Did you know that stripes have a long history? And quite an eventful one. Even if they today are considered harmless and you find them everywhere, back in the days they were associated with social outcasts. Let’s just have a quick retrospect on them.

Since the Middle Ages, stripes have been, as mentioned above, associated with something bad. In songs, poems and books from this period, society’s outcast was often portrayed in striped clothes. Even the devil was sometimes pictured in stripes. Speaking of it’s negative role, also prisoners wear black and white-coloured suits. This originated in the 19th century USA. The idea was that it would be easy to trace prisoners who escaped if they had eye-catching costumes.

But over the centuries the sight of stripes has changed. During the 18th century the pattern spread to both textiles and everyday objects, it became popular in sports and it also made its entry in the marine theme. Not until during the second half of the 19th century, that stripes began to become common as wallpaper in Sweden.

Today I would say that almost everyone has something, either in their home or on clothes, with stripes on. Looking at the fashion industry I guess many, including myself, associate the stripes with Sonia Rykiel or maybe Jean Paul Gaultier. But if you are familiar with Nordic design my guess is that the first brand that comes to mind is Polarn O. Pyret, Marimekko or maybe stripes from 10-gruppen.

The famous stripes of Arla milk.

Graphic designer Tom Hedqivst amongst other started 10-gruppen in 1970, which over the years has featured hundreds of fabrics and tapestries where stripes played a dominant role.

In 1991, Arla – the Swedish milk cooperative – asked Tom Hedqvist for a redesign of the brand, and that was with Hedqvist as the Arla stripes were born. The red, green, blue and yellow stripes – in different thicknesses – signal the fat content of the product and in my opinion it’s a Swedish design classic.