Should poets have a uniform and if so, what would they wear? - Ian McMillan

My son-in-law Steve is a postman so you know when he’s at work because he’s got his uniform on.

What might a poet's uniform look like, asks Ian McMillan. (JPIMedia)

He looks like a postman because he is a postman and vice versa. I just typed “poetman” in error and that’s the nub of the dilemma I’m facing in this still new-ish year: how will people know I’m a poet (or a poetman) when I’m walking down the street?

How can I show people that I’m hard at work when it looks like I’m just staring out of the window? Like a postal worker or a police officer or a train driver, I need some kind of uniform to perform the dual function of making me stand out from the crowd and make me blend in so that anybody spotting me will just say: “Oh, there’s the poetman on his rounds.”

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The question is, what kind of uniform do I need? Would I need something almost quasi-military like a copper’s, or something with a red nose and huge shoes like a clown?

After much consideration, I’ve plumped for something between the two; something that has tinges of subtlety and the odd splash of eccentricity. I think I’ll start with a cravat.

I’m more of a woolly scarf man really, particularly in this weather, but I reckon a nice delicately-coloured cravat would immediately mark me out as a poet because, let’s face it, only bohemian types like poets wear cravats.

I have to admit that I’ve got to the age of 65 without ever having let a cravat anywhere near my neck, so I’m not quite sure how to wear one; are they tight or loose? Do you let them flow behind you in the wind? Should there be a pattern on it? Typewriters, perhaps, or laptops?

All these are considerations for another day because I need to think more deeply about my uniform before I venture out onto the streets for inspiration.

I think a monocle would help me to look like a poet; after all, who but a poet would wear (or should that be sport?) a monocle these days? A monocle would give me a dashing air, and the monocle/cravat ensemble would shout to the world “Careful! Poet at work! Don’t interrupt his chain of thought or it’ll go rusty!”

Just like I’ve never let a cravat near my neck, I’ve never let a monocle near me eye. I wonder if you have to screw them in as though they’re a lid and your eye is a bottle of pop? Do you just lean your head back and place it carefully like you’re putting eyedrops in?

So, I’ve got the cravat and monocle; now, like a lot of people, I need a lanyard round my neck with my name and photograph on a plastic rectangle: Ian McMillan. Poet. Will the lanyard fit under or over my cravat? Ah, so many decisions for the poet-about-town in his uniform.

Right, that’s the cravat tied loosely, the monocle slotted in and the lanyard over the cravat and hanging like a mayoral chain.

Now it’s time to venture out for my one permitted stroll. Do you think they’ll know I’m a poet?