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earn your stripes

Meaning: If you earn your stripes, you do something to prove that you have the skills or ability for a particular job or rank.

For example:

  • He earned his stripes in the department of foreign affairs before becoming one of our ambassadors.

  • You'll need to earn your stripes as a travelling salesman before we can think about giving you more responsibility.

Origin: Probably related to the fact in many organisations, including the armed forces, police forces, fire brigades, the boy scouts, etc., a person's rank is often shown by the number of stripes that are sewn onto the shoulder of their uniform.

Quick Quiz:

If someone has earned their stripes, they can expect
  1. to get a higher position
  2. to lose their job
  3. to retire from work

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