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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Rational Dress

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Neither Prime Minister Cameron or President Obama is appropriately dressed for the activity in which they are temporarily engaged at the G8 summit. Either they will get paint on their ties or the swish of their ties will smudge the paintings - just look at the length of the President's neckpiece!

The expensively dressed children are not appropriately dressed either. They should be in smocks or aprons or simply old clothes. But nostalgia and fantasy dictate that in British schools children should look as if they just stepped out of the pages of a 1950s Janet and John story set in a fee-paying school. Our Education Minister, Michael Gove, owes his position to his blind commitment to that nostalgia and fantasy. 

School Uniforms are not designed to make children look the same. They are designed to make children look different. In the UK, every school has its own uniform and the visible cost of that uniform allows the viewer to rank the school's social intake or social aspirations. The other day, in a poorer part of south London,I passed a crocodile of very small children walking down the street  and all wearing straw boaters (that's a straw hat with a flat top and rigid sides in case you are not familiar with English social class markers). Straw boaters are expensive, make no mistake, but children aren't made to wear them because it helps them learn. They are made to wear them to show how their school imagines itself.

Some countries with egalitarian aspirations have resisted School Uniform but many have followed the British obsession, despite the strong  probability that the design of British school uniforms was originally entrusted to paedophiles. I doubt there are statistics, but British-style School Uniform must be one of the most profitable lines in global pornography. I don't know whether Mr Gove has ever reflected on that.

Rational Dress is not for the British. I remember my first encounter with Rational Dress was in Denmark. Back in the 1970s, I had arrived in Odense to give a couple of  lectures at the University but had developed tonsilitis. My hosts arranged a visit to a Doctor - a young man in casual trousers, V-necked jumper and OPEN NECK SHIRT WITHOUT A TIE who sat on the edge of his desk to look down my throat. I had never encountered a male doctor - probably any male professional - without a tie before and I still remember this encounter. I also remember that instead of sending me away with a prescription to take to a chemist he looked into one of his drawers and pulled out the medication he wanted to give me. Rationality indeed!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to see that Cameron and Obama have chosen flat headed brushes, suitable only for painting broad areas, while the children have fine brushes suitable for detailed work. Is this symbolically significant? (And are Cameron and Obama really left handed, or do they each reserve their right hand for matters of state?).