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The Devil's Cloth

The Devil's Cloth

A History of Stripes

Translated by: Jody Gladding
To stripe a surface serves to distinguish it, to point it out, to oppose it or associate it with another surface, and thus to classify it, to keep an eye on it, to verify it, even to censor it.
Throughout the ages, the stripe has made its mark in mysterious ways. From prisoners' uniforms to tailored suits, a street sign to a set of sheets, Pablo Picasso to Saint Joseph, stripes have always made a bold statement. But the boundary that separates the good stripe from the bad is often blurred. Why, for instance, were stripes associated with the devil during the Middle Ages? How did stripes come to symbolize freedom and unity after the American and French revolutions? When did the stripe become a standard in men's fashion? "In the stripe," writes author Michel Pastoureau, "there is something that resists enclosure within systems." So before putting on that necktie or waving your country's flag, look to The Devil's Cloth for a colorful history of the stripe in all its variety, controversy, and connotation.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 144 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743453264 | 
  • June 2003
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Order and Disorder of the Stripe

"Cet été, osez le chic des rayures" [This summer, dare to be stylish in stripes]. In this somewhat flashy slogan displayed widely on the walls of the Paris metro in an advertising campaign several months ago, all the words are important. But the one which, it seems to me, carries the most weight is the verb, oser, dare. To wear stripes, to present oneself dressed in striped clothing -- if we believe the slogan -- is neither neutral nor natural. To do so, you must display a certain audacity, overcome different ideas of propriety, not be afraid to show off. But the one who... see more

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