Herald and Journal, June 5, 2000

Have you ever worn a uniform?


Back in grade school I had a green Girl Scout uniform. That wasn't a bad uniform at all, once I learned how to tie the required square knot in the yellow tie.

In junior high school our girl's gym class had to wear uniforms one year. Up until then, the gym teachers had been satisfied with our mismatched lot of white blouses and navy blue shorts.

Imagine then, being thrust into the ugliness of a sea foam green gym uniform. It was a one-piece disaster that snapped up the front. To make things worse, the shorts were gathered with elastic on the bottom so they looked like a kind of bloomer. Of course, gym class in eighth grade was mandatory and so were the uniforms. They were truly dreadful.

My girlfriends and I tried to jazz them up by rolling the short sleeves up higher, turning up our collars, and leaving the top snap unsnapped. That was quickly nixed by our gym instructor. She was still wearing shorts and a blouse, so obviously she couldn't identify with our pain.

My husband, Tom, wears his "farmer uniform." Summer and winter he wears blue denim overalls. In the winter time a flannel shirt is part of the uniform. In the summertime he dispenses with that and just wears a t-shirt with the bibs. But, always, always, the ensemble is topped off with whatever farm cap he is currently wearing.

The hats are usually so dirty that it is impossible to tell what they once advertised. A salesman stopped at the farm one day and found Tom dressed up, shaved, and hatless. He wasn't quite sure who Tom was.

Kids are great at coming up with their own special uniforms. Have you ever had a sibling or a child that was so in love with a favorite outfit that they wore it constantly?

Kyle, my sister, had a coon skin cap that she insisted on wearing everywhere she went. That was back in the Davy Crockett days of the 50's. There she would be, walking in front of the rest of the family, coon skin cap perched on her long, blond, wavy hair.

My oldest brother got so tired of the cap, jeans, and shirt she always wore that he told her she had to either walk 10 paces ahead or 10 paces behind, so no one would know she was with us.

Our son, Jason, had a special outfit that he loved when he was in elementary school. A friend of mine had given it to him. I would have gladly given it back. It was really a very nice shirt and pants. The problem was that I practically had to steal it from Jason at night so I could wash it.

Then he would want to wear it again and again. I was sure that his teacher and classmates must think he had nothing else to wear. I finally got hold of Jason's "uniform," washed it, and hid it in my closet for a few weeks until the novelty wore off.

Back in high school there were certain clothes that were considered to be "in." I never could understand that. Why would you want to wear the same thing everyone else was wearing? Maybe the memory of that awful green, gym uniform was still lingering in the back of my mind. I wasn't interested in wearing what the in-crowd wore.

I had one particular dress that caused a fury of comment when I wore it to high school back in the 60's. I had ordered it from Sears in light blue, my favorite color. The dress that arrived was brown. It did have the huge, black, polka dots that were shown on the blue dress in the catalog, however. I decided to keep the brown dress, instead of waiting for a replacement in blue.

The reaction among my peers was definitely negative. I wore the dress proudly. One of my friends even reported to me that an underclassman had observed, "If that dress was hanging in my closet I'd burn it down." I didn't burn the dress, or my closet.

This summer I'll be attending my 35th class reunion at Watertown High School, and my brown, polka dot dress is still hanging in my closet. If I could get into it, I would wear it that night, just for fun.

I have offered to loan my special dress to each of my five daughters for "Back To The 60s" events at school. They all declined. Some people just don't know a good uniform when they see one!

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