The Gown

So there is this thing at Oxford Uni (and possibly other places too, I don’t know, and no I’m not pretentious enough to feel the need to call it the hallowed and almighty University of Oxford) called a subfusc. When I read about this in fresher’s handbooks etc I was SO confused. Literally, what the fusc? It isn’t obviously an abbreviation of anything and it doesn’t denote or describe anything in particular. It turns out that this is the formal get-up required for sitting exams, being matriculated (basically a ceremony whereby one is sworn into the university in Latin by a bloke you’ll never see again and the Classics students will tell you has awful Latin pronunciation anyway) and attending certain formal uni events or occasions. 

Recently policies allowed diversification by not constraining or limiting women or men to wearing either a skirt or trousers for example, but it remains that a black skirt/trousers with white shirt/blouse must be worn with black socks/tights/stockings and shoes must be worn with either a white bowtie or black velvet ribbon at the neck topped off with a gown.

The gowns are perhaps the most iconic of this farcical game of dress-up and vary depending on your ‘status’ (I suppose that is what it is best called). So if you are a doctor, professor, postgraduate, fellow, undergraduate etc there will be different types of gown. The two types I’m aware of for undergraduates are the ‘commoner’s gown’ and the ‘scholar’s gown’. Basically, most people wear the ‘commoner’s gown’ and then academic clerks (choral scholars), instrumental scholars and people who did awesomely well in exams in first year for example will wear a scholar’s gown, sometimes allegedly dubbed the ‘twat gown’. Anyhow.

Naturally, I wear the commoner’s gown. The best thing about this is not the gown itself but the fact that when I went back to Newcastle and my friends at work were asking me about it all and I mentioned this commoner’s gown they flew off the handle and told me that I should tell them to f*ck off and tell them to sort themselves out before I could explain that this was not a gown specially designed for the Northerner, state comprehensive school-educated, non-disgustingly-rich student, or indeed me specifically, but something that most students wear.

Anyway, walking around town in these means that you are put in the interesting position of either avoiding and storming grumpily past all tourists or embrace the situation. And charge them for photographs. 

Now, I don’t fall massively into either of these categories but today after getting slightly fed up about having to put on all this rubbish just to turn pages for the my friend’s accompanist for her prelims recital I decided I would take advantage of the situation. Not only were more of the uni students astonished to see me walking through the streets with purpose in my smart black and white get-up with startlingly bright green and pink shoes but I managed to get the tourists too. Not sure whether most of them were just hideously confused or actually became crazily over-excited, but it was worth attaching my Hogwarts crest to my gown for my own pleasure as much as anyone else’s. Such satisfaction.

In case you were wondering, I do have a crest for each house but in all honesty I have a bit of a house identity crisis, I won’t get into it here because it’s all quite troubling for me, but I expect you get the gist, so I just wear the full school crest. However, if you do think you could help alleviate this dilemma of mine then please do let me know.

A summary of the day post this point in individual words is as follows:

  • Tuba
  • Pages
  • Pub
  • Pimms
  • Postcards
  • Beatles
  • Penguins
  • Essay
  • Omelette
  • Huggle
  • Essay
  • Eyelids

And I think I’ll leave it there, I’m sure you can imagine something more fun that what actually happened if I just leave you with these clues.

Hope you feel illuminated and enjoy the rest of your day, night, week and year. After that I genuinely don’t care. Enjoyment can go out the window. My good wishes only currently extend to 365 days after your reading of this. And I am deadly serious.


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