Minor British Institutions: High-visibility clothing

What event of any note in this country, from business enterprise to civil unrest, is complete without numbers of people wearing high-visibility clothing?

Its bright glare is vivid evidence of responsibility, resources and organisation, the modern equivalent of having the footmen in distinctive livery, often given an egalitarian twist by the insistence on its use by all ranks (even if the male bosses still tend to wear a tie).

The combination of fluorescent fabric for day and reflectors for night was imported here from America in the 1960s, and has been illuminating ever-growing areas of our lives ever since.

There are rumours that some people don them when moving round their homes, especially at dusk.

Other uses recorded include as a prayer mat outdoors, for a cat, and by a former teacher wearing little else in a notorious lay-by on the A31.

There may be trouble ahead, though, as a growing number of criminals now wear them so as not to be noticed.