The sun is shining on the first day of our road trip. Driving east on Route 70, the speed is fast and the anticipation high as our eyes search the roadside for photos.We slow for a road crew and the signalmen is wearing a black and white striped uniform. Transported in time, I reach for my camera as my friend slows way down. Shooting through the open window, I take two shots ,but for the next miles all we can hear is bluegrass music and think about “O Brother Where Art Thou? “As a throwback to the 30’s, the uniform fits our desire to shoot the old and abandoned , but it feels so backward and out-of-place.
Continuing down the road, we reach Hollow Rock, Tennessee. The Main Street business district of one block is deserted. Needless to say, we spent some quality time shooting the remains.
Later that night, I checked online to find out more about the striped uniforms. I learned that I am sadly out of date about jailhouse fashions. I think this is probably a good thing for an elementary school teacher.Although the uniforms were first discontinued by New York in 1904 because they were humiliating, they remained in use until the 1930’s through most of the country and abolished when they became too expensive. Recently, counties across the country are re-introducing the striped uniforms as a way to make inmates more easily distinguishable from the public.
Maybe too many people have adopted the orange jumpsuit look and I just didn’t notice, but I can almost see the striped pants or tops lending themselves to a retro fashion statement embraced by designers and teens.
While I , and many others, love to look backward to preserve what was good and beautiful,perhaps the county law enforcement agencies will look forward to create new ideas and solutions. Meanwhile, I can just hear “Man of Constant Sorrow.”