Stripes Strip Humanity

Posted inThe Daily Heller
Thumbnail for Stripes Strip Humanity

Prison uniforms are graphically designed so an inmate can be immediately recognized as such. Originally a horizontal white and black “bee-striped” uniform was the most popular (and stereotypical) prison garb in the U.S.. Striped prison uniforms commonly used in the 19th and twentieth centuries were abolished in the United States during the mid century because “their continued use as a badge of shame was considered undesirable.

The fair treatment of prisoners and the era of prisoners’ rights prompted changes in clothing, in accordance with modern concepts of rehabilitation instead of punishment. Work clothes were introduced. And now jumpsuits are the norm.

The graphic and symbolic power of stripes—which were used to iconic and evil effect in the Nazi concentration camps— continue to be recognized as the convicts’ brand. So much so that striped uniforms have made a comeback into the U.S. prison system.