September 02, 2011

High Visibility

ELMO considers the yellow peril


I remember, when I were a lad* going down to see Pools lose every week. 

In those days we were in the middle of the unbeaten record run of applications for re-election to the league for bring crap. Yet despite that, crowds weren't much different from now. And the amazing thing, looking back, is that a crowd of around 5000 was regularly controlled by the grand total of four policemen, one in each corner, and not one steward.

This all came back to me while reading a recent article on the BBC website about high-visibility clothing. Apparently hi-viz came about when an American inventor married his fluorescent paint to his wife's old wedding dress. History doesn't record whether it remained a loud 1930's fashion statement, or was cut up into a jacket first, but ever since, hi-viz has gradually crept over the world like a yellow fog."...the amazing thing, looking back, is that a crowd of around 5000 was regularly controlled by the grand total of four policemen, one in each corner, and not one steward"

A recent study has revealed that people have become conditioned to doing as they're told by anyone wearing a hi-viz jacket, even though the same request would be refused from someone in ordinary clothes. This makes sense if you think about it. Policemen, road works crews and any authority figures we're likely to meet in the street will be wearing hi-viz jackets, and we're so used to that that we've subconsciously transferred the authority from the person to the jacket.

These days most of us have a hi-viz vest in our cars in case we break down (they're compulsory in some countries), and many of us are obliged to use one at work, and safety concerns of all types seem to be leading us towards wearing hi-viz every time we step outside the front door.

Now of course, back at the Vic, a similar crowd to those seen in the early sixties needs dozens of stewards to control it (and rightly so - four policemen couldn't have done much about anything). And part of their authority comes from their jackets. So, if hi-viz were to become the norm for anyone using a public footpath, you could end up with a sea of hi-viz at the Vic. In that case, what would happen to the visibility and the authority of the stewards? Would they all have to wear black suits and funny hats, just to differentiate them from the punters - and stand in the corners so we'd know where to find them?

On a lighter note, I would love to see a Dutch international football crowd all wearing orange hi-viz tops. But probably not for very long.

(*anyone else remember the Hovis ad, directed by Hartlepool College of Art old boy Ridley Scott, and once voted best ad of all time?)