To Sir With Love is as famous now for the title song by Lulu as for the film itself. I’d loved the song for many years, but didn’t see the film until several months ago. Even in 1967 the ‘teacher-inspiring-tough-kids’ theme in movies was hardly new, but it deftly manages to avoid cliché (or at least treads so lightly that you don’t notice).
Sidney Poitier stars as the reluctant teacher, with beautiful Judy Geeson and Christian Roberts as the most troublesome students in the class. I very much liked it and have to admit I teared with emotion up at the end. Apart from the engaging storyline, it is hugely enjoyable for the scenes of 60s London and realistic mod fashions on the students.
The styles worn are rather more true to life than many other movies of the time. This is meant to be a school for rough kids from poor backgrounds, so although the fashions worn are trendy for the time, you can see that many of the outfits are worn several times through the movie, and similarly the hairstyles are cut in fashionable late 60s styles but without being overly primped and perfect.
The over-arching style on the girls is ‘slouchy sweater with straight skirt and long beads’, while the boys wear baggy jeans and shirts. Again, the touch of reality is that they all wear similar styles to each other (as students tend to in any high school) rather than being individual fashion plates. The slouchiness of the clothing is also indicative of the generally disengaged state of mind, and highlights Poitier’s challenge to inject some enthusiasm for learning into his pupils.
Suzy Kendall as fellow teacher Gillian Blanchard tends to wear buttoned up blouses with long cuffs and high necklines. The cuts are conservative in reference to her position and to highlight the difference between herself and the rowdy students, but she is still a young and sympathetic character – so the style is ‘loosened’ with long necklaces similar to those the girl pupils wear, and loose long hair. Poitier as Mark Thackeray wears slim cut navy suits, and is perhaps the most conservatively dressed character in the film – marking out visually the gap he has to bridge between himself and his students.