Builder’s Bums


Sent to do the shopping recently, I confronted yet another builder’s bum in the supermarket aisle. This started me wondering about the folly of using the law to set standards for the type of apparel that people should be allowed to wear. For example, what parts of the body should, or should not, be exposed for public viewing?

I remembered the case of the naked hiker Stephen Gough who kept getting arrested in his attempts to hike naked (well – not quite – he had boots and a hat on) around Scotland. It seems that naked hikers are quite common. Should I ever take up hiking, I have no desire to meet naked hikers, but what should I do if I met any? Stephen Gough ended up serving a six year term in jail, but that may reflect more on the judiciary and John Knox than the sensitivity of affronted Jocks .

The burqa, now the subject of great controversy in Europe, has been banned in France, a ban now being challenged in the ECtHR. It would be odd (some may think unjust)  if there is a freedom to go naked and no freedom to go completely clothed. This isn’t quite the case of course. The issue is wearing something that conceals the face ‘in a public place’. In Canada they have banned the wearing of masks at ‘illegal’ protest, however, the UK has rejected such proposals (so far).

There are circumstances that make it reasonable to see someone’s face. I would have thought it equally reasonable not to see people exposing themselves (whatever we take that to mean) in certain circumstances. I doubt if Stephen Gough would be welcome at a supermarket, All of which I’m sure is a legal minefield, but if such laws were to be introduced in the UK guess who would avoid being arrested in the following slide show?

Maybe the real point to all of this is the right to exert control over what apparel someone can wear and the lawful authority in exerting such control. How can the law regulate and enforce, what is – most often – only contentious within the ethos of a family? Especially when such contention is clearly not apparent amongst families often encountered, where three generations are dressed like a doxy in their contemporary ‘hot-pants’ or ‘mini-skirts’.

Pity the poor male! On three occasions during my lifetime maintaining eye contact with a female became really difficult, the first being the 60s when mini-skirts became fashionable. Then females began burning their bra’s, compounding an already uncontrollable male trait.  Now, in the 21st century, it seems that the only apparel society wishes to ban, is that covering of the face.

Mentioning mini-skirts reminded me Albert Haddock and one of his last trials. In 1967 Haddock must have been close to my present age, when he found himself seated on a London underground opposite three young girls dressed in mini-skirts. I can’t recall the exact circumstances of the case, but the upshot was that Haddock found himself in court charged with ‘behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace’. He was found guilty and – naturally – appealed against the verdict.

At the appeal, the Counsel for the Crown asked the court to say that ‘It was the duty of a gentleman in Mr Haddock’s position, to close his eyes and keep them closed till he heard his destination announced’. Thankfully the judge thought that this would be an intolerable invasion of individual liberty and he ruled that ‘It was the duty of any female who entered a railway train in a non- or minimum skirt to remain standing till her journey was terminated’. How times have changed!

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Hello, I’m Ed Conway, Economics Editor of Sky News, and this is my website. Blogposts, stuff about my books and a little bit of music

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