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THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Here, hair, here


Al Gilkes, [email protected]

THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Here, hair, here

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THE RECENT DICTATE from the current head of Harrison College could be compressed into a nutshell with three simple words – here, hair, hear.

Expanded, it expressed the ruling that if you are at school here, you have to hear what I say about how you must wear your hair.

Despite the fuss generated, such regulations about style and fashion for students in Barbadians schools are nothing new and if you listen to Mark Williams’ Looking Back radio programme, you will often hear vivid memories about back-in-the-day school times when at assembly the pupils had to stand in line with hands outstretched and palms down as well as with heads bare in the hot morning sun as teachers did daily army-like inspections armed with rulers, pencils and straps.

Each pupil was subjected to an inspection of his/her fingernails and woe betide those with any signs of dirt beneath, because down would come the ruler painfully across the offending hand or fingers.

Then came the test or running a pencil through the hair and, as with the fingernails, if any knots were found, indicating it had not been combed that morning, down came the strap across the unfortunate little one’s back. Some schools also provided “broken teet” combs for such unfortunate children to “pull off their skulls” getting the knots out of their naturally God-given knotty hair.

In recent years, we have seen pants and skirts being measured to ensure they comply with the school regulations about shortness and length, students being sent home for wearing the wrong styles in shoes, and so on and so on.

It was no different in my own time and one day I found myself at the brunt of the headmaster’s castigation for wearing a pair of pants that were not in keeping with the school’s regulations.

I was in sixth form where long pants were the order. However, they had to be made of a specific dark grey colour flannel with mandatory pleats on the front and loose fitting or ‘blowing in the wind’, as was the saying.

Just about that time, a new male fashion fad started to sweep across the United States and was catching on in Barbados. It was the Cisco Boy pants, which carried no pleats, were slim and straight like jeans, allowing no blowing in the wind, made of material other than flannel and carried a buckle to the back, probably to identify the brand.

Unfortunately for me, a relative who worked in Florida, brought me down two pairs of Cisco Boy pants, one of which happened to be grey and in which I walked through the gates on the Crumpton Street institution the day after I received the gift.

The mid-morning break found me being the star of the day among my peers, and so it was that as I wallowed in their bigging up admiration, out of the blue I heard the dreaded voice of headmaster Hammond thundering my name: “Mr Gilkes.”

Having been a regular visitor during my school life to his office, where I was made to bend over a chair to endure burning tamarind rod lashes for committing one infraction of another, I immediately started heading in that direction when he continued to shout: “What horrible trousers!…….”

Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.
Email: [email protected]

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