Yesterday, I was dropping off some business mail in the local Waterloo post office at around 5pm when the postman came marching in with what can only be described as a ‘swagger’. He winked at me and said hello. I smiled back at this neon yellow tabard-wearing individual and tried to place him. I turned to the chap serving me at the counter and said, “is he the postman? I thought postmen wore uniforms…” He chuckled and shook his head. I’m guessing that was a ‘no’ then.
Now I can’t quite work out when Royal Mail postmen stopped looking like postmen. And I just can’t get the image of Postman Pat out of my head, with his smart cap and shiny buttons. This might come across as snobbish, but that postman from yesterday’s encounter was a slob. He was wearing his own Nike sports trainers, some grubby tracksuit bottoms, a shapeless fleece and a grimy old yellow tabard with ‘Royal Mail’ smeared across the back, with several coloured lanyards swinging around his neck. I was horrified. I know the Royal Mail has had a tough time over the last few years – the increasing digitisation of the universe has meant that mail is becoming ‘frankly’, obsolete. Not to mention the shocking documentaries of ‘what goes on inside the sorting office’: bandit postmen helping themselves to inviting-looking packages and bulging envelopes.
Instead of vans, many postmen have to drag around pathetic-looking trollies, which usually have only 2 or 3 wheels if any. I have a friend who was a postman, now he is working a desk job in the sorting office and is much happier for it. Most recently, the astronomical increase of First Class stamp prices have meant that the Royal Mail are enduring yet another public backlash.
But what I can’t understand, is how the idea of a uniform has broken down so badly. I am a big fan of the uniform, actually. I have always worn one in school – even in my 6th form. The idea of a uniform is to allow the individual to focus on the task at hand and not suffer in their environment because without a uniform, what a person’s clothing or hair or general appearance says about them can be judged. We use our appearance to define who we are – how we are different from one another. A uniform prevents this from happening and also serves to protect and allow you to ‘belong’. And yet I did exactly that to that postman yesterday – I judged him – not because he was representing himself personally, but because he was letting down his company by his sloppy appearance.
This year more than ever, the powers that be (governmental, council, brand…) of the United Kingdom are championing national and city pride in advent of the Olympics. Just this week, Procter & Gamble launched a global campaign to ‘tidy up our flat – that is, London’. They will be cleaning away graffiti and planting flowers etc. No doubt several areas are going to get a good hosing and a lick of fresh paint. So why can’t our national representatives also get scrubbed up?
Less of this:
..and more of this, please: