The Appropriation of Country-Clothing

Ian Donnell discusses how he has been victimised for his sense of dress in the past, and addresses the contradiction in people mocking him, whilst appropriating his country- style of dress for their own hierarchical use.  

It seems a mere blink since I first moved to St Andrews, now over two years ago. I remember vividly at that time a fellow resident of St Regulus Hall asking me if I had come to St Andrews to study or audition for a role in Monarch of the Glen. I could see from where the sarcastic jibe was drawn, a wardrobe laden with corduroy, tweed and tartan.

As amusing as it was to be likened to an eccentric character of the acclaimed highland drama, I have never appreciated the assumption my sense of dress follows some non-existent childhood in a Highland Castle, or worse some unfounded self-obsession that I am the lost prodigy of a wealthy Laird.

In my time at St Andrews I have inevitably met people who fall into both of these categories and indeed share my sense of dress. However, I have met a dying few who, like myself, are neither deluded nor landed gentry. The countrymen of St Andrews.

The real countrymen of this town are ashamed by people who have hijacked our tweed and red trousers and use them as a uniform of privilege, a guise for intolerance -tweed jackets brought from the wardrobe for exclusive social functions and the sole purpose of ostentatious display.

Sadly this has become the perception of a tweed clad young man, that he is an idiot. The few genuine country-folk amongst us are as likely to be found wearing our tweed at an agricultural show as we are in a pub with a pint of Yorkshire Ale or dram of Scotch Whiskey. Not, like so many, in an effort to climb the greasy pole of St Andrews’ most elitist societies.

I watch with amusement the days of the drizzle in these autumn months, for I know that if one molecule of H20 should happen to fall from the sky, throngs of Hunter-booted students will pour onto the streets in a struggle to battle the 2-feet deep torrents of water to class.  Country people wear wellies to wade through cow-dung, I imagine the last time most of the St Andrews population saw a cow may have been between two pieces of bread in Blackhorn.

The urbanite masses, and pretentious elitists have appropriated our country-culture, and in doing so made the genuine rural dwellers looks ridiculous. It’s time to reclaim our image. Countrymen of St Andrews – put your best Aigle forward.

Mucky wellies are ok, it’s a privilege to have been given Daddy’s Barbour even though it’s slightly dowdy, the smell of silage in our quilted jackets add character, we don’t need to secretly dispose of the empty shotgun cartridges from our pockets, it’s not embarrassing that our corduroys have a small tear from crossing a barbed wire fence and, yes, my spaniel did chew the ends of my shoe laces, so what?

It’s easy to lose yourself at University, to be influenced by people around you and led to a place where you feel uncomfortable, but believe it to be a necessary transition to conformity. It’s important to remember who you are, to be comfortable in yourself and what you wear. Don’t change your style because you feel other people who share your sense of dress have questionable principles.

This is a call not only to country people but to all to express yourself openly in your fashion.