This piece was written on 28 August 2015
My diary reveals that five years ago this weekend several newspapers reported that West Midlands Police had 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. Later, a police spokesman said: "There's no new force policy on underwear, but all officers and staff coming into contact with the public are asked to adopt a common-sense approach when choosing what underwear is worn so that they remain smart."
I am aware that my young great nephews and their friends all seem to wear trousers that hang so low off the hips that the top inches of their underwear is visible. They assure me that “everyone wears their trousers like that these days”. I am, of course, also aware that teenage girls today 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. Apparently the girls’ skirts are of regulation length whilst at school but, as soon as they leave for home, they roll several inches up into the waistband.
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? Does my left sock match the right and do they both 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 remember the dreadful 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 August 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 we were told that but I don’t remember anyone daring to ask 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. Unlike the police officers mentioned above, It was not permitted to wear civilian underpants underneath our uniform – if you did, you could be found out and humiliated during an FFI. (If you don’t know what an FFI is and you really, really want to know, visit this page on this website where all will be revealed - in words, not pictures.)