Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White trainers

Some prisoners wear their clothing as symbols of their status, with pristine white Reeboks or Nike attempting to declare that the wearer is not one of the hoi-poloi.

Thank God, I've never been impressed by the label-culture. Either people are worth knowing as individuals, or they are arses, and what they wear doesn't disguise which side of that line they fall.

Some status choices baffle me, perhaps revealing how long I have been out of mainstream society. Tracksuits, for instance, which some use to project an image of wealth, have never looked to me like anything more than romper-suits for adults.

At a deeper level, 'decent' clothing signals that either the prisoner has money of his own to buy them, or is sufficiently well thought of by family and friends that they will supply them. All of this goes into the mix that, finally, results in social status.

Some take this to extremes, replacing one pair of white trainers with a new pair as soon as any scuff mark mars their face. One neighbour of mine used to signal his status with toys, particularly his watch. It was a nice watch, a couple of thousand quid's worth of Omega.

But lest he got too carried away with the idea that having money made him a better person, whenever he attempted to dazzle me with this technology I used to say to him, "Pity you couldn't afford the top of the range model..."

In such close confinement with a wide range of people, it has probably stood me in good stead that we have to judge people more for who they are than their status or wealth. Being unimpressed by baubles allows me to see the person instead of his facade.


  1. Same on the inside as it is on the outside it seems...

  2. This is a great blog. I worked in the prison system for some years as a chaplain and counsellor, and it's rare to find something online that tells the truth about UK jails, both the funny and the soul-searingly sad.

  3. When you say 'neighbour' do you mean inside or out?

    I work in a prison (civilian) and am not supposed to wear much jewellery - or at least not anything that looks expensive...

  4. IT seems there are some similarities between prison life and life on the outside then. The same crap goes on out here too.