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Harry Potter Lexicon Minute

OP23: Tears and Robes


OP23: Tears and Robes

Let me just start out by saying that I cry easily. Just ask my wife. I cry at sappy commercials with fathers sending their daughters off into the world while remembering every father-daughter dance and scraped knee. So you’d think that reading the Harry Potter books, especially the first time around would have been a cry fest for me, but you’d be wrong. It’s not that I never choked up a little — or a lot. Chapter twelve of Philosopher’s Stone gets me every time, when Harry reaches out and touches the Mirror of Erised and says “Mum? Dad?” Yeah, you know what I mean.

But I didn’t cry at some of the big moments when most Potter fans lost it. The deaths of Sirius and Dumbledore left me sad and a little shocked, but not in tears. The death of Hedwig — well, I remember having to stop and reread the passage to realize what had just happened, and then being deeply, deeply sad. But again, I didn’t cry.

Dobby? Okay, yeah, that one got me. If that one doesn’t get you crying, well, maybe you didn’t read the books so you don’t know and love Dobby the way that the rest of us do.

But the one that really got me, the one that still gets me, is the scene in this chapter with Neville’s parents. When his mother totters over and gives him the Droobles wrapper and he says “Thanks, mum” and pockets it, I have tears pouring down my face every single time. I think maybe part of the reason why this one hits so hard is the way Rowling contrasts Augusta Longbottom’s matter-of-fact attitude with Neville’s gentle misery. That just compounds the pain. Also, the fact that while others are dead and gone and their loss is final, Neville faces losing his parents repeatedly. Each time he sees them and they don’t know who he is, he must endure that loss all over again. And you know he goes to see them often. His mother knew he was someone important to her, enough so to give him a special gift. And Augusta says she has done this many, many times.

So I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about something a lot more mundane. I want to talk about jeans and sneakers.

There has always been a lot of discussion among fans about what exactly the Hogwarts students wear. The books clearly don’t describe the school uniforms that we see in the films, but besides that, all we know is that they wear robes. Maybe fans would like to think that the kids are wearing jeans and shirts and then a robe rather like a cloak. This seems a lot less, well, dorky, and a lot easier to cosplay. Mary GrandPre’s cover images of Harry might be where we all got the idea from.

Canon doesn’t support that idea, however. In a number of places, the kids are said to change out of their Muggle clothes and into their school robes while on the Hogwarts Express. For example, in chapter 11 of Goblet of Fire, it says:

There was a definite end-of-the-holidays gloom in the air when Harry awoke next morning. Heavy rain was still splattering against the window as he got dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt; they would change into their school robes on the Hogwarts Express.

Now this could still mean that the robes go over the jeans and shirt. But in this chapter two short passages prove that in Rowling’s mind, they’re wearing robes with no Muggle clothing beneath. Here’s what it says. First:

Their trunks arrived from Hogwarts while they were eating lunch, so they could dress as Muggles for the trip to St Mungo’s. Everybody except Harry was riotously happy and talkative as they changed out of their robes into jeans and sweatshirts.

So the jeans and sweatshirts weren’t under their robes at all. They arrived separately in their trunks from Hogwarts. And then:

‘He’s a good boy,’ she said, casting a sternly appraising look down her rather bony nose at Neville, ‘but he hasn’t got his father’s talent, I’m afraid to say.’ And she jerked her head in the direction of the two beds at the end of the ward, so that the stuffed vulture on her hat trembled alarmingly.

‘What?’ said Ron, looking amazed. (Harry wanted to stamp on Ron’s foot, but that sort of thing is much harder to bring off unnoticed when you’re wearing jeans rather than robes.) ‘Is that your dad down the end, Neville?’

Jeans rather than robes. It’s one or the other, not both. So no matter how much fans like to create fan art of kids in British school uniforms or how much nicer it is to dress up in that sort of costume, in reality the kids are wearing robes. That’s it.



In the Harry Potter Lexicon Minute podcast you’ll hear the voices of our editors sharing some of the many little things which delight us about the Wizarding World. In each podcast, just a couple of minutes in length, we’ll talk about anything from cool trivia and interesting canon passages to the latest Wizarding World news. We hope you’ll join us! And we’d love to hear from you as well. Feel free to use the comment section on the blogpost for each podcast to post your thoughts.

Special thanks go to Felicia Cano who gave us permission to use her amazing artwork of Hermione reading a book for the logo, which was created by Kim B.

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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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