Archaeological dress code.

On site, you have your typical groups of people.

You have your bottom level. These are (like me) your every day diggers. Every day diggers split into two categories: The old hats and the nubes.

Old hats: These are the chaps you will spot and think to yourself “Thats an archaeologist if ever I saw one” They will be your stereotypical baggy trouser, baddy jumper, tatty hat wearing legend!

Now the old hats, these are the guys who, when not on a PPE wearing site, will be in the gear that may make them look like tramps, but if you look close enough, you might just glimpse the odd label of ‘Barbour’ or ‘Sherwood.’ It may look tatty on the outside, but it was expensive when it was first bought and it has served its given purpose well and has clearly become the old faithful! Moneys worth has been had and even though it looks past retirement (usually like the digger themselves) its brought out with pride for every dig. They look something akin to Pete the Tramp:


Now on PPE laden sites, the old hats will be noticeable by their filthy PPE, so worn that the name plate of the company who provided them is no longer recognisable and lets face it a black plastic bag would prove more reflective than the last vestiges of hi-vi! They’ll be stomping round in their heavy, well worn boots, probably with carrier bags wrapped over the top of their socks to stop the water leaking in through the holes. Holes which have worn their way into the leather after being dripping wet and freezing through the winter to baked and cracking in the summer. (Lord! The stuff we put our equipment through!)

20131107_075001 What a rag tag bunch! 🙂

The nubes… although they may be diggers, they are a whole different kettle of fish.

They show up to site in their craghopper/camo/worksmen trousers, specially designed air-flo tops or thermal fleeces, brand new shiny boots and everything is clean and pristine. You can pretty much guarantee that a real fresh faced nube (typically male and quite confident) will rock up with a tool belt or even more spottable… the trowel holster!

HAHA  I Google Image'd hipster outdoors and this is what it brought me!

I Google Image’d hipster outdoors and this is what it brought me!

The nubes PPE will be nice and shiny (not to be mistaken with actual shiny’s who will feature later in this blog entry), they can be differentiated from the actual clean people of site by the fact that they will be wanting to mucky up their PPE. The mucking up of the PPE (and you can tell the difference between those garments which have been put through their paces on countless sites and the dirt in encrusted and ingrained from that which hath just been sullied), is a camouflage tactic, a way of blending in with the old hats. Sometimes successful as a chameleon, sometimes mocked and then welcomed with open arms anyway. In my mind.. they somewhat resemble this:


The next stage up from the every day diggers come’s your Sup’s (pronounced soups). These are your supervisors, project officers, the site directors etc etc, the people who are running the site on the ground.

These are noticeable from their better quality PPE (the company shells out a few extra pennies on these guys kits), they’ll have the gortex coats and over trousers, not your basic arko best that could be found cheapest online. Or even worse just bright yellow plastic things from the farmers market down the road (this will happen at times). They also have boots which you can tell have seen a few seasons, a few sites, but they’re not as muckied as you might think. This is because they don’t get that filthy when stood in front of a machine day after day! These folks also have the black hard hats.

Above them are you Shiny’s. These are the folks who swan out to site in big groups for a tour/inspection. These folks come from many different parts of the archaeological sector. This group is made up of your office boffins, the ones writing the reports, project managing etc, it’s also made up of your contractor bosses, QS’s, consultants and archaeo-county mountys.

Now these guys you can spot a mile off. They move in packs, like great bright, shiny banana’s emerging from the mist. They have the best quality boots, which haven’t seen a spec of dirt, they have the pristine white hard hats, which means you know they’re looking down at your black hats on site! They arrive, chat, laugh and take notes. Again in my mind, they look like this:

Shiny banana!

Shiny banana!

Then as you’re walking off site for your lunch break you notice a pattern from the shiny’s.

The shiny’s stand around the backs of their cars, carefully removing the very clean hi-vi coats, folding them (“what nonsense is this?” you will think to yourself.. “folding hi-vi.. never in all my days”) they will then have a bit more of a laugh and a chat to their colleagues (this is when the “mines bigger than yours” parre goes on). Then comes the boots.. the pristine, £180 a pair boots get taken off and placed in neat little bags, where you notice there are other such boots in neat little bags and these neat little bags are all in a neat little row in the boot (or trunk for those in the US).

Once the PPE is off, more evidence of shiny-ism… they’re all in suits, or then jean & shirt combo. Nobody turns up to site in suits and nobody in jeans and shirt unless they’re covered in holes and you look like a lumberjack!

It’s bizarre but there you have it.

I feel I should note that I don’t spend my time stalking different people on site and what they wear. It’s a conglomeration of rather a lot of small observations made over the years 🙂


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