When it comes to funerals, most people prefer the traditional look. Most funeral directors revere tradition too. Nothing defines this better than their love of Victorian fancy dress. It makes them feel important, of course. And some of them do decidedly look splendid. Or odd. Or ridiculously anachronistic. You will have your own view.
There are aspects of the ceremonial, walking in front of the hearse, for example (paging it, they call it), which are undoubtedly magnificent if that’s what you like, but not if carried off by an unimpressive physical specimen with bad hair, flat feet and an unconvincingly arranged facial rictus.
So: ten out of ten to those undertakers who rise to the occasion. We just hope they ask they ask families first if this is what they want. Sometimes you wonder who the funeral is all about—the person who has died or the undertaker.
It’s all done in the cause of dignity, for sure, dignity being that version of respect we reserve for the old, the dying and the dead. There’s an element of theatre, of course.
Bad funeral directors ham it up by being pompous or obsequious; good ones simply allow their behaviour to be informed by the sense of occasion and take their cue from the behaviour of the mourners.
Funeral directors and their staff who favour deep black formal attire defend it by calling it uniform. They may also be aware that, if their clothing is forbidding and even shudder-making, it’s a power statement. It bigs up their mystique.
It would be good to see more of them with the confidence and good sense to dress approachably at least when they are interviewing clients. Many of the best new funeral directors dress down, recognising the importance of levelling with people.