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Timeless Stripes Clothing - A Brief History of Stripes

Discover the allure of stripes with our stripes fashion guide. From classic striped clothing to modern striped style, we delve into the history and versatility of this timeless pattern.

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From being an icon of defiance and dissidence to being symbolic of freedom, the classic stripes have had a long history. Now sealed forever as one of the hallmarks of high fashion, stripes clothing have slowly seeped into our consciousness and our lives that we rarely spare a thought to his past. They’re now a wardrobe staple and whether it’s a tee or a dress or a formal shirt, we’ve slowly made these lines a part of our everyday lives.

But for all its present rosy mundanity, the stripes in actuality had a difficult and sometimes even turbulent past before it made its way into our closets. Read on for a brief look at where it all began…

From Jester to Convict

It is believed that the classic stripes fashion were a symbol for the outcast in the Middle Ages. By official decree they were restricted to the people who had to be easily identified from the rest. This includes the court jester to the criminal to even someone who had lost their mental faculties. The broad stripes made them stand out and gave its wearer the notorious ambiguity that made sure those donning it were kept at a distance.

Man Overboard

Some history books state that the stripes became a form of uniform for sailors in 1800s Breton, because it made them easy to spot when someone was thrown overboard. The white and blue printed lines later became the uniform for the French navy. The original Breton design had 21 stripes, representing each of Napoleon’s victories, and was much later even included in the Brittany flag.


Coco Chanel

Stripes became a huge fashion success in the 1917s when Coco Chanel introduced it in her collection after one of her trips to the French coast. Enamoured by the country’s navy uniform Chanel introduced the la marinière or Breton stripe range of clothes that became a classic style in women’s fashion and led to a whole new range of comfortable women’s wear. How can we ever forget Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Roger, Jackie Onassis or even Pablo Picasso’s striped tops? While it was a luxury fashion item in the beginning, stripes clothing have now become a staple thanks to other designers embracing the lined print. 

Swinging Sixties

The mod and pop art era of the sixties gave stripes a new dimension when it was tweaked to create designs of optical illusion. The stripes has a long history of being a symbol of disturbance and the sixties with its illusionary patterns only added to its symbolic past. 


From being considered the gangster uniform of the 1940s to becoming a symbol of the ‘unpatriotic’, who were later singled out by the American army which eventually led to widespread rioting, the stripes clothing have come a long way. Today it has evolved to make room for some casual, fun outfit choices and not seen as something worn by hippies or by ‘the ones’ questioning the voice of authority. Whatever might be the case, from the symbol of women’s liberation to becoming a part of national flags, the stripes have left an indelible in the history of many countries and now it continues to do the same, albeit in a fun way, on the runways of fashion.

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