Underwear Matters: Written on 19 August 2010
Sorry to bring up the subject of underwear, but when did you last study a police officer’s undergarments? Never, I imagine, unless you are a police officer, or you live in the West Midlands. Several newspapers today (19 August 2010) report that West Midlands Police have decreed that their male and female officers should not reveal details of their underwear to the public whilst on duty in uniform. Officers are, apparently, to ensure that they choose under-garments of “appropriate colour” and ensure that said garments are “inconspicuous” under their outer garments.
I am aware that my young nephews and their friends all seem to wear trousers that hang so low off the hips that the top few inches of their underpants are visible. They assure me that “everyone wears their trousers like that these days”. I am, of course, also aware that girls seem to wear skirts that are so short that they make the mini-skirts I remember fondly from my younger days seem unduly modest by comparison. I am more concerned at my advanced age about how I look to other people. Does the colour of my trousers ‘go with’ the colour of my shirt? Do my socks match my shoes? Is my bald patch bigger than it was last time I went to the hairdresser? Is my waistline increasing? Is my zip done up?
Whilst on the delicate subject of underpants, how many men still remember the underwear the RAF issued to Regulars and National Servicemen in the 1950s? Known officially as ‘drawers, cellular’, they were extremely uncomfortable. We were issued with three pairs in 1953 when I signed on. Apparently, that was so that we had one pair to wear, one pair at the laundry, and one pair ‘for emergencies’. Our minds boggled when the storeman told us that, but I don’t remember anyone daring to ask him what constituted an emergency.
After several launderings, RAF drawers cellular exhibited an unfortunate deterioration in their quality. How shall I explain it without being indecent? I know: the ‘front’ entrance lost its elasticity and, therefore, its ability to contain what the garment was supposed to contain. We were not permitted to wear civilian underpants underneath our uniform – if you did, you could be found out in the sports changing rooms or humiliated during one of the occasional FFIs.