AS a 14-year-old schoolgirl – and like every other 14-year-old before me – I loathed school uniform.
So, I would roll the top of my skirt over to make it shorter, push my socks down to my ankles and insist on sporting a coat which was the height of fashion but non-regulation and which got me into detention on a regular basis.
“It’s not a fashion parade,” the headmistress would chide.
But it was. And still is.
So I am wholeheartedly behind the plan by one Wirral school to ban pupils from wearing designer coats in a bid to combat “poverty shaming”. Brands on the hit list at Woodchurch High include Moncler, Canada Goose and Pyrenex.
Of course, “poverty shame”’ has been with us for a long time.
I remember the kids in my school dinner queue who had to present token to get their lumpy mash and runny custard – denoting they were on free school meals.
But designer brands were unheard and – free school meals or otherwise – me and my school chums were all generally in the same boat; I didn’t know anyone whose family had cash to splash.
Here is 2018, however, there is a real gap between the haves and have-nots and the pressure on mums and dads to help their kids fit in by wearing the latest trainers or labels is enormous.
I know some parents are against the ban. After all, if they’ve shelled out their hard-earned cash for a coat why shouldn’t their kid wear it?
But why would you send your kid to school in a piece of clothing worth hundreds of pounds that’s in danger of getting lost or nicked?
And if it helps reduce poverty stigma – even if its unintentional – then what’s the problem?
I KNOW the John Lewis Christmas advert hasn’t been met with universal acclaim – there’s a definite lack of schmaltz in it for a start. And I understand why it’s accused of being a shameless plug for Elton John.
But there’s something about the message contained in it – that you never know the effect one gift can have – that strikes a chord.
For Elton it was a piano which led to a lifelong love of music and a billlion-dollar career.
For me it was a set of pens which led to a lifelong love of words and a job on the ECHO.
If only I’d been given a guitar …
First published in the Liverpool Echo, 17 November 2018.