Long before Sailors sported stripes, they had a dark and devious past. Perhaps it can be attributed to the inability to draw a line in the sand, and set those stripes firmly on one side or the other. It’s not really black or white after all, and in the good old days they liked to keep things just that. The ambiguity of it all resulted in them getting kicked to the dark side – perhaps strictly as a precaution, but there they sat none-the-less, for centuries. Lunatics, Lepers, Prostitutes, Criminals, and sometimes Entertainers were forced to wear stripes – showing the world who they really were – outcasts.
I suppose, Sailors figured they would take their chances, being considered the likes of any of the above, if it meant it would save their lives. Worry about the consequences of their attire after they’ve survived near drowning. After all, stripes have magical powers. They can allow you to blend into a crowd or stand out in a rough sea. They can trick the eye and delight the mind. They can, of course have symbolic significance, as we are well aware from our beloved stars and stripes.
Napoleon ensured that the Breton Striped Naval Sweaters had 21 stripes to mark his victories. It is hard to know if we should credit the combined French and British Navies for the stripes nautical association, or Coco Channel for bringing it into fashion in 1917. Either way, I am grateful, and certain that they both “earned their stripes” in their own right.
Was it this daring that changed the tide for stripes? Hard to know for sure, but today they have a sunnier connotation. On awnings they welcome you into a home or store, lined up vertically or horizontally they surprise and delight. A quiet room becomes the life of the party, an entry a memorable moment, a beach umbrella a pinwheel of positivity. So if you’re intent on “changing your stripes”, change them for the better.