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Painted Graphics & Design History

Brief ANCIENT Hand Painted Design art History

In the 16 century Egyptians decorated their chariots with several types of hand painted designs

The (Very) Old Art of Pinstriping

We’re all familiar with pinstriping: the thin application of paint (or special tape) onto a surface to enhance that object’s lines or to create a freestanding decoration. But did you know the art of pinstriping has existed in some format for centuries—actually, millenia—seeing popularity among ancient Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Native Americans, and tribal cultures of the South Pacific? While it’s safe to assume that back then it was considered something more like ‘decorative line art,’ the concept is much the same. For as long as people have owned things, they’ve felt the need to customize them.
What era were pinstripes popular?
But it was in the 1980s, thanks to one film in particular, that the suit morphed into the incarnation we know so well today. When ‘Wall Street’s’ Gordon Gekko proclaimed ‘greed is good’ and sported a range of pinstripe suits, it spawned an entire movement in menswear, where a bold wardrobe went with a bold lifestyle.
“Pinstriping started on stagecoaches in the 1800s and was very ornamental with a filigree look to it.” Simple, decorative, hand-painted lines were used to decorate horse-drawn carriages.
MODERN Pinstriping brief History
Pinstriping History
Freehand pinstriping is a timeless craft. For thousands of years – going back to the Roman empire – pinstriping has adorned objects of nobility. By the 1800’s, pinstripes decorated the intricate body lines of coaches and carriages. In the early 1900’s, painted pinstripes accented the contours of most early American automobiles. As skilled stripers became a part of assembly line production, the art of hand painted pinstriping became widespread.
Pin striping (pinstriping) is the application of a very thin line of paint or other material called a pin stripe, and is generally used for decoration. Freehand pinstripers use a specialty brush known as a pinstriping brush. Fine lines in textiles are also called pinstripes.

Automotive, bike shops, and do-it-yourself car and motorcycle mechanics use paint pinstriping to create their own custom look on the automotive bodies and parts.

Boomers Made It Cool

So, how does this little art history lesson play into modern car culture? How else? The classic rides of the 1950s and ‘60s, of course. The mid-twentieth century defines some of the most impressive and lasting moments within the chronology of American auto history. And it’s easy to see why. Post-WWII car culture was able to reach its peak as rations ended allowing production to ramp up, and consumers were able to spend more freely. America began its famed ‘love affair’ with the automobile, and automakers were all too happy to mass produce vehicles in a seemingly endless array of shapes and sizes. And contributing to this culture of cool, was the rise of hot rods and customization.

Brief Modern Motorcycles pinstriping history

The decorative use of pinstriping on motorcycles as it is commonly seen today was pioneered by artists Kenny Howard (a.k.a. Von Dutch), Dean Jeffries, Dennis "Gibb" Gibbish, and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.

Pinstriping can commonly be seen exhibited on custom motorcycles, such as those built by Choppers Inc., Indian Larry, and West Coast Choppers. The decorative use of pinstriping on motorcycles as it is commonly seen today was pioneered by artists Kenny Howard (a.k.a. Von Dutch), Dean Jeffries, Dennis “Gibb” Gibbish, and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. These artists are considered pioneers of the Kustom Kulture lifestyle that spawned in the early 1950s, and are widely recognized as the “originators of modern pinstriping”.


In automotive body work, pinstripes are a thin vinyl tape or paint. The tape versions are adhered directly to the painted surface in the pattern desired, whilst painted ones are done by skilled artists with ‘sword’ shaped brushes. The goal of pin striping is to enhance the curves of the surface, and the lines are generally of a complementary color. In any other form of decorative pin stripes, the goal is the same. In addition and coincidentally, it can help to hide flaws in the surface such as a scratch or blemish.

Pin stripe décor is also applied to motorcycles, bicycles, semi trucks, boats, and surfboards. It is traditionally combined with freehand lettering and, to a lesser degree, sign making. The age of computers and vinyl decals helped undercut the base of traditional sign making and with it the traditional pin striper. While stripers such as Von Dutch (Kenny Howard) and Ed “Big Daddy” Roth are possibly the best known early practitioners of ‘modern’ pinstriping, many of the early stripers cite Tommy “The Greek” Hrones and Dean Jeffries as their major influences.

Pinstriping is still practiced at shops around the world, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars still pinstripes the “coachline” of that company’s cars by hand.