Pin Stripes, Chalk Stripes, Self Stripes… What’s the Difference?

One thing I’ve noticed, when clients are looking for a striped suit fabric, is being unsure of which term describes which fabric.

Chalk stripes and pin stripes are almost always confused, the term self-stripe never leaves the tip of the tongue and it’s often a hot ticket to self-consciousness when you’re on the spot trying to articulate what you want without knowing the name.
However, when you know the differences between each, it’s easy to tell them apart.
And you’ll have that little bit of self-satisfaction of having everything all orderly in the archives of your mind.

Pin Stripes and Chalk Stripes

The most commonly used term, pin stripe is often incorrectly used to refer to chalk stripes as well.
Distinguishing the two patterns is quite easy, and is somewhat in the name.
A pin stripe is easiest to recognise on closer inspection of the fabric, because the pattern making up the stripe is only the width of a pinhead.

Carnet New York Pinstripe Suit Fabric
Carnet pin stripe fabric in twill weave, from the ‘New York’ bunch.

Chalk stripes, on the other hand, are called so because they’re notably similar to the mark a chalk makes on fabric. This kind of stripe almost looks like it was drawn on by a tailor’s chalk, as opposed to the pin stripe which is much thinner.

Carnet Chalk Stripe Suit Fabric
Carnet chalk stripe fabric in twill weave, from the ‘New York’ bunch.

It’s a popular misconception that the difference between pin stripes and chalk stripes is determined by the spacing between the stripes on the fabric.
While chalk stripes are often seen spaced further apart, the spacing doesn’t actually impact whether the stripe is a pin or a chalk.
The spacing of the stripes is simply something you choose depending on the width of your frame. A narrow frame will likely look best with tighter stripe spacing, while a wider frame will likely gravitate towards a distanced stripe if the aim is to appear more proportionately narrowed.
What this means is that anyone with any body type can wear both pin stripes and chalk stripes.
Just determine what spacing you like best on yourself.

Self Stripes

The self-stripe is another stripe which describes its look inside its name.
A suiting cloth with a self-stripe doesn’t possess a stripe in the same sense as any other stripe pattern, It’s something more inherent to the weave of the cloth.

Guabello Self Stripe Suit Fabric
Guabello Super 120’s self-stripe fabric, from the ‘Connoisseur’ bunch.

As you can see, the stripe pattern on this cloth is formed by the character of the weave itself, rather than by the usage of a different coloured thread.
The self-stripe is much more subtle than the pin and chalk stripes, and tends to be less popular as a result.
However, this makes it a good choice if you’re looking for a striped cloth that will be more individual, as there will be fewer people wearing it.

Looking for a striped suit?

Come and visit me at my workplace, Beg Your Pardon. We’re open by appointment, and specialise in made to measure suiting. I commissioned a suit through this store before beginning to work here, so I wholly believe in the product. You can see my personal result here.
When you book in, drop a comment in the booking comments section so I know you came from here!

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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