Jayne Dawson: Why vicars in jeans and T-shirts is a step too far

What's your view on uniforms? Where do you stand in relation to a smart bit of cloth, and maybe a braid trim?

Tuesday, 12th July 2016, 12:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th July 2016, 2:52 pm

Don’t start to panic, this isn’t going to turn into a decades-long debate, end in a referendum and turn your world on its head. Absolutely no need to start your deep calming breaths.

Me, I like a nice uniform. At the risk of sounding like your granny, I’m going to say they look nice and smart. Well they do, you cannot deny it.

It doesn’t even have to be an official uniform - most of us have developed our own unofficial version for work, even when the real thing isn’t required.

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A Generic Photo of a vicar marrying a couple in a church. See PA Feature TOPICAL Weddings. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Weddings.

We put on our outfit of choice and feel more armoured against the day. Maybe we add a bit of lipstick and a shoe with a heel for extra protection - though that doesn’t work for men in every situation, I grant you.

I’m not sure whether Dress Down Friday is still a thing, whether it exists anywhere anymore, but if it does it is my belief that it will be secretly loathed by those who still have to comply. Really there is nothing worse. It’s like asking a snail to leave its shell at home. It makes a person feel vulnerable and on show. They might as well ask you to go into work naked.

Instead of stepping into your work clothes, suddenly you have to think about things; what will be casual but not too casual; attractive without looking inappropriate, and all of that exhausting stuff. They may as well call it Self-Conscious Friday.

You will not be surprised to hear, then, that I love a school uniform, and the more traditional the better. If it involves a tie, that’s great. If it involves a hat, a gaberdine, a satchel, striped dresses for summer term, and some really big gym knickers - total bonus.

A Generic Photo of a vicar marrying a couple in a church. See PA Feature TOPICAL Weddings. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature TOPICAL Weddings.

Everyone should have a childhood memory involving their school uniform, whether it is being plucked out of line for non-compliance, or the subtle ways in which you subverted the rules and got away with it.

A uniform is a clever bit of kit. It can convey anonymity, authority, belonging, or a setting apart, depending on what is required.

Our police officers and armed forces couldn’t function without their uniforms, our judges could not muster the necessary authority.

And it’s not just about law and order. Personally I think it was a massive error to take nuns out of their wimples and habits - didn’t they look wonderful? Every time you watch Call The Midwife don’t you just yearn to see nuns walking the streets looking like that now, instead of in their sensible civvies?

Which brings me to the Church of England. From next year, assuming final approval is given, vicars will be able to swap old-fashioned clerical garb for casual gear.

Instead of marrying, baptising and dispatching us in flowing robes they will be able to do all those jobs in jeans and T-shirt instead.

The decision comes after the General Synod held a debate in York where it was decided that any old clothes would do, as long as they were not “unseemly”.

Since that word is a bit on the subjective side, prepare to be surprised. One person’s unseemly is another’s cool and comfy.

And pity the poor women vicars, who will feel the eyes of the congregation weighing up their choice of frock as they recite the Lord’s Prayer.

The decision has been taken in another attempt to make the church seem more modern and in touch with normal life, but it’s a huge mistake.

We don’t want our church to be modern, in touch, happy-clappy or touchy-feely. We want something set apart, something that offers authority, reassurance, certainty and sanctuary.

We don’t want our vicars to be just like us, we want them to be special, able to offer insight, wisdom and comfort. Jeans and T-shirts don’t say any of that.

Clerical robes might just be a form of dressing up, but there is nothing old-fashioned about them.

Mum’s the word in politics

There was a time when being a working mother was a perilous business.

The way to manage it was to pretend that your children did not exist.

If you acted like you didn’t have them then so would your employer, and that way you would be allowed your job.

But there were no concessions: no carers’ rights, no way you could take a couple of hours off for sports day.

If your child woke up ill you faced that crisis secretly.

Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? And it was. A disgusting time when, though the prime minister was a mother herself, that made no difference.

But gradually, what with Labour government and EU rules, that changed, and being a working mother is no longer a secret struggle.

Circumstances are so changed that former Tory leadership contender Andrea Leadsom tried to use her motherhood in her pitch for the job, saying that she would do a better job because she cared about the country’s future more than someone who did not have offspring.

It failed spectacularly - as it should have done - and left the way clear for her rival Theresa May. I am pleased though that Andrea Leadsom felt confident enough to refer to her status as a mother - it means we have come a long way.

It is now accepted by all but the most stupid that being a mother does not make you any worse at a job - but it does not necessarily make you any better either.

And as a mother who always worked I can confirm that my views about the future are the same as any childless person - hazy but hopeful.

Chris Evans - It’s okay to have a reverse gear

Say what you like about Chris Evans, and I know many of you will, but he is the very definition of the gracious loser.

Since his departure from Top Gear he has been generous about everyone still working on the show and completely upfront about his own failure.

Chris took on the job in a blaze of publicity and ego. He couldn’t stop talking about his new job, it felt like whole radio breakfast shows were devoted to his delighted...gloating.

But after one series it was all over. His performance was forced and shouty while that of his co-host Matt LeBlanc was laid-back and likeable. Some presenters would have just gone quiet at this point, but not Chris Evans.

He has said he tried his best, admitted he was hopeless, agreed with everyone that Matt LeBlanc was great, and sailed on. You might think it has all been said through gritted teeth, but I don’t think so. I think Chris Evans’ greatest talent is that he can see right through his own absurdity.