Sorting through some old files the other day, I came across a little snippet I had cut out of the education pages a few years back. (The idea was to throw stuff away; instead I ended up sorting it into new piles.)
The piece was titled: "Style for Teachers: Do's and Don'ts". It had, I recalled, been part of a wider feature on what teachers should or shouldn't wear to work. The article had been written by "an expert", so I thought I'd better take note.
There were five bullet points, as follows: 1) "Keep a smart jacket and a pair of heeled shoes ready to slip on for meetings with governors or parents." Aha! I thought, not sure just how it would go down if I appeared before the governors in a pair of high heels - although, in these politically correct days, perhaps they'd be obliged to simply note "interesting hobby" and add: "Like your jacket."
The next point was a bit easier to sign up for. 2) "Avoid see-through blouses, low necks or dangly bracelets." I seem to recall that I didn't do too well in the last wet T-shirt contest I entered, so I'd be happy to leave the see-through gear at home. And, luckily, bling simply isn't my style.
3) "Don't lug around a huge, bulging handbag." Mine is more of a shoulder- mounted item, but I could be at risk here. Watching the action-thriller The Bourne Ultimatum the other day, I couldn't help but notice that the "wet" Guardian journalist character who ended up being shot at Waterloo station carried a bag just like mine. As I too pass through Waterloo on most days, I'd better keep my head down.
4) "Men should steer clear of old tweed jackets, shorts and sandals." By the time I reached this one, I realised I just might have misinterpreted points one to three. You have to admit, though, it does present a wonderful picture: all those lecturers wandering around in tweed, shorts and sandals - particularly in winter. One more thing I think should be added to this particular list: remember not to let house martins nest in your beard.
5) "Try to express your personality through your clothes." Now, you don't need to be a genius to realise that this could end up contradicting the other four points. What if you're naturally a loud-mouthed, attention- seeking type who loves noise, dramatic gestures and parties? I can just picture the disciplinary hearing. "Well, Mr Jones, why did you appear before the NVQ2 jam and preserve-making class for the over-60s dressed only in Doc Martens and a gold lame jockstrap?" Answer: "I was simply letting my clothes reflect my personality."