Fashion statement ... Taylor Schilling in Orange is the New Black.

Fashion statement ... Taylor Schilling in Orange is the New Black.

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

The US drama series Orange Is The New Black, 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 regional sheriff thinks so, 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 the classic orange jumpsuit was now seen as a fashion item, thanks to TV programs like Orange is the New Black.

Similarly, orange T-shirts stamped "County Jail" are also frequently sold in tourist precints. And full orange prison jumpsuits can be bought from retail and online stores.

Federspiel says he doesn't want anyone confused about who belongs behind bars and who is 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 that takes 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 draw a clear line 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.