You may shun other patterns, but stripes likely hold a special place in your closet. The timeless design channels a decidedly Euro-chic vibe, but their origins are suspiciously dubious. History tells the tale of a 14th-century cobbler who was condemned for wearing striped clothes. At the time, the look was primarily associated with misfits, street performers, and social outcasts. Once those stripes hit the shores of France, though, the story changed dramatically. All over Brittany, sailors donned their best stripes and even inspired a nautical-inspired Chanel collection in 1917.

With such a lofty history, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. Can you actually pull off something so revered without looking like clownish or juvenile? In truth, any guy can pull off those savvy stripes with panache. Here’s how to do justice to the sleek design and wear it with confidence and style.

A classic striped tee from Top Man

Ease Into It

There’s no sense jumping headfirst into anything new. That’s especially true if you’ve never been a pattern person in the past but want to shake up your wardrobe just a touch. A classic striped T-shirt is an excellent starting point. It serves as a quick and simple substitute for your usual tops, and has the added advantage of being slightly dressier and more pulled together than, say, the old college football tee you usually swear by on weekends.

A classic striped T-shirt is an excellent starting point. It serves as a quick and simple substitute for your usual tops.

Try one in neutral tones, as you can easily pair it with everything from your most well worn blue jeans to a pair of smart pants. You can even slip a more form-fitting tee beneath a suit jacket if you want to add some contrast.

Keep It Minimal

Remember that less is more when it comes to any type of pattern. Whether you opt for thick or slender stripes (like this version from J. Crew), they tend to do all the work for you and don’t require any competition from the rest of your outfit. Jeans complement stripes nicely almost every time, as do khakis. Think in terms of strategic color palettes. If you prefer monochromatic dressing for the most part, partner your black-and-white striped tee with a pair of simple black pants. It breaks up the monotony just a touch without steering you too far away from your comfort zone. If you favor bolder colors and looks in general, look to stripes that are more vibrant, sticking with something low-key on the bottom.

It doesn't get much more classic than this J. Crew short sleeved striped shirt

Graduate a Level

If you’re entirely comfortable showing off your best stripes, don’t shy away from what could be the most adventurous piece in your closet: a striped blazer. Consider this your answer to the inimitable stripe’s rather incredible fashion history. You’ll honor the look beautifully when you break out this forward-thinking piece. A hunter-green-and-gray striped blazer may seem questionable on the hanger, but once it’s on your body you’ll think differently. Try it with a pair of crisp gray pants to maintain an even, balanced look from head to toe. The key is, once again, in coordinating your colors expertly.

Ease into striped outerwear with this blazer from Zara

Style of Stripes

Once you make the decision to embrace the striped pattern, you’ll need to make the next most important decision: Which direction should those stripes go? You have your choice of vertical and horizontal lines, both of which offer different benefits. Short gentlemen may favor vertical stripes because of their elongating effect. If your height is your once source of discontent, even the slightest effort can make a big difference. Take that into account if you’re headed to the office to helm a major meeting! Vertical stripes also have a tendency to draw in the waistline, creating a slightly slimming effect. Horizontal lines, meanwhile, have a similar effect in the opposite direction! If you want to add some volume to your frame, east-west stripes do a wonderful job of that. Keep that in mind if you’re figure-conscious, too!

Classic, casual stripes from J. Crew

Layer It Up

What if your goal is to inject a shot of something different into your look? Embrace the fine art of layering. The beauty of layers is that you can wear them at almost any time of year, save for summer when your look is decidedly lighter. Otherwise, keep this in mind during fall and winter when dark, dramatic colors and subdued looks tend to dominate the fashion landscape. Wear a long-sleeved, striped shirt below a button-down shirt and pair it with crisp khakis. In the winter, you can even allow a hint of a striped shirt to peek out from below your sweater if you want to break the monotony of your largely simple ensemble.

Choosing to wear stripes alone is a big decision if you normally play it safe. And if your wardrobe is your favorite way to express yourself, then you know what a role those lines can play in making a statement. Experiment with different looks and pieces, select stripes that best flatter your figure, and have fun making this classic design an integral part of your wardrobe.