Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The New Guide Uniform

Well, it's here.  We had to go through the usual pantomime of  'embargoed' information which arrived (with me at least) less than 2 hours before the photos were all over the front pages of the national newspapers anyway, and now we are going through the backlash where everyone declaims on how awful it is.  As has been done with all new uniform launches right back to the start of the movement.  And we can now use the term 'uniform launches', because the term 'uniform' is back!

If I'm honest, my own first impressions, having seen only the handful of photos, aren't exactly enthusiastic.

But almost everyone who is rushing to judge it (including me) hasn't seen it 'in the flesh'.  All we have seen of it is a handful of photographs.  So we haven't yet seen how the colours will really look when worn, or what like the cut is on different body shapes, or what sort of fabric it is, or what sort of detailing there is.  We just don't know how it will launder, or how functional it will be for hot/cold weather.  We can't really judge on how flexible the sizing will be or how it will work for different height/build combinations, or how it will look if parents buy with the inevitable 'room for growth'!  We've only seen a few pictures of a few individuals, which makes it hard to tell how it will look 'en masse'.

So I watch with interest those who claim that that as soon as they finish typing their comments they will rush to try and buy up enough second-hand items of the current uniform to keep their unit going well beyond 2016 - or those who are fast-tracking plans to get 'unit garments' made and intend to pretend to the girls and parents that such garments are equivalent to uniform and are fine to wear at unit meetings instead of the official garments - regardless of the fact the guidelines clearly state that's not the case.

And yet - most of the opinions I have heard to date - have been from adults, or adults reporting on what girls have apparently said (some of these adults must have spent much of the morning chasing up their members, given the number who are saying 'all my Guides think . . .').  And it has been mainly adult opinions on social media fora, Leader or parent discussion forums, and newspaper 'have your say' message boards.  Their views may, or may not, be a match for what the girls themselves really think - after all, it's by no means unknown for adults and teenagers to disagree on questions of fashion!

One positive change is that the guidelines are now clearer, for all of the other sections as well as for Guides.  The ongoing confusion between 'Guidewear' and 'memberwear' has been cleared up, so at least we now all know whether we are obeying the guidelines or breaking them.  We now know what is considered as 'formal unform' for special events, which will resolve the many arguments of the past few years over what is respectful/appropriate to wear when participating in formal parades and receptions.  Of course, the publishing of guidelines will automatically cue up a whole lot of fresh grumbles - any situation where flexibility is replaced by guidance will always produce those, and we've had plenty of the predictable 'stuff the rules, who's going to report us' reactions.

But I'm reminded of a saying which can apply to a lot of these situations - "today's headlines are tomorrow's chip-paper".  I've been around long enough to remember the major controversy there was back in 1990 when 'uniform uniform' was replaced by a mix-and-match range, and the single uniform for each section was replaced with a situation where individuals were actually meant to choose for themselves what items to wear, with a ban on having 'unit policies'.  Of the fuss over baseball caps being considered uniform, and that there were no actual skirts amongst the range, and the numbers who claimed they were going to resign over it - and it's fascinating to see that with these recent changes, people are suddenly treating the 1990s uniform as 'the good old days' . . .

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