There are two things that cannot be debated regarding horizontal striped shirts. The first is that no one did more to bring them to the forefront of people’s minds than Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (and yes, as we all know Alan Flusser was the man behind Gekko’s dress. I should also note he only wears them twice in the film). The second fact is that they are bold; much more so than vertically striped shirts. Many say they are too bold for most office environments, rightfully so, I suppose. Some would argue that they also scream douche bag.
In the wild, horizontal striped shirts are outnumbered 1,000:1 by vertically striped shirts (except on the golf course where horizontal stripes dominate). But that does not mean that they are incorrect to wear. I believe one of the reasons they are not more prevalent is that generally speaking horizontal lines serve to visually widen the body and vertical ones serve to slim and elongate the body. I cannot think or many men or women who want to actively make their body’s seem wider. But just because horizontal stripes are prone to widening does not mean that they should be avoided.
As I alluded to above, one just has to be careful about when and where to wear them. For instance, a more traditional office place such as a law firm or investment bank would be a less than ideal setting to wear a horizontal striped shirt. I would go further to say that even more casual work places would also be inappropriate. Unless of course you are either the man running things or you don’t care what the man (or woman) running things thinks.
Wearing a horizontal striped shirt can either be done brashly or more discreetly. I would advise gravitating toward the more discreet side of things when in doubt. I think one of the best ways to do this is to wear a solid colored tie, like that pictured below.
Personally, I find myself wearing horizontal striped shirts primarily in a more formal social setting (such as a party with ‘cocktail attire’ or ‘jacket and tie’ as the dress). Or during everyday casual wear with khakis and loafers, as it is a bit of a curve ball when worn without a jacket. But to be honest, if I still worked at Deloitte I would’ve worn a horizontal striped shirt there; I fell in the camp of not caring what my peers and superiors thought of my dress. Perhaps I would’ve cared if any of them dressed well to work, but they didn’t and probably still don’t.
As with anything, you should only wear what your are comfortable in. So if you are not comfortable wearing horizontal stripes then don’t. If you are then do. Given the usefulness of a horizontal striped shirt is less than nearly all other shirts (solids, checks, vertically striped etc) I would not advise a man make one one of his first acquisitions, perhaps his 11th or 12th (I think the one pictured was my 40th or so shirt). If you have any questions or thoughts on horizontal striped shirts feel free to post in the comments.