Kamil Shah’s leather vest is exactly what makes University Challenge great

Shame his team lost really

British values were dealt the greatest blow in years last night, if the papers are to be believed. No, it’s not that our army murdered a British citizen without Parliament’s consent. It’s because someone had the nerve to rock up to nation’s darling University Challenge in a leather vest.

Kamil Shah, a history student at King’s College Cambridge, showed off his phenomenal fashion game on the typically conservative show yesterday. Complete with a gold chain, he was the last thing you’d expect on Paxo’s programme, an asteroid hurtling straight for the very concept of Oxbridge hegemony.

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Defying geek stereotypes and instantly becoming a UC legend

Comedian David Baddiel said: “Hate to judge a book by its cover but so far the bloke in the leather vest and bling has lost my old college 10 points”. BBC journalist Ben Dirs proclaimed “we are approaching the end of days”. Collectively, the British people lost it.

Ignoring the fact that when the rare brown face appears on the show, we all focus on his dress sense, the outrage provoked by what Kamil was wearing is absurd.

The charm of University Challenge stems from how delightfully off-the-wall the contestants are. Turning on a TV and watching impossibly smart yet a tad weird people answer questions on ancient history, words you’ve never heard of and, last night, Blade Runner is what it’s all about.

Remember the awe inspiring Ted Loveday? He’s the genius who said a word I can barely pronounce in less time than it took me to register Paxman’s voice, all the while wearing the oddest jumper I’ve seen in some time.

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The man who brought hapax legomenon to the masses

Or the guy who instantly answered a question using “modular arithmetic” – a subject I’ve never even heard of. These magnificent students have their eccentricities, and that’s why they’re so wonderful.

It’s part and parcel of genius – Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day, Michelangelo didn’t wash and Nikola Tesla wouldn’t touch things which were even a bit dirty. Being one of the smartest people in the world means you’re a bit weird, and that’s something we should embrace and celebrate.

No, Kamil Shah didn’t conform to the fashion norms of primetime BBC2 television. But the fact he didn’t is the very essence of what makes University Challenge a wonderful show.

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