It’s a style that works for every body shape and fashion taste and it instantly adds a cool vibe to every outfit, whether you’re into investment dressing or you’re a trendwatcher. Here’s why everyone needs a ‘side stripe’ in their wardrobe

Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

It’s probably the simplest, cleanest detail possible to add to a pair of trousers - a vertical stripe down the leg in a contrasting colour, print or fabric. And yet, for such a literally straightforward design element, it can be transformative. We’ll let early adopter of the side stripe trouser and founder of intelligent style brand Me+Em  Clare Hornby take the floor here. Along with her team of designers she first added a side stripe to a luxe jogger in 2010 and the style has evolved into capsule edit of iconic side stripe trousers that adapt to every scenario. It’s become an aesthetic the brand are known for and it’s a surprisingly powerful look according to Clare:

“They’re a really simple device that actually have a great impact. Running from waistband to hem, they’re something of an optical illusion that serves to elongate the leg.”

It’s not just the ‘legs eleven’ effect that makes them a sartorial no-brainer either - Clare highlights that a side stripe not only suits everyone, but sits beautifully on every frame:

“Stripes tend to work on all body shapes, as they are so slimming and elongating. With everything that we design, we like to do all the work for the customer, so we’ll rigorously test our designs and fit them on three models with different body shapes to make sure that they are as flattering as possible. That way you can just pick you favourite style and go.”

That said, side stripes don’t work with every single pair of trousers, as Clare highlights:

“While we use side stripes across a number of styles, from wide-leg to tailored slim crop trousers, they tend to work less well on balloon shapes.”

Otherwise, from a style POV, side stripes get the green light for in terms of a chic fashion move that’ll also make it far easier to get dressed in the morning:

“A side stripe breaks up a plain block colour to add interest to a look without requiring any effort. It’s also an easy way to access trends: taking a key colour and featuring it in a side stripe offers a subtle nod to the trend without requiring a full commitment.”

They’re timeless, not too try-hard and they don’t just bring a ‘go faster’ sporty feel to your work or weekend wardrobe - the side stripe trouser has a lot more to give beyond the athleisure trend:

“Now we’re focusing on how flattering and functional side stripes are, rather than the sporty, street style influence that we’re all familiar with. That includes tonal side stripes and playing with contrasting textures that are very subtle but offer a luxe finish.”

Ready to earn your stripes? Here are 12 pairs of side stripe trousers we love.

Me + Em AM-PM Cigarette Trouser, £139

We’re starting on the super subtle side stripe end of things - these tailored, tux-inspired trousers have black satin piping down each leg to create an elegant finish, and you can add or subtract the silk waist belt as you see fit. They’re high waisted and can be easily shortened, have a central seam for structure and look equally polished whether you’re wearing trainers or heels.

Buy it now

ASOS Tapered Trouser with Camel Contrast Side Panel, £30

Formal yet comfy, these were made for long meetings or throwing on when a degree of smartness is required. They’re cut looser around the thigh the taper towards the ankle for a crisp finish.

Buy it now

Mint Velvet Stephanie Leopard Print Capri, £79

Fashion’s animal print infatuation is going nowhere, but these slightly ‘out there’ trousers offer a refreshingly different take on the trend. First, they’re in an oddly wearable forest green, and secondly the side stripe adds a sharp contrast to the wild print. Add a simple white shirt  and heels for an evening out.

Buy it now

ASOS Design Curve Jersey Peg Trousers with animal print contrast bind, £18

More leopard print love, but understated this time. Leopard print piping down the legs and around the pockets adds interest to these everyday high waisted trousers and the soft jersey fabric means that they feel like your pjs.

Buy it now

Zara Jogging Trousers with Side Stripes, £25.99

The perfect contrast of jazzy and casual (jazzual?). On first glance these sleek grey trousers look low key, then you clock the gold metallic stripe down the leg and it all goes a bit disco.

Buy it now

Me + Em Side Panel Palazzo Pant, £79

Wide legged trousers have been fashion catnip for quite some time and as trends go it’s a supremely comfortable one so we predict that it’s going nowhere. This merlot/cream pair won’t bag around the waist or swing at the ankle and the waistband can be lengthened or shortened to fit your shape and style preference.

Buy it now

Hush Side Stripe Joggers, £55

Our Head of Business Development Kully spends her weekends in these - they’re basically incredibly soft joggers that you’ll proudly turn up to brunch/lunch in, with a taste of the rainbow for fun, because that’s what weekends are for. The elasticated waistband will be appreciated after you’ve faceplanted the pancakes.

Buy it now

M &S Side Stripe Tapered Leg Trousers, £35

Functional but more fashion forward than a plain pair of joggers, the cut of these trousers prevents them from veering into frumpy territory and the sizing is second to none - they’re available in petite, regular and long from a size 6 to 24. Side stripes for all.

Buy it now

& Other Stories High Waisted Workwear Trousers, £59

Another subtle seam style side stripe, these versatile wide leg trousers are made of organic cotton and look crisp and cool whether you team them with a t-shirt, chunky knit or a blazer.

Buy it now

H&M Wide Satin Trousers, £29.99

The anti-minimalist side stripe, these silky, swishy, paisley pants are not for the faint hearted, granted, but if you’re into your prints they’d look as wonderful at weddings as they would at work. Team with sandals, heels or trainers depending on the occasion and hit multiple trends as you go about your business.

Buy it now

Boden Black Bristol ⅞ Side Stripe Trousers, £32

With a shot of lemon yellow in the side stripe panel (very SS19), these tailored black trousers are a basic with a twist - the v-cut hem makes them look especially snappy with heels. They’re very Parisienne, but also dry clean only, so a higher maintenance choice.

Buy it now

Lululemon Cover Your Tracks Pant, £118

Preppy and loose without being shapeless, these trackpants are stretchy and sweat-wicking so the most genuinely sporty of the bunch. Ideal if you need to sprint for the bus but also not out of place in a professional context.

Buy it now

The simple energising fashion trick that Trinny Woodall swears by

Follow Anna on  Twitter  and  Instagram