The wrong clothes

Sep 9th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

It could have been a Leinster jersey, jeans and training shoes, quite often it is. Sometimes going to rugby matches in France, a Bayonne jersey gets a runout, the only problem being that the locals assume that one can converse fluently about the match. Once, the Bayonne jersey was worn to Galway for a match between Connacht and the Basque team, causing some confusion and creating a sense of need to shout things like, ‘Allez’ at the French visitors. There is an Ireland jersey in the wardrobe, but it gets worn in foreign parts, being too clichéd to be worn at an actual Ireland match. There is even an Ulster jersey on the shelf, emblazoned with sponsors’ names, but it belongs to someone else.

It being a working day though, there was a need for a quick change outfit, so brown tweed jacket, cords and brown suede shoes accompanied a clerical shirt until teatime when the clerical shirt was replaced by a check one. Only on entering the rugby ground was there a sense of being overdressed. The appearance might have been altered by the scarf for the new season that declares one a season ticket holder, but this season’s scarf is not yet available and last season’s still adorns the passenger seat of the car. The evening was spent feeling more properly attired for a point to point meeting run by a country hunt, or maybe an auction at some premises deep in rural Ireland.

People’s expectations of how particular people should dress can actually affect whether they see people. In days as a curate, joining a work party redecorating the parish hall meant being in a red sweatshirt and jeans when the parish treasurer arrived, the annual holidays were approaching and he was anxious to hand over the pay cheque for the end of July. He looked around at the gathering in the hall and said, ‘Sorry, I was looking for Ian’.

‘Denis, I am standing here’.

Even then his look did not suggest complete recognition.

It was a moment that brought the realisation that it is possible to be almost invisible; dress in unexpected clothes and people assume it is a case of mistaken identity. One does not have to be Sherlock Holmes to blend into a landscape; the best place to hide is in a crowd; the best way to disappear is to look like everyone else.

Of course, it does depend on getting the clothes right, a Bayonne jersey at the RDS would have been like a black tie at a white tie dinner, though may have been less obvious than brown Donegal tweed.


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