Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Sub Fusc

Last Saturday was Matriculation here in Oxford, when new students were presented to the University by their colleges and halls to be added to the roll - the matricula - of students.

As this is a University ceremony those participating are required to dress in academic dress - the gown appropriate to their status, mortar board or ladies' cap and to wear sub-fusc, that is for men a version of clerical dress as formalised in the nineteenth century ( members of the University have still, in that respect, Benefit of Clergy ) and the female equivalent designed when women were admitted.

Last year whilst watching the new students going off to the Sheldonian I was startled to see some men wearing with their dark suits and white shirts a black bow tie rather than the traditional white one.

Subsequently I discovered this was a consequence of the passage by the University of gender equality regulations regarding sub fusc - as long as it is sub-fusc anyone can wear what they like.There is another blogger's comment on the change at:  
OUSU periodically tries to get rid of sub-fusc, but students always vote massively to retain it.

This did not accord with my idea of tradition ( no surprise there ) and as I recall it wearing a black bow tie ( rather than the usual black ribbon tie ) was the preserve of a certain type of lesbian who ends up as a college chaplain.

The black bow tie with sub-fusc on a man looks bad, very bad. He looks as if he is wandering back after an all night black tie event ( there is nothing wrong in that of course, if that is what you have been doing ) and not as someone standing on a venerable and clear tradition.

I suspect those men, and they are a small minority, are overseas graduates to whom the customs of Oxford have not been explained in advance and who don't know better or bother to find out.

Interestingly I have not seen black bow ties on examination candidates and I have not seen them being worn at graduation ceremonies.

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