Today my grandsons came to visit and they asked to see an episode of “Dad’s Army” which we all enjoy watching.

The episode  we watched was one where they were responding to an emergency and turned up in their normal working clothes and something struck me which had not occurred to me before , that people used to wear an unofficial “uniform”  appropriate to their trade or profession.

The bank manager and his chief clerk wore bowler hats and pinstripe trousers, the undertaker a black top hat and frock coat, the butcher a navy and white striped apron and a panama, the country gent a tweed suit and “pork pie” hat and even the “spiv” had his own distinctive look— A sharp suit, a trilby hat (worn at an angle) and flashy brown and white shoes. The Town Clerk wore a shirt with stiff wing collar and dark “cut away” jacket.

I thought back to some of the other distinctive “uniforms”.

The shopkeepers generally wore a cotton or linen overall coat, green for the greengrocer, brown for the grocer, grey for the ironmonger and blue for the fishmonger. The cobbler wore a leather apron and the pharmacist a white coat.

The stereotypical factory worker (male )wore a cloth cap and muffler and their female colleagues wore coloured overalls and headscarfs. Factory managers wore three piece suits with a gold watch chain stretched across their chests, and middle class ladies wore twinsets and pearls!

Many of these survived until the early1950s, but most have now disappeared, as have many of the occupations, and other occupations have evolved into something quite different. Bank managers have become “financial advisors”, many of the shopkeepers have been assimilated into multinational, multifunctional, superstores and the factories have either closed or become more technically based so that the workers there wear ordinary fashionable clothes, sometimes covered with an overall made of  light manmade fibre. Other trades have disappeared altogether from most high streets e.g. watchmender, cobbler, stocking mender and clothes pressing shops.

I suppose there is still a kind of uniform worn today by many, but this time not for work but for leisure i.e. jeans, tee shirt, baseball cap and trainers, even down to matching logos. This time it is unisex and is not so class based as those old divisions 50–60 years ago.

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