Gordon Gekko, who oozed into existence a whopping 30 years ago in Oliver Stone's Wall Street, delivered many memorable life lessons. "Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit," for example. Also: "Lunch is for wimps."
Some of his beliefs lasted in our group consciousness for their cleverness, venality, style, and truth. They particularly took root in his most ardent admirers' hearts, or at least in the unfillable voids where hearts are meant to be.
Here's one that did not: the idea that a man can pull off a horizontally striped shirt at work.
Take a look at this one on him, and learn a lesson in nattiness. Admire its panache. Understand its unusual energy. Recall that Michael Douglas, playing Gekko, was dressed by horizontal-stripes enthusiast Alan Flusser, the haberdasher whose books are holy texts of modern menswear. Wonder whether it is finally time for shirts of its type to catch on.
The conventional wisdom, as reflected on such men's-clothing discussion boards as Ask Andy, remains a firm no. "Too conspicuous," they say, "too fussy." Moreover, there is a persistent myth that horizontal stripes create the illusion of fatness, despite the emergence of research demonstrating quite the opposite. "Get the clothing with horizontal stripes," Psychology Today urges.
That magazine is, of course, hardly the only publication encouraging consumers in this (side-to-side) direction. It's been about seven years since the stripes of the Breton shirt, a pattern associated with rank-and-file seamen of Europe from the late 1700s, began their naval conquest of the American torso—women and children first. This spring, designers are bringing a renewed vengeance to dressing guys like gondoliers. So on the weekend, go forth, whatever your girth, in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is producing a riff on the classic shirt that will look right on you.
I am willing to wager that the broad popularity of horizontal stripes on casual men's shirts will go a long way toward easing their progress into the less casual wardrobe. As a matter of fact, I already have wagered on this, inasmuch as I recently succumbed, at a Seize sur Vingt sample sale, to the mischievous allure of a white button-up adorned with widely spaced, thin, navy-blue lines. It is highly attractive and relatively impractical. I have a vague plan to match it with a solid khaki suit and a simple knit tie. A blue blazer and a silk tie with minuscule polka dots, might also do the trick, playing off the pattern's maritime-prep mode to jaunty effect.
Those particular details might not work for you, but they point toward a general principle: The horizontal stripe is a simple way of making a powerful statement. When it appears in the context of a suit and tie, it is often best for the suit to be kept muted and the necktie low key. Take it easy. The way these stripes stretch out is a vision of relaxation. It would be a crime against their vibe for the outfit to look too complicated, too fussy.