What to wear if you want to annoy Buckingham Palace

I don’t care how silly it is, I have to weigh in on the flap over how the U.S. press corps dresses when Will and Kate (W. and K. from here on, because, hey, I don’t care if they’re royal, why should they get to use their full names here?) meet with President Obama (President O.).

If you haven’t been following the story, then congratulations: That shows good sense, which you can now pitch out the window while I tell you about it. Buckingham Palace issued a dress code for journalists covering the event, and threatened not to let them in if they violated it. It specified:

  • No jeans.
  • No trainers.
  • No casually dressed members of the media or technicians.
Irrelevant Photo: Cornwall's north coast

Irrelevant Photo: Cornwall’s north coast

To which one press corps member responded, “First of all, what are ‘trainers,’ or for that matter, ‘technicians’? And second, why should the United States’ press corps—who barely bother to brush the muffin crumbs off their polo shirts before lobbing questions at the President of the United States—schlep extra pieces of clothing to work just so they can make small talk with a (perfectly nice-seeming) British air ambulance pilot-in-training and a former chain-store accessories buyer?”

Buckingham Palace fired back by asking, “What’s schlep?”

Okay, that part hasn’t been publicized. It’s just one of those things I intuit.

Having established a constructive dialog, Buckingham Palace (B.P., for the sake of even-handedness) then canceled its dress code and left it up to the White House (what the hell: W.H.) to establish one. Or not. The press corps celebrated by tucking the pajamas they’d planned to wear to the press conference back under their pillows and hanging their toothpaste-flecked bathrobes back on the peg behind the bathroom door. Which strikes me as kind of sad, since I’d have loved to see the footage.

But the silliness goes on. When I looked the stories up online so I could provide links, I dipped into the comments (you’ll find some at this link and others at the link above) and found people, in all seriousness and in some cases with considerable heat, debating whether all Americans are slobs; what the W.H. press corps actually does wear; whether or not it was a sad day for the U.S.; whether the country under discussion is the U.S. or America; who won the war (unspecified, but presumably the War of Independence, a.k.a. the Revolution); whether and when K. wears underwear (don’t ask me, folks; I don’t care if she does or not, although I question the motives of people who spend their time writing about it); when (no whether involved here, apparently) Harry (sorry: H.) visibly doesn’t wear underwear and shows the crown jewels to all and sundry; and why the dress code was a violation of the First Amendment.

The First Amendment, in case you’re wondering, covers freedom of speech, assembly, and religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The founders meant to say something about dress codes but they were rushed that day. These things happen. Setting up a new country is a chaotic business. Besides, I’m not sure pajamas had been invented yet. It was still all nightshirts and nightcaps. This is the problem with a strict interpretation of the constitution.

One particularly heated commenter seemed to be confusing the Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper phone hacking scandals with the British government’s phone hacking scandals. Lots of us suspect Rupert Murdoch runs the country, possibly with a little help from his friends, but honest, he isn’t the government yet.

The comments are even more fun than the original flap. Or sadder. Or possibly both. Anyway, they all provide an insight into the contrasting insanities of the two countries . And let me be clear about this before someone thinks I’m insulting either of them: I’m convinced that every country on this planet has its own set of insanities. The two that have had it in their hearts to issue me passports are not unique in this.

And trainers, for those of you who need a translation, are running shoes. Or athletic shoes. Or whatever. You know—those things that I’m still convinced we should call sneakers.

22 thoughts on “What to wear if you want to annoy Buckingham Palace

  1. IMHO The two names: sneakers/trainers show what H.L. Mencken once said about “us”:
    Two countries divided by a common language.


  2. When I first lived in England (well, LONDON), in 1970, I was told I had to go to the iron monger’s to buy plugs for my newly purchased table-lamps. The what? As Americans, we both know that the only remnant of use for the word “monger” is, was shockingly black-listed from my vocabulary at such a tender age of 25.


  3. Thanks for this sane post about an insane topic. May W & K do some good while here or at least nothing bad, whatever that may be. I’m heading out for a walk along the California coast, wearing my sneakers and a t-shirt with only a moderate number of stains on it but the seagulls, cormorants, grey whales and pelicans (sane for the most part) don’t care about my unfashionable appearance at all. What a relief!

    P.S. Just found your blog. Can’t remember how. You are doing what I would have liked to do but could not figure out how so I save my retirement pennies and fly over to wander around lovely Cornwall and Bath, etc. Next time I go north to see what’s up in Newcastle and Manchester.


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