Orange isn't the new black

MICHAEL IDATO
Last updated 08:44 23/07/2014
Orange is the New Black
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The Orange is the New Black cast in season one.

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They say life imitates art. But there are times when it cuts a little too closer to the bone.

The US drama series Orange Is The New Black, which is set in a women's prison, has put the iconic "orange jumpsuit" prison uniform into the cultural zeitgeist in an almost unprecedented way.

But has it made them too cool for school?

One US sheriff thinks they have, prompting a decision to replace them with a black and white striped jumpsuit similar to styles of prison uniform from the early 20th century.

Sheriff William Federspiel, from Saginaw County in the US state of Michigan, told US media that the classic orange jumpsuit was seen as a fashion item, thanks to TV programmes like Orange is the New Black.

Similarly coloured orange T-shirts, stamped "County Jail", were also frequently sold in tourist precints. And full orange prison jumpsuits could be purchased from retail and online stores.

As a result, Federspiel said he didn't want anyone confused about who belonged behind bars and who was merely making a fashion statement.

Federspiel said people thought it was "cool to look like an inmate of the Saginaw County Jail. Wearing all orange jumpsuits out at the mall or in public."

He noted a legitimate concern because county prisoners are sometimes assigned work tasks which take them outside the prison and into the community.

"It's a concern because we do have our inmates out sometimes doing work in the public, and I don't want anyone to confuse them or have them walk away," he said.

"We decided that the black-and-white stripes would be the best way to go because it signifies 'jail inmate,' and I don't see people out there wanting to wear black-and-white stripes."

Federspiel said that despite shifting cultural values, it was important to keep a clear line drawn between both sides of the prison's bars.

"When the lines get blurred between the culture outside the jail and the culture within the jail, I have to do something to redefine those boundaries, because they've been blurred far too often in public culture," he said.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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