It's the coat that counts

28th September 2001 at 01:00
REACTING to the recent popularity of school dress codes, a Scots politician opined that this would only be an effective strategy if the uniformed pupils weren't faced with "scruffy" teachers.

Although my own uniform has been the predictable dark suit in the past decade which has included my elevation to management, it wasn't always so. There was, then, a slight frisson as I read the MSP's words and remembered my days in jeans.

Mind you, they were clean and worn with shirt and tie, and, given that my hair reached my shoulders and my moustache the bottom of my chin, it could have been a lot worse. I have started to scan the archive photos in the local paper, dreading their reproduction of my participation in a late seventies Festival Fringe Cavalcade, complete with rainbow sweater, white trousers and face paint.

We tend to reflect our origins, though, and it's my custom to remove the suit jacket once inside school. I fondly imagine that this gives me a "user friendly" aspect as well as signalling the busy schedule of a "hands-on" operator. In much the same way, I note that both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair favour the shirt-sleeved approach to business. What's not so clear is what type of recommendation this might be.

These days the problem has become what the catalogues call "outerwear". Bus duty and various visits to far-flung corners of the school campus mean that I need something to wear over the suit in inclement weather. For years I persisted with a variety of anoraks and vaguely sporty outdoor jackets; hoping no doubt to send the message that beneath the suit was a fit and agile man who liked nothing better than the odd marathon or Munro bashing weekend.

When this became laughably at odds with my actual lifestyle, I plumped, to my wife's despair, for an upmarket version of the dreaded Manager's Jacket. This was a kind of long padded coat, complete with Hibs' crest and a flapping belt. Management colleagues feared for my safety in the bus park every time the wind rose above four or five knots, and two years ago our sixth year dubbed it the "Most Talked About Coat in West Lothian".

So, finally, within sight of my 50th birthday, I have bought my first "grown-up" overcoat. Catching sight of myself in the mirror, I thought it lent me some much needed gravitas. From a certain angle it even made me look a little like a headteacher.

The family, never backward in their comments on my sartorial attempts, spoke in unison: "Makes you look like an undertaker."

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