Simon Rebels Over Trouser Ruling

Note: article in English newpaper

Midland schoolboy Simon McCarthy hates having to show a leg at assembly. But the 5 ft tall 11-year old is supposed to wear short trousers until he graduates to high school next year. Now his mother has rebelled against the ruling which she claims makes her son the laughing stck of the playground at Coleshill. "it is not as if he wears jeans, or anything unconventional," said Mrs. Gillian McCarthy, of Stonebridge Road. "I have kitted him out with regulation type trousers because he looks so silly in shorts. Simon, who missed going to Coleshill High School by four days because his birthday falls on September 4, is a pupil at St. Edward's Primary School. [Accompanied photograph with caption: The long and short ... a composite pictiure of Coleshill schoolboy Simon McCarthy hapily wearing his long trousers and glumly his shorts outside St. Edward's Primary School]
Birmingham Evening Mail, September 18, 1978

The Landmark in a Boy's Life

RECENTLY, a ten-year-old boy was sent home from a London junior school for turning up for lessons in Long trousers. Only boys of 12 and over were allowed to wear the regulation grey worsted, said the headmaster in a note to the youngster's parents.

Then, next day, came a report from a borough that a ten-year-old bad been turned away from school ... for wearing short trousers! Here, the ruling apparently was shorts in summer, long trousers in winter.

No wonder so many parents are now asking: "Just when should our sons get their first suits of long trousers?" And the answer, from an increasing number of children's psychiatrists, is as late as possible.

"Childhood is growing shorter and shorter," explains Dr. Adrian Bainbridge, a psychiatrist at London's St. George's Hospital. "There's a danger that youngsters are being pressured into adult ways before they're able to cope with them.


"They tend to become little men at seven or eight. Keep them in short trousers for another two or three years and you will help to keep them children."

What that first pair of long trousers means to a boy is apparently something no woman can ever understand.

Indeed, studies show that it's only after they've got their first grown-up gear that the majority of boys start taking any interest in girls.

Dr. Arthur Beavis, author of a standard book on adolescence, says that few men ever forget the day they get their first pair of long trousers.

"I was 12", he recalls. "My father took me one Saturday morning to a clothing store in the town. It was the first--and last--time my father ever took me shopping.

"I-remember feeling that something pretty important was happening, and that things would never be quite the same again."

Studies show that a surprising number of boys, realising that the carefree days of childhood are numbered, actually try to keep wearing shorts for as long as possible. But today they are certainly in a minority.


"Recently I was asked by major manufacturer to create a range of long-trousered double-breasted suits for six and seven-year-olds," says Tom Pouitney, a London male fashion designer with an international reputation.

"I thought it was ridiculous but I did it. Apparently it's been an enormously successful line.

Of course, over ten years ago this long-versus-short conflict was a minor problem for parents because there were few ranges of long trousers available for boys under ten.

"Jeans changed all that, says Tom Pouitney. "Before that, it was shorts summer and winter, with long and short socks, according to the temperature.

"Now two-year-olds are wearing fashion jeans regardless of whether they're boys or girls. There's no doubt that unisex started in the nursery."

But it's not a trend all doctors encourage. "In the summer, I often see small children whose legs are completely lacking a sun tan," says a family physician.

"Not only is it healthy for the sun to get on their skin, but it's better psychologically, too. Decked out in their finery they seem afraid to get dirty. It seems all wrong to me."

Strangely, social status even income, seems to have a lot to do with when short trousers are discarded.

For instance, Dr. Bainbridge has noted that the higher up the social scale parents seem to be, the later their children get their first long trousers.

"Progressive left-wing parents are usually the first to put their boys into long pants," he says. "followed by Liberals. Right-wing Conservatives are last. They stick out for early teen years if they can."


Other studies have shown that, as a general rule, a boy who goes early into long trousers tends to be one who takes a pride in his clothes almost to the point of being too fastidious.

Nor does it follow that those who pressure their parents into buying them long trousers as early as possible are the most sophisticated and mature. Often, it would seem, it's just the reverse; they seem to need the maturity that they think adult clothes will bring.

Certainty, from a parent's point of view, the change is to be avoided for as long as possible.

An investigation into the cost of children's clothes, made last year as part of an extensive study of family expenditure, showed that a boy in long-trousered suits needed almost twice the money spending on him as someone of the same age still wearing shorts.

If there's any better reason for keeping these youngsters in short trousers for as long as possible, hard-up parents would certainly like to hear it.

By Helen Howard

Uniform is Cheaper

I was very pleased to read your editorial comment (Mail, May I5) regarding school uniform. I supply uniform to pupils of 52 schools in and around Solihull, and obviously come into contact with thousands of parents. Ninety per cent of my customers are pleased to have, or wish the schools were more strict about uniform.

The problems caused at home with children who complain that their friends have the "latest gear" and they want it, when they have perfectly good clothing, you would never believe. Of course cost is a common argument against uniform, but what tommy rot. The cost of keeping up with constant fashion changes of the day, is much higher than buying one complete outfit of uniform and wearing it until it wears out, or until the child grows out of it.

I can quote from many instances, where parents from non-uniform schools complain terribly abut how their children are shown up because the parent cannot afford to keep buying the latest new fashions for her child to keep up with friends.

I am not biased towards uniform because I sell it, for if there was no uniform requirement, I would sell more basic clothing, as I sell both. The four moat popular schools in our Borough are all uniform-minded. Surely no co-incidence? The 'poor' (who Is really poor these days with Stale help etc.) often say they Cannot afford uniform. Surely these people do not have just one outfit for their children to wear from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.? Therefore one's second outfit should, be uniform.

C. G. Burt, Solihull.

Christopher Wagner

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Created: March 21, 1998