Baseball caps go over my head, but that's OK

13th May 2011 at 01:00

I have recently learnt that I will never make it as a hip-hop superstar. It should have dawned on me earlier: I can't rap and detest anyone who wears sunglasses indoors (other than the blind).

But the death knell for this career path came on a recent mufti day. One of my students asked if I would try on his purple and gold baseball cap. Entering into the spirit of the day, I agreed. At this point the entire class doubled up with mirth and waved their hands in that vigorous "shame on you" sign that looks like they are trying to flick burning plastic off their fingers.

My sartorial sin was not the baseball cap itself, but how I wore it. I had made the mistake of wearing it like a hat. Apparently you are now supposed to balance it on your head in a manner so precarious it precludes all sudden movement above the shoulders.

A baseball cap is no longer a cap. It's a statement, and the position on head, length of bill (seriously), make and model signify all sorts of important things to do with East Coasts and West Coasts (New York and Los Angeles rather than Margate and Cornwall).

Was I bothered by my hat ignorance? Not in the least. I dismissed the class, who were still giggling and shaking their heads sympathetically at me, and noticed with satisfaction it had got really windy outside.

One of the best indicators that you have slipped from one generation to the next is when you cease to understand the clothes "the youth" wear. For decades, older generations have made the mistake of trying to extrapolate some dark and hidden meaning from teenagers' clothes. Hoodies, mini-skirts, heavy metal T-shirts and trainers are just garments and yet still have the ability to wind up parents and sections of the press.

Identity in the teenage years is shaky and teenagers don't dress in their own robes - they dress in the robes of their idols. Clothes at this age aren't indicators of character or even really taste.

I was marking in my classroom on another recent mufti day when one of the most terrifying girls in the school bounded in dressed in slippers and a sort of all-in-one pyjama suit. "Miss Combi," she bellowed. "The boys are teasing me because they say I'm wearing my pyjamas and slippers." "But you are," I said, a bit confused. She rolled her eyes in disgust. "These are Uggs and this is a Primark replica of the Versace suit Nicki Minaj wore recently." "Oh well, good," I answered. "You look ... comfortable."

In contrast to this, on a recent International Day we encouraged students to dress in clothes that celebrated their place of birth, or their family's. The school was awash with the different traditional dress of many countries and, dare I say it, an almost regal atmosphere. The students seemed keen to represent where they came from in a positive way.

For anyone still lacking sympathy for teenagers, imagine how you would feel if you shuffled around, day after day, with the waistband of your trousers chafing your knees. You would be pretty moody too ...

Chloe Combi teaches at a comprehensive in London.

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