Monday, May 08, 2006

The argument for school uniforms

In my usual fashion, I was one of the crush of procrastinators at the State Library of Victoria yesterday for the last day of the National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries exhibition. There were a number of craft items of note, including a hooked hall runner commemorating the 1956 Olympics and Ned Kelly’s helmet, fashioned from a iron plough. But the item that really caught my eye was a convict uniform. It was a woollen suit, hand-sewn, with a Mao collar. But rather than the usual black or brown, this suit was black and yellow. Half the jacket front was yellow, half black. The fronts of the trouser legs were yellow and black, the backs black and yellow. It was curiously snappy, like something a high school marching band might wear, or a mid-eighties’ groom looking to make a statement. For a moment, I thought I might have to revise everything I thought I knew about the austerity of the convict experience.

But no. Turns out that wearing the bi-colour suit was a punishment so feared that the threat of it was a stronger deterrent than corporal punishment. Imagine! Stronger than being beaten by guards, manacled or immobilised in the stocks. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised: when required to wear a tie, Isaac pulls and contorts as if it were the hangman’s noose itself. And the threat of a handknit sweater: that’s enough to strike the fear of God into his knit-phobic soul.


Blogger Ampersand Duck said...

Isn't it an amazing piece of history? I loved it too. It's apparently the only complete suit left. It would have been difficult to escape through the Australian countryside dressed like an enormous wasp, so I guess it was a reasonable deterrent, and less aggressive than a whip!

10:43 PM  

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