Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy.
The Bhutanese proverb at the top of this page is beautiful but not completely accurate. Humans do have stripes, called 'Blaschko's Lines'. They are named after the man who first observed them in 1901, and they're normally invisible, showing up only if a person has certain kinds of skin disease. Alfred Blaschko (1858-1922), a German dermatologist, studied 140 such patients, and made records by painstakingly copying the patterns onto dolls and statues. The lines describe complex V, S and U shapes all over the skin. When they are drawn on, the body resembles a wireframe rendering for a computer animation, and the face looks like it’s had a serious Maori tattoo.
Blaschko’s lines don’t conform to any other structures under the skin – such as the nervous system or the blood vessels - and no-one has ever really explained why they’re there. Cats and dogs have them too.
Zebras are white with black stripes, not black with white stripes. It was discovered in South Africa in 1957 that dark parts of zebras fade while light parts remain unchanged. A zebra's stripes are as individual as human fingerprints and zebras can be counted by treating them like barcodes. If a photograph of a herd of zebras is fed into a computer, it can be broken down into a number of vertical strands and then read for unique patterns.
It is invariably true that spotted animals can have striped or spotted tails, but striped animals cannot have spotted tails.
Humans are not only striped but also bioluminescent. It’s been known for many years that all living creatures produce a small amount of light as a result of chemical reactions within their cells but, in 2009, three Japanese scientists photographed the faint glow of human bioluminescence for the first time. It is 1000 times weaker than our eyes can perceive.
Vertical stripes are not more slimming than horizontal ones, despite thousands of entries on Google suggesting they are. According to research by Dr Peter Thompson at the University of York, stripes that run across the body are more slimming than vertical ones. A survey asking people to compare over 200 pictures of women wearing horizontally and vertically striped dresses showed that when the two women were the same size, the one wearing the horizontal-striped dress appeared to be the thinner of the two. In fact, to make the women appear to be the same size, the one wearing the horizontal stripes had to be 6% wider.
Dr Thompson's work vindicated some conventional wisdom, though: black does make you look slimmer, as do dark side panels on dresses.
In the Middle Ages, horizontal stripes were associated with prostitutes, clowns and other social outcasts. European aristocrats took a liking to them in the 17th and 18th centuries, when striped silks were imported from Asia. But in the 1800s, they began showing up on prison uniforms. While the bars made it easier to spot escapees in a crowd, they also were intended as psychological punishment. 'It was generally regarded as a means by which to humiliate prisoners,' says Tom McCarthy, general secretary of the New York Correction History Society. When Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, reintroduced striped uniforms in 1997, female inmates begged him to make the bars vertical so they wouldn't look fat. He said, 'I told them I am an equal-opportunity incarcerator – the men have horizontal stripes, and so will the women.'
There are still parts of Wales where the only concession to gaiety is a striped shroud.
Spotted animals can have striped tails, but stripy animals can’t have spotty tails.
In the US, striped ties are known as ‘repp ties’ (a corruption of ‘ribbed’, from the way they’re made) and are a crucial element of the Ivy League or ‘preppy’ wardrobe. Brooks Brothers introduced them to America in the 1920s, borrowing the look of the British regimental or club tie. Not wanting to have their customers embarrassed by furious Englishmen accusing them of wearing the tie to which they weren’t entitled, they reversed the direction of the stripes. Fashion has moved on since then and the rules no longer really apply, but we have noticed that Bill Clinton wears ties with English stripes, as does Barack Obama.
'American style' is high left to low right (looking at the wearer), and normally has no connotation of group membership. Although high right to low left for club, school and regimental ties is described by tie-makers as 'British style', there have always been exceptions.
Most tigers have more than 100 stripes. Every tiger has different stripes and the stripe goes all the way to the skin, so if you shaved a tiger it would still be striped.
No male jaguar has ever successfully mated with a female tiger: if it were to happen, the resulting animal would be known as a ‘jagger’.
A tiger’s tongue is so rough that if it licked your hand it would draw blood.
Man-eating tigers almost always attack people from behind.