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Uniform

There is something about a uniform – you either love it or loathe it. There is no doubting how smart the police look, in their black uniforms with reflective piping and the armed services in their varying hues of khaki or royal navy. Nurses, firefighters, waiters and retail assistants all wear a uniform to indicate status or association.

It could be argued that many religious preachers wear a kind of uniform – identifying themselves with a particular faith or belief.

Apart from a rather dull, uninspiring grey uniform at both primary and secondary school the first time I was excited by wearing a uniform was when I worked as a waitress at a hotel near Helensburgh. I was 17 and so couldn’t work behind the bar: but I felt so grown up, even though the uniform was 100% nylon and consisted of a stripey brown and rust coloured blouse and matching rust-coloured A-line skirt. I sparked as I walked there was so much static.

I wonder therefore why teachers don’t have to wear a uniform. We have to be smart, yes but we have choices and sometimes I fear the lines are blurred between what is worn on a night out and what is worn in the classroom.

In my final teaching practice at a primary school somewhere near Kelvingrove in Glasgow, I was taken aback by the Primary 7 teacher when I met her. She had blonde peroxide hair, immaculately styled and held firmly in place with half a tin of hairspray. She was very slim and wore a tight pencil skirt, stilettos, a silky blouse and lashings of lipstick. Behind her desk, on a shelf for all to see, was a make-up mirror, hairbrush, lipstick and mascara. I tried hard to look beyond this and tried to believe that her class loved her as much as I had loved my P7 teacher, who wore cheese cloth tops, flared trousers and platforms. But when that teacher, who shot;dave been my mentor, started pointing out all the ‘bad’ children, in a loud and judgemental voice I decided that I didn’t rate her very much.

Latterly at a secondary school where I was working during the years of girls with mutton tops, exposed waistlines and revealed cleavage, it was agreed that we would revise the uniform policy and make it mandatory for pupils to  wear their shirts tucked in and ties up to at least the second top button. One teacher was outraged – not because she disagreed with the pupils wearing uniform but because she would have to refrain from wearing tight tops, exposing not only her muffin top, but her cleavage!

Uniforms – a poem

Follow the protocol, flow with the pack

eyes face forward, a rod-like back.

Distinguished by nature, a stiff upper lip,

red, black, khaki, blue-grey, and quick

off the mark, duty to perform –

how proud you feel in your uniform.

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