The radio station I listen to on the way to work ran one of those quirky stories at the end of the news today. I have been hearing the same story making the rounds over the past few days.
I brushed the cigarette ash from the front of my shirt and thought about what we wear to work. Teachers are not particularly well respected for their dress sense. Ask any young person. I can still remember the flood cuffs on the bottom of my geometry teacher’s trousers even though I remember little of the Pythagoras’ Theorem. I can remember my history teacher’s sports shoes; two decades out of date in 1980, but now thirty years later, strangely back in vogue.
Most schools have a dress code for staff; even if the dress code is WEAR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU LIKE. I have worked in schools where I wouldn’t dream of rolling up in the morning without a tie around my neck. Turn up with the same tie at another school and the staff gossip train would immediately conclude that the Head is interviewing for a new job.
And then there is the personal dress code. My current school is a messy gig; snot and spittle, blood and urine are plentiful. Therefore many staff opt for jeans. But I know of one colleague who comes in everyday dressed like Joan Collins in Dynasty.
My own personal taste is for shirt and tie, black trousers with a school jacket to show corporate solidarity. In the warmer months, a short-sleeved version takes over, but never short sleeves with a tie. Never. It reminds me of Michael Douglas’ character in the film Falling Down .
I heard it said that some women dress for men, some dress for women. I dress for the tasks of the day. My default setting on school clothes, I listed earlier. If inspectors are due in, I brush down one of the 4 suits I own. It is like an unofficial uniform.
I dread those days three times a year when we all ‘dress down’ at work for charity. Pupils don’t have to wear school uniform and teachers wear their ‘weekend clothes.’ Everyone suddenly looks alien and strangely, older. I can spend hours the evening before flicking through my wardrobe trying to find something that says FUN…BUT NOT TOO MUCH FUN.
Today, as was warm, I opted for my favourite short-sleeved yellow Ralph Laurent shirt. MY favourite. To everyone else it seems to generate one of two reactions: either a ‘Oh, don’t you look….bright… today’ OR ‘For God’s sake pass the sunglasses, my corneas are burning.’
When I do wear ties I like to choose one that has a story behind it: where I purchased it, a novelty character on it, maybe even one that plays a song when you press a switch. I pretend it amuses the children. The reality is it makes a good last minute assembly prop if needed.
Recently I have developed a habit of wearing socks that match my shirt so today, I sported a similarly jaundiced pair. I am a father of five so I have one of the most extensive collections of Fathers Day socks in the country. People buy me novelty socks, I even recently received a pair with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s picture on each side. But I have BIG ankles. Kate’s face looked like she had been turned to plastic and held under a magnifying glass on a Spanish beach when I finally stretched them up to my calves.
The one thing that remains constant in my work attire, whether winter or summer, school jacket or suit, is my trusted choice in footwear; Dr Marten’s Air Wair black shoes. I live in them. They are sturdy, black and equally at home on the playground football pitch or budget meeting. They are industrial, honest and hard wearing. Plus they prove the premise that a man’s shoes say alot about him!
Summer is short here in London so I like giving my favourite yellow RL shirt an airing whenever possible. However, to test the theory that even if it is clean, others form an instant judgement of what we are wearing, I put a photo of myself up on Facebook wearing the not-so-little yellow number. From the comments, it seems I looked like a melon, The Sun, custard, a sunflower, a canary, Little Miss Sunshine…everything it seems but the cheery soul with a sense of humour I think the shirt portrays.
But then I looked down, perhaps the coffee spilled down the front was taking away from the look. Never mind, this is Britain. And as the article says; only the Spanish and Americans have a more laxed view of clothes hygiene.
Keep the Faith,