“Just how many jackets do you have?” my colleague asked.
”About twelve, I think.” I replied, “mostly from charity shops, although one of my fawn corduroy jackets is from eBay. It is from Gieves and Hawkes and cost me £3.95 plus £3.95 postage and packing. I think I got it so cheap because it had been listed as Grieves and Hawkes.”
My navy blue corduroy jacket caught the eye of a Year 10 boy, “Like the jacket, sir, how much was it?”
”£18, as new, from a hospice charity shop.”
The jackets do all get worn, two or three a week, on a rotation basis. There are two linen ones, one blue and one white, that tend to be taken out on summer days, the rest, corduroy, tweed or wool, might appear on any day.
Why so many, though? Perhaps a throwback to childhood days when the wardrobe was not so full.
There were good clothes and old clothes. The old clothes were simply those deemed to be too worn out to be worn as “good.” Good clothes were those to be worn at school; on arriving home from school, clothes were to be immediately changed for old clothes. Neither were in plentiful supply. There were perhaps two pairs of trousers that were for wearing at school and two more that were to be worn as old (an afternoon on my grandfather’s farm might require an old pair to be put straight in the wash).
There would be a feeling of delight when older cousins from Canada came across the Atlantic for occasional visits. The standard of living in Ontario was somewhat higher than that in rural Somerset, and “hand me down” Canadian clothes might be of better quality than anything new we might have bought in local shops.
In teenage years, the choice of what to wear seemed no greater. At the age of eighteen, going out for an evening meant a choice between a pair of straight-legged black cords, or black flares which had gone long out of fashion.
Life in the church was simple when it came to knowing what to wear: grey suits, grey jackets, grey trousers, black shoes. There was no need to make conscious choices, it all looked similar.
Perhaps life in the classroom has brought for the first time both the possibility and requirement of making a choice. Matching ties with shirts has become straightforward, a girl in my Year 7 tutor group tells me if they do not match. So far, none of them has counted the jackets.