TROUSER BLOG – It is not what you wear but what it represents that matters
In the same way that there are no rational arguments for girls not being allowed to wear trousers to school, the burkini saga this summer has been instructive in demonstrating that it is not what you wear but what it represents. As someone with fair skin and fair hair who goes to the beach plastered in factor 50 sun cream, I find the idea of a burkini rather attractive. Presumably the material it is made from is nice and light so it is possible to swim in it. I wonder if the French police would arrest me if I wore a burkini with a straw hat instead of a headscarf.
The burkini saga and women being arrested for wearing too much on the beach demonstrate how much attitudes have changed in the last 70 years. In Spain in 1952, bikinis were banned from Spanish beaches. The then mayor of Benidorm, who wanted to attract tourists to his town, got on his scooter and drove all the way up to Madrid to ask General Franco (a right-wing dictator) if he would agree to allow bikinis to be worn on the beaches of Benidorm – thus overruling the Catholic bishops who were outraged at the affront to Catholic modesty. Franco agreed, the bikini survived and thrived so much that it became normal wear on Mediterranean beaches. Now it is those who are modestly dressed who are being arrested.
Now that the long summer holidays have ended, our thoughts are turning back to trousers and why girls are banned from wearing them in some schools. I have already seen comments in the press about the costs of schools uniforms, particularly in schools that insist that pupils buy the uniform from specific retail outfitters, which are usually more expensive. This is something that is certainly not recommended by the DfE in their advice to school governors – but those parents who complain about the cost of the uniform are probably unlikely to have the resources to take legal action. However, it does display a kind of arrogance on the part of school governors who assume that everyone can afford an expensive school uniform and those that cannot should —well! — take their children elsewhere.
It is probably unfair to accuse all schools about being inflexible about uniforms. One school (which shall remain nameless) was so concerned about the effects of the current hot weather on their black tight- and skirt-wearing girls, that they sent a letter to parents saying that the girls could wear short white socks for the first week. O that they are so considerate when the weather gets cold, and send round another letter saying that girls can wear trousers.