For the last two days I’ve had an additional team of workmen on top of my usual lot. This set me off wondering about questions of style. My workmen, who are of the older persuasion, are what you might call steady (as in still and unmoving) and they wear galibiyas. These are the long flowing robes that are seen everywhere in the Egyptian countryside in various shades of dirt. I have a personal preference for galibiyas as they appeal to my grubby orientalist fantasies of which I have to be ashamed. I also own several, made for me by the village tailor, which I use as nightshirts and to pretend I go to Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry.
The other team of workmen do not wear galibiyas but the sort of polyester-based sports-casual look that fails to flatter the young and poor all over the world. I’ve noticed that, unlike the galibiya-wearing community, few of the sports casual crowd dare to smoke. I think the difference generally comes down to attitude and the problem that galibiyas are dreadful things to play football in.
There are also questions of style where archaeologists are concerned. I hold it to be true that no good can come of anyone who shows up in a Bear Grills branded shirt or a cowboy hat. Walking sandals are the lowest form of shoe (bar Crocs (no offence L, I’m sure they’re very comfortable)). In general, I dig in my old clothes until the holes get to the point where I can no longer identify the correct one to get in.
Of course, sometimes the requirements of the service can lead to brave fashion choices. A site I work on in Sudan requires us all to button our shirts to the top and our sleeves to the bottom and tuck in everything which can be tucked to prevent the infiltration of tiny biting flies. This leads to all of us looking a bit like the prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption.
Archaeologists, for the most part, look a terrible mess. I was once walking to the bus stop with a colleague while on a commercial job in the UK. I was waiting while my co-worker tied his shoelace in a shop doorway when a man gave him £5 because he thought we were homeless.