Wearing colours

Wednesday, March 3, 2010
An interesting debate has been stirred up by the always interesting, often controversial Andrew Williams at Men's Flair regarding wearing regimental colours that don't 'belong' to you.

Personally, my feelings on this are pretty clear, and I'm actually slightly surprised that so many people have defended the practice. Nevertheless, arguments on both sides have been interesting, and I've weighed in with my usual lengthy comments, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain myself more clearly on my own blog.

The question centres around wearing items, in particular ties and watch straps, which bear regimental colours; is this acceptable if you have never actually served in the regiment? If we discount Walter Mittyism and actual attempts at deception, which are not even worth of discussion here, a number of reasons remain why people might do this. Some have suggested that they wish to show support for the regiment in question, likening it to wearing the colours of their favourite football team. Others have pointed out that regiments do not have a monopoly on a particular arrangement of colours any more than polo players have a monopoly on the wearing of polo shirts.



To me, neither of these arguments stand up well for one simple reason, which is convention. The convention is that a regimental (or school, or club) tie is worn only by people properly 'entitled' to it. No such convention exists around wearing a team's football top, or a polo shirt. Indeed, quite the opposite, there is a convention that wearing your team's colours is a positive thing for a football supporter to do. Showing support for a particular regiment, as opposed to showing support for the men and women of the armed forces in general, is unusual for anyone without a close family member who serves, and so claiming to be wearing a Guards tie because you 'support' the Guards is odd and, as I say, simply unconventional.

Of course, breaking with convention can be a good thing, and many (if not most) fashion advances have come by doing so. No doubt the first person to wear deck shoes other than when sailing was breaking convention, and that's no bad thing. Yet the convention of not wearing colours or symbols that you have not earned strikes me as one that it is much more important to maintain, and not to push the boundaries of. People who serve in the armed forces have a right to identify themselves, if they choose, by wearing their regimental colours, and if these colours ever simply become a fashion statement to be worn by anyone who so chooses, then that right is taken away and these historic identifiers will lose all their meaning.

If none of this matters to you, then just remember the danger that, if you wear regimental colours, sooner or later someone is bound to assume that you have served in the regiment and embarrassment for you is sure to follow. Err on the safe side and stick to generic patterns - there are plenty out there to choose from.