Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Corps D'Esprit

They've not even broken up yet but already some shops have the dreaded 'back to school' displays in their windows.

Remember how ghastly it was to see that as the summer came to a close. Well imagine it now and you've not even begun your summer holidays yet. Junior mannequins decked out in generic school uniforms - it still sends a shudder. Not that I didn't like school per se, but you'd much rather not be in it than be in it, wouldn't you?

What was your uniform like? Did you have a uniform at all? I recall four hideous ensembles:

Flannel grey blazer with royal blue piping, with cap to match which I was made to wear.

Flannel grey blazer with red piping, with catch to mach. Again, made to wear it.

Plop brown with gold piping, including the long socks and cap. Shorts until the fourth year. I remember the day of the new term when they were allowed. Obviously I wasn't allowed them quite so soon, and schoolmates who were stood at the gates checking everyone out. I went home that day and demanded them. They came pretty quickly after that, to my great relief. I wanted to be one of the big boys.

Then finally navy blue jumper, navy blue shirt, no blazer to speak of. By this time (secondary school), it was modified to whatever fashion was around. Thankfully a Harrington jacket was allowed, so along with your tasselled loafter and Sta-prest black or grey slacks, it was actually quite bearable, what with it being 1979 and all that.

But caps. How embarrassing are they, making your ears more prominent than they need be. Most people look like a simpleton in them, and even when I was on my way home from school I still kept it on. I hated it but it never occurred to me to take it off. I'm amazed I never got beaten up. My mum went to a school where the spies were carefully placed along the route home, and if you weren't wearing your white gloves or your boaters then punishment was severe. Naturally it was a convent school. Mine wasn't that bad, but whatever school you were at you had it drummed into you that you were an ambassador for it.

The brown and gold school was far from home, and involved two bus rides which I did aged eight. Imagine letting an eight year old do that today!

The grey and blue school involved a longish walk home by a secluded stream and across waste ground - aged six! But was there a paedophile lurking behind every hillock? I think not. Of course when I remind my mum about this walk home she denies all knowledge that she could ever have placed me in such danger, but here I am.

You don't see many uniforms in the traditional style, but then I'm not really looking. All friends' kids seem to wear sweatshirts with the school name on. But at least they wear a uniform. I think they're a good thing - less fashion competition. I suppose caps if they are worn at all are now baseball caps. Why didn't we ever turn them backwards?

Now, where did I put my shoebag...


Ishouldbeworking said...

Giant navy blazer in unbendable fabric, rendering elbows useless, bought five sizes too big in order 'to last you'. I looked like Danny De Vito in it until I had my growth spurt in the third year. And the badge...'Serviam". "I will serve." God they were ambitious for us.

Matthew Rudd said...

Blue or white shirt with grey or navy blue jumper, with school badge thereon. There was an assumption that grey was for boys and blue was for girls on the jumper front but in the end it was anything goes. We we weren't allowed black trousers (or skirts) which I never knew, and I wore black trousers for ages. The blazer, mercifully, was phased out about a year before I started.

There was a period where every student wore the same school tie, but then they introduced subtle differences on the tie front so that a pupil's age/year could be identified by sight alone. From the acceptable (if boring) light blue and white effort that everyone wore, came a variation with a red stripe in it. My year was the first to wear it and it was hideous.

The Back to School signs in the 1980s used to piss me off as they'd appear within a week of the school holidays beginning. The youthful male model of the boys' uniform always had a briefcase on the floor next to him. If I had gone to school with a briefcase then I would have been beaten up and the damned thing would have been nicked within an hour of me turning up on day one. Any parent who bought a briefcase for their son to take to any comprehensive in Hull and the East Riding quite evidently hated him.

Five-Centres said...

But I remember a time when briefcases were all the rage. But that's another post.

I forgot about ties - all stripy version of the piping combo.

Mondo said...

Infants and junior were maroon jumpers, white shirts and grey troos. Senior school was all navy blue, but I wore black from the 2nd to 5th year - and was constantly needled by the teachers about it. Apart from that tie sizes were something to play with. A huge knot and stubby tie for the first year of seniors changed to the smallest possible knot by the third year.

Mrs M, went to local private school (girls only)and had to wear a boater. She said it awful waiting at the bus stops in it.

PS must have mentioned this before, but two of Talk Talk went to my school.

Cocktails said...

I wore a lovely deep red jumper, knee length black skirt, white shirt and red and black striped tie. Our nasty headmaster used to hand out detentions to anyone flouting it (tie too thin, shirt untucked, too short skirt etc.) I thought he was a fascist bastard at the time. Now when I go home and see what a bunch of slags, bogans and skuzzers the students look like these days in their unkempt, undisciplined uniforms I can kind of see his point.

Chris Hughes said...

I think we had it easy - navy blue jumper, light blue shirt, royal blue striped tie (which everyone wore skinny-side out for the whole of 1987, then back to normal en masse for 1988) and black trousers.

Despite being a total swot, I occasionally rebelled - I remember getting a letter sent home when I wore a white Le Shark polo shirt instead of the regulation blue shirt. And there were all sorts of horrible "flecked" trousers, tasselled loafers and so on. Everyone walking round looking like Wicksy from EastEnders, basically. When people talk about 80s fashion coming back, they never mean the stuff like that.

Don't remember many briefcases at our school - in fact, the only schoolkid I can remember brandishing a briefcase was Gonch Gardner from Grange Hill. In the winter of 1984/85, it was Midland Griffin Savers black sports bags as far as the eye could see. Could you imagine kids walking around advertising a bank today?

Ishouldbeworking said...

I like 'bogans', Cocktails. What a great word.

And is that actually you in the picture, F-C?

Five-Centres said...

Today it would be some chavvy brand on show. A bank would mean Facebook death.

Five-Centres said...

I had to look up bogans the other day, as I just read this great book called The Slap and the word is used throughout, as is describing someone as a 'skip', but I don't know what that means.

And yes, ISBW, that's me. Great shorts, eh?

Cocktails said...

I've no idea what a 'skip' is either. I assume it's not an endearing reference to our favourite kangaroo.

You're a brave man revealing those shorts F-C.

Ishouldbeworking said...

It's a brave look - like an extra from 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence'. The scene where David Bowie (36) was trying to palm himself off as a South African schoolboy...

Simon said...

We only had uniform at secondary school. Pale blue shirts (polo ones were allowed after I'd been there a couple of years), maroon jumpers and free choice of black or grey trousers/skirts. The girls were also allowed pale blue dresses in the summer term (they also got held back after assembly at least once a term to be hectored on shrinking skirts, too much make up and too many earrings).

There was an optional tie and blazer but I only ever saw them worn by those unfortunates who got moved in mid-term due to parental moves and thus had no prior experience of the kids walking past the house to see what went on.

Come sixth form it was back to civvies again (although I was badgered into shirts rather than t-shirts most of the time as these teachers would be responsible for references, according to my Dad).

Other schools in town had it much worse, and when we had a joined up sixth form we were advised not to mock the ones from Stanborough who had to wear suits in the same lessons where we could be as scruffy as anything.

raymond devitt said...

My uniform was actually quite nice grey short and tie grey jumper with red piping around the neck and cuffs grey socks with the same piping red jacket and the tinest pair of grey shorts.the shorts were so short that when you had your jacket on you wouldn't think you had any shorts on