our average-size frame seem noticeably wider and bulkier?

Vertical stripes, on the other hand, have the opposite effect. Assuming you’re opting for a thicker, two-tone option, the up-and-down pattern appears to lengthen your torso, and creates the illusion that you’re somehow taller. As such, it’s the pattern that flatters practically all body types.

On the other hand, you’ve got a few rules to consider. One, this season’s trend focuses more on the contrasts, almost to the point that it’s color-blocking on a more accessible scale. As such, your print, and in turn your garment, needs to have substance to have any effect. Conversely, pinstripes and anything light and subtle you would’ve worn to the office appear too timid.

If you haven’t yet tried this trend, begin here:

Vertical Stripe Tees

Short sleeves are the default, but any fit – from slim to relaxed – will do as your template. Tees give you the greatest degree of versatility for this trend. Anything two-toned and blocky, assuming you’re not doing black and white, is easy enough. But, why be basic? Now’s the time to try a multicolored, uneven combination, or something resembling candy stripes. Assuming it matches everything else, the print’s just an upgrade from your usual casual fare.

​Vertical Stripe Cuban Collar Shirts & Polos

Although separate garments, both are easily grouped together as casual, collared shirts. Because of this, how vertical stripes get utilized remains similar between the two.

First, their somewhat boxy, straight silhouettes and relaxed collar form boundaries that can easily be crossed and broken up. Anything vertical, in this case, resembles near-parallel lines, with the collar adding a few angles into the mix. Considering this geometry, evenly spacing the stripes seems precise, if not a little too perfect. Rather, for a push in the right direction, blockier stripes alongside narrower ones create a sense of deliberate imprecision.

Yet, compared to other vertical variations, this particular trend comes with retro connotations – the ‘50s to be exact. Seen particularly in The Talented Mr. Ripley, the pattern and fit exemplify a shirt fit for leisure, and in wearing one, you’ve partially mastered laidback Americana.

Vertical Stripe Blazers

Beetlejuice, or barbershop quartet? Avoid head-to-toe vertical stripes, and you’ve conveniently veered around both.

That’s not to say vertical stripes and blazers don’t mix. Rather, much like with a camp collar shirt or a polo, the garment’s shape works in the print’s favor. As well, with two tones and wider widths, the pattern offers a new spin on the contrast blazer – color-blocked, but not paneled, and meant to be a definitive statement piece.

To pull it off, avoid bright shades – nothing red, pink, or orange, especially when paired with white. Instead, play one or more cool tones, like blue, tan, or even green, off something neutral, like black or white.

Vertical Stripe Bombers

Neutral? With patterned bombers, there’s nothing further from it. From the vintage silhouette to the pilot influences to the spacious-with-structured juxtaposition, the piece itself screams “statement.” Add in a pattern, and you’ve got the most eye-popping outwear around.

Considering all of the possibilities, from geometric prints to all-over graphics, the vertical striped bomber is relatively tame. Widths in the 2 to 4 in. range are common, and while all those heavy-contrast options still seem suited for a referee or Michael Keaton, the novelty nature washes away all those implications. Whatever you want – width, colors, or combination – is yours to tool around with.

​How to Pull Together a Vertical Stripe Look

Stripes, of course, don’t exist in a vacuum. You’ve got everything else you’re wearing, and all of it needs to fit together.

The striped garment, however, ends up being right at the center of it all, although it’s not a particularly overpowering pattern. As a simple, if not straightforward, approach, stay within solid, like-minded territory. For instance, if you’re trying out a striped Cuban collar shirt, pair it with straight-cut chinos or flat-front pants in a related or matching shade. With a blazer or bomber, that rule applies two-fold: Neutral shades and straight cuts, with no novelty prints.

Yet, last year’s Fashion Week presentations presented another puzzle where vertical stripes seemingly fit with ease: Contrasting, all-over stripes. In this instance, change up the directions and widths while sticking with a related color palette, and all of those dissimilar prints end up falling into place.