An occasional series.
Burglars in cartoons always wear horizontally striped jumpers because apparently after the Napoleonic wars large numbers of sailors were discharged with no hope of re-employment. Some took to burglary, still wearing their seaman’s stripy tops. These were depicted in cartoons and the imagery stuck.
The source of this information is impeccable - a reader’s letter to the Guardian newspaper’s  Notes and Queries section.

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