A Brief History of Stripes in Fashion


Harper Lewis Vintage for ASOS Marketplace

Zebra, pedestrian crossing or bar code – stripes! They have been ruling the world of fashion for the latest 150 years and counting.
We do not exactly know when the first piece of striped clothing was worn but we have got loads of interesting information on stripes anyway.

Rewinding the time back to the Medieval times – it was only prisoners, clowns, prostitutes, hangmen and all the condemned that wore the striped garment as the pattern was seen as being evil. A French cobbler was sent to death only because he had been caught in striped clothes!

Lets fast forward to more friendly times for stripes though.  In the end of 18th century stripes have finally become chic. All thanks to well know at these times people.

In 1846 Queen Victoria dressed her four-year-old son, Albert Edward in a sailor suit to board the Royal Yacht. Ever since then the public became entranced and adored any kid wearing stripes.

The whimsical look was also popularized by Franz Xaver Winterhalteanr’s painting in 1847 showing a boy wearing striped marine jacket. These days no one knew that the sea-to-land look would be the basisand a mainstream trend that would span more than 150 years.

Eventually swimmers also adopted the style, wearing smart, navy blue and white striped bathing suits, in the standard these days neck-to-knee fashion.


The striped shirt has been a beloved institution in fashion since mid 19th century. A navy blue and white shirt with 21 striped symbolizing each of Napoleon’s victories became the uniform for all French navy men. The Breton shirt – named after the Breton workers who increased its popularity throughout the later half of the nineteenth century.


In the beginning of the 20th century Mademoiselle Coco Chanel took a trip to the French Rivera. When she arrived there, she saw the workers in the marina wearing their knit navy and white striped shirts. Not surprisingly the inspiration for a new nautical collection was born. The always influential Coco Chanel beloved the stripes’ minimalism. Right after the visit to the French Riviera she knew she wanted to take the bold stripes mainstream and started selling them in France at her Deauville shop in 1917.


Mademoiselle Coco at her house in La Pausa with her dog Gigot. 1930

Thanks to still very influential Coco Chanel – The Nautical stripe fashion craze began.

Later in the 20th century the Breton shirt was adopted by almost every group possible. Artists such as Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol took the Breton shirt back for the male population and made it their own.


Pablo Picasso at his home wearing his favourite striped shirt

46. 1965-andy-warhol-new-york-2

Andy Warhol

In the 1950′s movie stars like Marilyn Monroe , Audrey Hepburn or Brigitte Bardot looked absolutely stunning in their stripes.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn beloved different types of striped clothing – not only the Breton ones

Brigitte Bardot is still remembered for her remarkable beauty and the sultry persona that earned her the nickname “sex kitten.”

Brigitte Bardot is still remembered for her remarkable beauty and the sultry persona that earned her the nickname “sex kitten.”

I 'sea' stripes - Marilym Monroe

I ‘sea’ stripes – Marilym Monroe

Do not forget James Dean wearing Breton shirt in Rebel Without a Cause. In the 1960′s, the Beat Generation literary movement took the Breton stripes and incorporated it in to the hip fashion of their subculture.

james dean stripe 2

Rebel without a cause but with the stripes.

Stripes become favorited not only by movie stars – musicians loved them too. Especially the grounge ones. Remember Kurt Cobain in Smells Like Teen Spirit?


Kurt wearing basic black & white tee


Washed-out, cult now T-shirt, with green and brown stripes. One of the most wanted. Video

During the 60s and 70s stripes were seen as a rebellious, hipster pattern and were worn only by those looking to question the fashion authority du jour with an artistic intrepretation.

John Lennon?

John Lennon in red and black striped pajamas 01

John Lennon in red and black striped pajamas

We could add many more photos of artists, musicians, movie stars and other wearing striped clothing. The telnyashka has been covering adults and kids, boys and girls, workers, seamen, anarchists and pacifists, different subcultures’ followers, soldiers, film directors and movie stars, role- and fashion models, politicians, architects and artists, freelancers, photographers, prostitutes, prisoners and fashionistas around the globe. We all love stripes.

Before showing you what striped beauties we posses in our stock – few rules to follow for wearing stripes:

1. Go vertical – vertical stripes will make you optically look taller. Wearing horizontal stripes comes with the unfortunate side effect of making overweight people look even more overweight. It is only an optical illusion though! 🙂

2. Avoid very thick stripes – thin ones look more stylish.

3. Be careful with colour combinations. Unless you want your outfit to look loud and funny.

4.  Mix stripes carefully. Two pieces of clothing should have stripes of different weight.

Now – Stripe It Up!

We think it might be the best band to listen to while shopping in our ASOS Boutique now:) Enjoy ♪♫

H&L, xx ♥

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Happy Shopping!

Harper Lewis Vintage for ASOS Marketplace

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