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The Origin of Stripes - Devil's Cloth

People have been donning stripes for centuries, and behind this popular pattern lies a captivating history. The origin of stripes came from medieval Europe. Stripes adorned the attire of social outcasts – beggars, prostitutes, prisoners, clowns, jesters, and hangmen – serving as a visible badge of their low status and ensuring easy identification. The term "the devil's cloth" was coined for stripes, associating the pattern with darkness, evil, and transgression.


A pivotal shift occurred in 1858 when the French military officially embraced blue and white 'Breton' stripes for their uniforms, enabling sailors to stand out against the vast sea. This transformed the perception of stripes, giving them a new identity linked to nautical life and sailor's attire. Despite this positive turn, striped prison uniforms persisted worldwide well into the early 20th century, symbolizing shame and causing continual humiliation for inmates.



It wasn't until 1904 that American prisons acknowledged the negative impact of striped uniforms, leading to widespread bans due to their association with shame. Fast forward to 1913, and Coco Chanel, breaking gender norms, was photographed in a 'Breton stripe' sailor's top that was previously exclusive to men. Her bold move paved the way for the launch of a nautical line in 1917, making stripes immensely popular among both men and women.


Over the decades, stripes took on various forms, and by the 1950s and 60s, they became synonymous with the "Beat Generation." This underground anti-conformist group, known as beatniks, solidified stripes as an icon of rebellion and non-conformity. The trend eventually transcended its rebellious roots, becoming so widely embraced that by the mid-20th century, stripes became a staple worn by everyone, from Hollywood stars to the masses, making them ubiquitous.



Now, when you spot someone in stripes, it's like witnessing a visual journey through time – from a symbol of societal exclusion to a fashion statement embraced by all. What thoughts come to mind when you see someone wearing stripes?



inked einstein, albert einstein, tattoos, stripes, nautical, beatnik, the Beat Generation, coco Chanel, fashion

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