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New police uniform: Much ado about nothing

Being 75 per cent colour blind, as I believe all men are, I am unable to decide the precise shade of blue that the new police uniform falls under.

You see, I am told there are various shades of blue, just as there are of red and green, but let’s start with blue so that we do not argue until we go blue in the face. The last time I checked, which was ages ago, there was navy blue, sky blue, true blue (this one is a mystery: aren’t the others true, too?), azure blue, and dark blue.

For obvious reasons, we shall raise queries why certain types of movie are referred to as blue, or why we say certain things occur once in a blue moon. Whoever heard of a blue moon anyway?

As far as uniforms go, there must be hundreds of theories why they are chosen, or indeed why somebody decided on them. But it makes sense that we should have uniforms in schools, colleges, training institutions, and all cadres of forces, such as police, army, navy and so on and so forth.

But the new police uniform, which has raised plenty of hullabaloo in the social media especially, has rekindled memories of an era bygone.

Of course, the boys in blue, as we fondly refer to them have come a long way. Just before the dark blue trousers and light blue shorts, they had beige trousers and a shirt. Pretty dull, if you ask me.

They looked like they were cheese marketers. But just before that outfit, they had short khaki trousers and woollen tops, which must have made their lives a hell on earth, what with our insufferable heat in the middle of the tropics!

It was the short trousers that made them the butt of many a joke, especially out there in the villages where the sight of a cop was as rare as the lunar eclipse.

It was said that they were ironed using starch, which ensured the crease at the front and back was such that the garment got so stiff the wearers could prop them up on the ground and jump into them before pulling them up.

For reasons that should be clear to you, no one ever saw this happening.

In between this garment and the boots, polished to an impressive, mirror-like sheen was what the cops called Batithi. This was a woollen sash, tied around the shins to protect the feet from the sharp edges of the boots, which would otherwise cause bruises.

Bulging tummies

Of course, those making the loudest noises about the new blue outfit for our cops have no idea that at some point they wore shorts, just like we did in primary school.

To tell you the truth, I saw pictures of top cop Boinnet in the new outfit and he sure looked good. And not because blue is my favourite colour. Of course, you might ask what is in a particular colour. Go ahead and ask. I will not pretend to have a really convincing answer but sample this.

In neighbouring countries, their army dons plain green, which is reserved here for the Kenya Forest Service and the National Youth Service.

And you can imagine my shock when I first visited Tanzania and Uganda and wondered why they had deployed their Navy corps to man traffic. Little did I know these were traffic cops! Back in the seventies, as a nursery school chap, our uniforms were brown shorts, but with an apron at the front to cover the bulging tummies. This apron had straps, which were fastened at the back, to ensure the shorts didn’t fall.

These uniforms were sheer terror for us, youngsters, for even to go to pee, you had to seek adult help, in our case the teacher.

But none of these experiences compares to what happened to a friend of mine who wore a maroon jacket, black trousers and bow tie for an evening out years back.

Immediately he stepped into a restaurant, a patron yelled at him: “What’s wrong with you? We are seated here, we have not been served and all you can do is stand there and stare at nothing in particular? Are you on a go-slow or something?”

My friend was completely at sea, but a quick look around revealed that he was dressed in the complete outfit of the waiters! Maybe uniforms have their uses. As for me, I don’t know. If we meet in the streets, let’s discuss this further. Have a uniform-free week, folks! – The writer is Special Projects editor, People Daily


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