Dig chic

Excavatus! My workmen making sand disappear very very slowly.

Excavatus! My workmen making sand disappear very very slowly.

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.

shabby chic: the state of J's socks

shabby chic: the state of J’s socks

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.

A very eminent egyptologist looking a fool

A very eminent egyptologist looking like a fool


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.

4 thoughts on “Dig chic

  1. dapperdolly

    Lol great writing style. Regarding the appearance of archaeologists lol well at least they usually start off smart in fairly good quality sports gear i.e. camping/mountaineering/rough terrain clothing… which then carry out their purpose to the fullest. My colleagues used to make fun of my clothes saying they were too fashionable or intentionally put together to match but I never did that or wore designer fashion (never actually bought any in my life) for field work. I remember a bunch of them thinking me stupid for having a Tommy (in the style of Tommy Hilfiger) fleece jumper at a camping trip but ignorant as they were they didn’t realize it was a regular sports jumper bought at a clearance price and I still wear it now 12 years later! Also some people just don’t get scruffy no matter what, I generally don’t get dirty or at least nothing much sticks to me e.g. I worked on a farm in the mud and manure and only my wellies had a little muck on them. The same applies for other demarcations e.g. I got caught on a barbed wire fence and there was no tear/rip in my trousers (thank you Peter Storm men’s waterproof pants). The opposite is true for homewear, I’m always getting stuff on my home clothes but that said they last decades. I had a friend from Sweden who was far more immaculate that me though, she could wear designer clothes on a dig and stay clean.

  2. India-blu

    I am so loving reading these stories!!!
    You have an awesome sense of humour (snorted hugely and extremely unlady like at “various shades of dirt”)
    Thank you so much for sharing xx


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