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earn one's stripes

Gain a position through hard work and accumulated experience. For example, She'd earned her stripes by serving for years as the governor's secretary and personal aide. This expression alludes to a military promotion or award, indicated by strips of chevron or braid added to the recipient's uniform and known as stripes since the early 1800s.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.