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Style SOS: Can I wear horizontal stripes if I’m heavier set?

Style SOS: Can I wear horizontal stripes if I’m heavier set?

I love the look of Breton stripes, but I'm a bigger guy, and I've heard horizontal stripes make you appear larger. Is this the case? - Aaron, via email

Aaron, welcome aboard the myth-busting train. We’re all about breaking a fashion ‘rule’, especially one that has been holding people back from exploring their personal style – and we think you should be too. Because sometimes when you throw these so-called rules out the window, you find yourself with the confidence to wear something you would usually shy away from, and what you end up learning is you look impossibly good in it. We think this will be the case for you when it comes to horizontal stripes. To help us debunk the ‘horizontal stripes’ fallacy, we enlisted the help of Thread stylist Alexander McCalla. “I would never tell a guy not to wear stripes. If you’re heavier set, you’re heavier set. Stripes don’t make a difference,” he says. 

If scientific proof is your bag, you always have the Helmholtz illusion to refer to. Introduced by Hermann von Helmholtz in the late 19th century, the theory claims that out of two squares that are equal in size, the one with vertical lines will actually appear wider than the one with horizontal stripes. But as Alexander encourages us to ask ourselves, does any of it really make a difference? “It’s important that you wear what you feel comfortable in,” Alexander says. Whether you want to wear vertical or horizontal stripes, you should disregard preconceived myths and just see how you feel when wearing them. 

“If you’re still nervous about wearing stripes, there are a few things you can do to make it easier,” Alexander says. He suggests going for narrower stripes, opting for black stripes to start with, and adopting some layering techniques. “Try starting out with a real staple like an Armor Lux Breton stripe t-shirt and wearing it with a pair of jeans and trainers. Autumn is a great time to try out new things because it’s a transitional season, so you can layer it underneath something to ease you into it.” If you’re feeling a little braver, there’s so much more to experiment with. From multi-coloured stripes to wider stripes, the options beyond classic Breton abound. 

Another important tip is to make sure you buy your exact size. For fear of looking larger, do not opt for a bigger size to cover yourself. “This will either hide your natural silhouette or exaggerate it, and it’s always better to be proud of your shape and buy a size that fits you nicely,” says Alex.

The trick is to have faith in your own taste. You can base a lot of things on guidelines, but at the end of the day it’s about your level of confidence and ability to toss out the rule book. In this case, Aaron, we hope you decide to show your stripes. 


Words: Ashiana Pradhan
Illustration: Ryan Gillett