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Primary Schadenfreude Revival’s Greatest Hits - A little socioeconomic history saga - Part 3

OK, I know that neither of my examples examples even approaches the daily humiliations of millions of disadvantaged people of all ages and races. That said, attention is regularly focused, quite rightly, I think, on the longer term effects of such apparently minor childhood and adolescent experiences.

Consider, for example, what Conan Doyle might have titled the curious case of the non-uniform uniform. There is, (or was), a fairly widespread idea that school uniform was some kind of benign social equalising agent. Uniform, so the theory goes, eliminates glaring inequalities of cost and quality of individually chosen clothing, style etc..

Some time after having left school, I compared notes about this with a friend from another school. His experiences accurately mirrored mine.

Take blazers, for instance. Many of us were ensconced in rather shapeless, baggy affairs, of a mysterious woolly consistency. A minority, however, clearly had tailors of an altogether different social stratum, or should one say cut? Their blazers consisted of some ethereally light material, minimal of thickness and smooth of surface. Where ours terminated in soon-to-be-ragged continuous edges, theirs sported neat little vents, matching the commendably slender lapels and delicate stitching, heralding future sartorial elegance.

Again, I’m not pretending that this necessarily gave rise to any instant deeply-rooted angst, envy or complex, but classmates’ expressions spoke volumes.

Much later came my wife’s confirmation, with all her authority as a Head of Department. “Oh, yes, that’s long been acknowledged, now.”

It’s nice to know one hadn’t imagined it all.



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