Stripes make a chic fashion turn every few years, but back in the day, a lined outfit could get a person killed. In 1310, a French cobbler decided to wear striped clothing for the day. He was condemned to death for his decision. The man was part of the town’s clergy, which did not sit well with the belief that stripes belonged to the Devil.
Good citizens, too, had to avoid wearing bands at all costs. Prolific documentation from the 12th and 13th centuries reveals the strict stance authorities took against the pattern. It was considered the dress of society’s most tarnished—prostitutes, hangmen, lepers, heretics, and, for some reason, clowns. Even the disabled, bastard children, Jews, and Africans were slapped with stripes.
It is a mystery how the hatred became so easily entrenched. Why not spots or squares? No theory can adequately explain the link between Satan and stripes. One speculative grab cites a Bible verse: “You will not wear upon yourself a garment that is made of two.” Perhaps the medieval mind interpreted the passage as a reference to stripes. Whatever the reason, by the 18th century, the strange aversion was over.
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