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Future Bling of England
September 11, 2012 3:21 AM   Subscribe

London advertising agency Iris have come under fire for the design of their staff benefits booklet. The photographs, while beautifully composed, are being criticised for their referencing of the chav stereotype, particularly at a time when benefit claimants are seeing drastic cuts proposed by the government.

A Panorama special is to be broadcast tonight on the BBC looking at the experiences of people living on a Blackburn housing estate where many residents are benefit claimants.
posted by mippy (178 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Full disclosure - I used to live a ten minute walk away from the estate from the documentary - my mother worked in an old-people's home there (now closed) and my sister lived there for a time following the breakup of her marriage. It's not the worst estate in Blackburn - there is one where I am reluctant to go even during the day, as last time I went half-dressed toddlers came out and threw chicken bones at me - but my main memories of the place are not positive. The sound of happy hardcore music coming from windows, loud swearing, a feeling of unease, my mother not letting me go up there at night to say hello if she walked late. The night staff had tales of looking out the window to see people carring VCRs, TVs, white goods around that they'd 'taxed' from other families. It was miles away from any supermarket, so if you had kids and no car, your options for food were the expensive, near-free-of-vegetables Spar or the chippy. (Supermarkets offer online shopping now, but while I've not heard of this estate being refused deliveries by drivers as has happened in other parts of the country, it's no good if you don't want to spend £25 or more at the time.)

There are a lot of social problems in Blackburn. Racism is the obvious one - about 20% of the population are Muslim, and it is very segregated, very much white and Asian areas, and as there is a strong work ethic in Indian and Pakistani communites - starting small businesses in their new homes - the BNP have worked pretty hard to capitalise on 'they're taking our jobs', and I have spoken to some in my home town who believe most Asian young men are drug-dealers who 'bring it back from home' - hence the nice cars and the pizza shops. The recent 'grooming' scandal, too, has delighted groups like the EDL.

However, there's also a lack of opportunity. I was picked on a lot as a kid for not fitting in, and part of that not fitting in was being ambitious and not wanting to be part of the status quo. I realise that I'm saying this from a position of privilege - I had parents who valued book-learnin' and went to university, thankfully before fees rose to £9k a year - but it's a crabs in the bucket mentality. Anyone who sticks out, who doesn't want to join in the gang, who is academic or what have you, does not fit in. On a minor level, pretty much everyone in the town wears sportswear, and if you don't, you stick out. On a more damaging level, it's the kind of antisocial behaviour that happens when people can't see a way out of their situation and try to make things better by dominating where they live. (A relative of mine used to hang out with a group of kids like this, but by virtue of starting an apprenticeship and widening his options, he wasn't part of the gang anymore. A friend of mine from down the road did a PhD, came home and was asked abotu it to the response 'Well, what do you want to go and do that for?') And the culture of the town is pretty depressing. Most of my classmates who didn't leave home at 18 for study got engaged and/or pregnant very young, because it was what you did, and it gave you an opportunity to leave the family home. The cultural horizons are small - there's no bookshops save a small WH Smith, few gigs or things for people to do, and a cinema that shows only crappy mainstream movies - so when I was a kid at least the only leisure activity was underage drinking - and even then, people didn't go to the pubs or clubs for a night out, but to get pissed, get macho, fuck and fight. Which is great for eighteen year olds, not so great if that's all that there is, forever, and now your benefits are cut you can't even afford to do that.

Thirty miles from Manchester, and about three decades away.
posted by mippy at 3:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [80 favorites]


Apparently there's no such thing as bad publicity. Who knew?
posted by cromagnon at 3:39 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


By which I mean, if you made a Venn diagram (and my hypothetical diagram is probably not a proper Venn diagram), you could certainly find an overlap between some people on benefits and some people who manifest many of the stereotypical traits of an archetypal chav.

This booklet, however, is just an art director playing around with the dual meaning of the word and cartoonish photo shoots.
posted by panaceanot at 3:40 AM on September 11, 2012


Yeah, but it's not a shiny new idea, really. I absolutely have experience of people who dress and behave like that - not all of which were 'benefits people' - but Little Britain did it years ago and Shameless years before that.
posted by mippy at 3:42 AM on September 11, 2012


Ah, I see where you're coming from Mippy. Outrage level: aware that this is pretty misguided.
posted by panaceanot at 3:44 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are some gipsies who thieve too and young black lads who mug old ladies but they wouldn't be doing a photo-shoot on that (or maybe they would, cocaine is a hell of a drug). That said, I doubt anyone would care much if it wasn't just another part of the drip-drip-drip assault on a civilised society offering decent welfare to those in need.
posted by Abiezer at 3:49 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The bike stealing one is a bit much...
posted by caddis at 3:58 AM on September 11, 2012


I think someone just got themselves bumped to the top of the list for doing the Tory party's next manifesto.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Christ, and I thought finding "chav" to bit a bit of an embarrassing/tasteless word to throw around and all that happened about ten years ago. What a bunch of wangs.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:05 AM on September 11, 2012


The bike stealing one is a bit much...

And apparently every pregnant woman who receives benefits also smokes.
posted by TedW at 4:19 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Maybe I just have no sense of humour

Let's consider that for a minute....


When we say "coming under fire", is it more than this one blogger that has spoken out?
posted by HuronBob at 4:26 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


...Iris, the ad agency that invented 2012 Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.

This alone should earn them the fiery hate of all thinking people.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [40 favorites]


Wow. England's version of 'welfare queens' except it's 'if you are welfare you are scum, amirite?'
posted by angrycat at 4:28 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Campaign article is registration only, but it's been going nuts on Twitter for a few days. I missed this though due to having the unwells for a couple of days and not being able to actually look at a computer screen :(
posted by mippy at 4:29 AM on September 11, 2012


Speaking as an American, I had the impression that chavs were the English version of our wiggers. White kids with sports clothes and tacky bling acting like they were from the block. Am I wrong? Now I'm not sure.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:31 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


haven't heard that vile expression before
posted by caddis at 4:32 AM on September 11, 2012


"Mother dearest, do the poor really race old people scooters?"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:33 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably worth thinking about in this context: Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class.

If you don't want to buy a book on the subject, Mr Jones has a blog, and here is an interview about his views on how "Chavs" are:

"...although the book obviously looks at the ‘chav’ thing, it’s not so much about the word, it’s about the caricature, the approach: the idea that we’re all middle-class now, and the old working-class is just feckless, white working-class, living on sink estates and swilling beer when they’re not taking benefits or voting BNP. That’s what it looks at; that view, that perspective that everyone’s middle class apart from this degenerate rump."

Interesting stuff.
posted by lucien_reeve at 4:33 AM on September 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Also, Estates by Lynsey Hanley is a great book, and written not by an academic or theorist, but by one of the few political journalists to have actually grown up on a council estate.
posted by mippy at 4:46 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm glad that this has been produced with sensitivity and an understanding that viewing people as stereotypes produces biased outcomes.

It might otherwise be problematic to re-enforce existing prejudices and then have people make discretionary choices about people's bona fide status, especially when those people already have little money, repect or often the articulacy and ability to use the system to correct that via effective written appeals or a good understanding of a quasi-legalistic process.

That could be mistaken for the act of a wanker whipping up prejudice with a blend of 'fuck you I've got mine' and cheap ad honenim strawmen to help deny people their societal rights. Or, of course, that person could just be the kind of special person who just doesn't care if that's the effect because the stereotypes are funny.

FSM knows, we all appreciate that stance in racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia. It's almost like that type of thing happens mostly to groups without power from wankers with it.
posted by jaduncan at 4:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


jenfullmoon: "Speaking as an American, I had the impression that chavs were the English version of our wiggers. White kids with sports clothes and tacky bling acting like they were from the block. Am I wrong? Now I'm not sure."

Not really. The demonisation of 'Chavs' is a deeply unpleasant update of the old Victorian idea of deserving and undeserving poor. Lead by a lot of very snide mainstream comedy TV and smug middle-class stand-ups, it has become totally unremarkable to write off large chunks of the population as irredeemable scum.

There are genuine problems with many of the poorest estates in the UK and street violence and 'anti-social behaviour' has made them huge policing and societal challenges. Essentially, we're reaping the results of destroying domestic industry, demolishing closely-knit 'slums' filled with working poor in city centres and moving tens of thousands of people out to barren wasteland estates with little or no public services, shops or entertainment apart from dodgy pubs and chip shops. And then we blame and demonise the individuals affected for a situation almost entirely created by a combination of high-handed 1950s social engineering and neoliberal trade policies.

But it's easier to call them chavs and forget about it, I guess.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:50 AM on September 11, 2012 [39 favorites]


I contracted there for a couple of months. Terrible people, impossible conditions (near constant market-trader style yelling across the open plan workspace by "designers"), an imaginary project (they decided to go ahead and do something a client didn't actually want, in the hope that the client would be persuaded to want it), and payment came 3 months late and only after some serious emails.

Sadly, all publicity is good publicity.
posted by dickasso at 4:53 AM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


It is the text that makes me say that as much as the pictures. A sample from page 2:
"We're iris, and we're family We're a tight knit bunch, holding ouur own on the mean streets of Southwark. We look out for each other, 'cause what's more important than family? Benefits, that's what. Free stuff. Cheap stuff. Fun stuff. As one of us, you're entitled to it. Have you earned it? Probably not. But listen, if there's free stuff going begging, then you'd be a fool not to grab it, right? We're just saying."
This booklet just starts off with textbook dehumanisation, and frankly if it was about an ethnic group there would be an arguable claim to incitement of racial hatred.

Apparently benefit claimants care more about giro money than their family and are heavily implied to spend it on booze and fags? Well, gah. I's also like those fuckers expect to be able to eat or something. Claim denied.
posted by jaduncan at 4:55 AM on September 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


See they've issued the usual half-apology with the Shameless defence deployed. As I recall Shameless, the early seasons written by Paul Abbot who did grow up poor in the north were warm and human but the later lot when other writers came in descended into the usual soap-comedy nonsense. While since I watched any though.
posted by Abiezer at 4:56 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another link from a thread elsewhere bring the completely surprising news that Iris had a two million quid contract for the DWP for the launch of Employment Support Allowance. There's a thing.
posted by Abiezer at 4:59 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


White kids with sports clothes and tacky bling acting like they were from the block.

Everyone everywhere acts a part, but these British kids are as genuinely themselves and of their block as any American kids are genuinely themselves and of their own block. They aren't just pretending to be poor, uneducated, powerless, etc. If they prefer the same clothes and music that black urban American kids prefer, it's probably because they share very similar circumstances ("the block" spans continents) and just genuinely believe and enjoy the same things, not because they are some sort of second-rate wannabe faux-black urban American kids.
posted by pracowity at 5:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [22 favorites]


Speaking as an American, I had the impression that chavs were the English version of our wiggers.

It's funny that it looks that way because as you cross the Atlantic the "chav"/"council estate" stereotype molds pretty seamlessly into what we Americans call "black people."
posted by ennui.bz at 5:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's funny that it looks that way because as you cross the Atlantic the "chav"/"council estate" stereotype molds pretty seamlessly into what we Americans call "black people."

Speak for yourself.
posted by gjc at 5:17 AM on September 11, 2012


It's funny that it looks that way because as you cross the Atlantic the "chav"/"council estate" stereotype molds pretty seamlessly into what we Americans call "black people."

The effects of poverty have neither national nor racial barriers.
posted by mygoditsbob at 5:28 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Am I bovvered?
posted by schleppo at 6:00 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I laughed at all of these. I live in public housing simply because it's a good location and the rent is half of what I would pay for a mortgage. Some of our neighbours are utter numbskulls, I tell ya. I would find them funny except it's depressing to think their kids will end up just like them.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is the social housing/council estate analogue in the US the projects? The Wire was familiar to me in this way - not the drugs and guns way, but of kids who didn't know how to make a future for themselves, and if they did, they'd feel uncomfortable in that world (see the boy who took his girlfriend to a nice restaurant and felt completely out of place).

Though I believe in London the drugs and guns element comes out. I was once naive enough to think that, coming from a small town, if you were poor in a big city at least you'd have access to jobs and could move up the social mobility ladder in a way that is denied to those in small, unemployment ridden towns. And it's not the case. I can;t find the link now, but the Standard (which I usually really dislike) did a series a while ago looking at poor people in the capital, and kids on one estate had never even taken the Tube, because they couldn't afford it. And then there's just not being part of that world. The Copybot post made the point that advertising agencies tend to be very middle class environments, and if this is the case, then someone from a deprived background will find it hard to fit in in lots of subtle ways.

Where I grew up, I was regarded as 'posh' because of my accent and my interests, then I moved to a Russell Group university and realised that I was surrounded by people from far more affluent backgrounds, for whom going on long-haul holidays, owning cars, or getting considerable financial help from parents was very much the norm, and I felt like an outlier for never having been to Thailand or for the two weeks of the term when my debit card stopped working. For someone from a very working-class background like a council estate, the gulf is a lot wider - as my friend found when he went to Cambridge and encountered people who found his accent, and his habit of being nice to the service staff, a novelty.
posted by mippy at 6:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kokoryu, was it the bit where they implied that all unemployed people are thieves, or that all unemployed mothers smoke through pregnancy you found funniest? LOL ;)
posted by ominous_paws at 6:08 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


KokuRyu - is the system different in the US? Here, you have to put your name on a waiting list for social housing, unless you are classed as being in a 'vulnerable situation' such as having children. Mortgages are generally cheaper than the equivalent rents in the UK, but the cost of getting together a deposit (usually 30%, a cheap flat in London is £150,000) means that a great number of working professionals cannot afford to buy unless they are lucky enough to inherit or be given money by family.

Margaret Thatcher brought in the Right To Buy scheme in the 1980s which meant that council house renters could become property owners more easily, but the result of this has been less social housing available as a whole, and much of these ex-council properties are now being let out on the private market.
posted by mippy at 6:09 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone is missing the point here. Their benefits include an onsite fitness instructor, an onsite masseuse, yoga classes, and paid paternity leave? That's just bonkers to (most of) us Yanks.
posted by schleppo at 6:09 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've never noticed any wiggery in Chavs outside London, the further north you go the more techno and drug addled they get. Excellent doc by the Vice people on some chavs.
posted by Damienmce at 6:12 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Margaret Thatcher brought in the Right To Buy scheme in the 1980s which meant that council house renters could become property owners more easily, but the result of this has been less social housing available as a whole, and much of these ex-council properties are now being let out on the private market.
There's a great TV documentary from not so long back on the history of council housing that points out that there was a time in the 70s when about 30 percent of the country lived in 'em, which meant there was a broad social mix on the big estates, teachers and other professionals included. Thatcher's legislation included stipulations forbidding local authorities to use the money from sales to build further housing, as she had explicitly stated ideas about property ownership as social engineering. That failure to replace lost stock is a big part of the present housing crisis.
posted by Abiezer at 6:15 AM on September 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


KokuRyu - is the system different in the US?

Ah, sorry, I should have said that I live in Canada. We live in housing built by and maintained by the regional district, and pay "market rates". As far as I know, there isn't anyone living on what we in Canada would call social assistance or welfare here. It's just that it can be an expensive city to buy a house (which is why we're stuck here).

We did live for a while in an apartment building that was dominated by people, typically single moms, living on welfare, and while it wasn't awful, it was very highly annoying. Smoking (while pregnant!), drug dealers, feral children, trash, noise.

I don't know why people choose to live like idiots. So while I understand this stereotype is deeply unfair, I had to laugh. Payback.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:16 AM on September 11, 2012


People who are not in the UK might find Owen Jones's (formerly writing as Owen Hatherley) book Chavs to be of interest. It's extremely accessible and gives a lot of case-study stuff about how UK elites mobilize the concept of "chav" as a way of cutting benefits and limiting civil liberties. When it came out there was a big to-do about how "Oh, it's not insulting to call people chavs, because it's true!" from a bunch of people you'd think would know better.

I guess the main take-away for me was that the whole thing of "chav" is the aestheticization of class - like, talking about working class people as if the choice to be working class is the same kind of choice as the choice to be a goth or a punk or a preppy - precisely so that you can blame working people for being poor under the guise of critiquing their fashion choices.
posted by Frowner at 6:18 AM on September 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Their benefits include an onsite fitness instructor, an onsite masseuse, yoga classes, and paid paternity leave? That's just bonkers to (most of) us Yanks.

Paid paternity leave is a standard thing in the UK, but we have on-site massages, yoga classes and fruit. Some ad agencies have on-site bars, mind.
posted by mippy at 6:20 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]



Is the social housing/council estate analogue in the US the projects?


Only sort of. Very few large housing projects remain here (most have been demolished, or in a few cases rehabilitated and turned into market-rate housing); there is a lot less publicly subsidized housing than a few decades ago, and most of that is now dispersed rather than concentrated into what the UK calls estates.

The biggest difference, of course, is that in the US "projects" has a racial connotation (even though they were built primarily for poor whites, and whites remain a large percentage of the population receiving subsidies) -- if you say the word, the vast majority of people will imagine black residents, and not infrequently will do so drawing on imagery like Reagan's "welfare queen". You know, the undeserving poor who are lazing around on welfare while hardworking people like you and me suffer under an unfair tax burden. Sounds familiar, right?

Whereas the term "chavs" might come closest to mapping onto the US term "white trash" (or the post-racial "trashy") -- it has an economic connotation, but the primary meaning is cultural. If someone who is white trash, or a chav, wins the lottery, the expectation is that they will just be trashy on a larger scale, rather than suddenly acquiring a middle- or upper-class relationship to money and status displays.

I think politically it plays out differently in the US and the UK, but in both cases these ideas have been part and parcel of attacks on public subsidies and benefits.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's high time we spoke about classism in our society. We should makes that one of our "national conversations". That will be interesting.


as my friend found when he went to Cambridge and encountered people who found his accent, and his habit of being nice to the service staff, a novelty.
There's another way?
posted by Jehan at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aaah I keep trying to compose an elegantly-written, articulate response to this and just keep coming up with rage and sweariness. Just want to convey my appreciation for mippy and the others who are doing a better job than me at this, and let my anger stay buzzing around in my head like a particularly vicious wasp. I am not going to make any comments about the questionable use of the term 'Payback'. I am not going to hope for an age when comments like some of those made above become as unacceptable as Mad Men-style blatant racism, and I'm not going to stipulate that this is motivated not by a conviction that this would get rid of invidious social policy - any more than racism taboos have - but by the desire that the people who made those comments be forced to look back on their words, up on the internet and documented in perpetuity, and feel thoroughly, toe-curlingly, fall-through-the-floorly embarrassed by them.
posted by Acheman at 6:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Excellent doc by the Vice people on some chavs.

Why do you believe the people who make Donk to be chavs? Christ knows I hate that stuff, but they don't fulfill the stereotype by virtue of pursuing an interest and building a career from it. It says more about your prejudices than anything else (though I find the fact that Vice have to subtitle people from the North-West, as though they were an Amazonian tribe, fucking hilarious)
posted by mippy at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but standard paid paternity leave is an awesome benefit.
posted by josher71 at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2012


Probably worth thinking about in this context: Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class.

Oops, I guess I did not see lucien_reeve's comment. Well, I guess I second the recommendation, then!
posted by Frowner at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The King of Chavs [his words, apparently. Not mine]
posted by MuffinMan at 6:26 AM on September 11, 2012


I am not going to make any comments about the questionable use of the term 'Payback'.

So why do I have to phone the police when the drug dealer boyfriend comes back and bangs on the door of his single-mom girlfriend, demanding money? Is that part of my civic duty? Is it wrong for me to be annoyed by that? Is it to be expected that there is a class of people that naturally act like idiots, and should get a free pass?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Er, aside from anything else in that delicious comment, we're shitting on single moms here for what reason exactly?
posted by ominous_paws at 6:30 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


Another point about public housing in the U.S. is the practice of subsidized housing (a.k.a. "Section 8 housing"), where the government arranges to pay part of the tenant's rent. In many communities, there are breaks for developers who pledge to reserve a portion of the units in their building(s) for Section 8 tenants; many units tend to clump together over time. This may eventually drive down property values/rents in the area, which is the opposite of the intention to get poorer people integrated back into the community.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on September 11, 2012


I guess the main take-away for me was that the whole thing of "chav" is the aestheticization of class - like, talking about working class people as if the choice to be working class is the same kind of choice as the choice to be a goth or a punk or a preppy - precisely so that you can blame working people for being poor under the guise of critiquing their fashion choices.

I may just be a confused American, but what I've looked at online does seem to be on aesthetics - are these aesthetics not choice-based? Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?
posted by corb at 6:33 AM on September 11, 2012


(though I find the fact that Vice have to subtitle people from the North-West, as though they were an Amazonian tribe, fucking hilarious)

Part of me suspects it is partly to locate them as 'foreign' or 'exotic', the same way African politicians invariably are subtitled on the news, as if by dint of being African they've suddenly lost their most of their English ability.
posted by hoyland at 6:34 AM on September 11, 2012


I may just be a confused American, but what I've looked at online does seem to be on aesthetics - are these aesthetics not choice-based?
But you can see from the linked example here that this quickly becomes a stand-in for all people on benefits, when most of those are actually people in jobs getting tax credits and so on.
posted by Abiezer at 6:35 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


mippy, this (and your first followup) are very interesting, thanks for posting. As a person who lived for many years in Liverpool, where in some areas "impoverished" doesn't even begin to describe it, a lot of this rings true to me. When I first moved there I rented a house in a council estate for six months and it was a pretty bleak picture. About 5 miles out from the city centre but it seemed much farther. Luckily there was a Morrison's nearby but the rest of the shops were what you would expect - newsagents, cheap convenience stores, Greggs and the other pasty shop that I can't remember at the moment. Every morning I took the bus for a 45 minute ride into the city centre and had to share it with gangs of kids who sat at the back and smoked horrifically stinky pot, but no one would ever say anything to them because they were all scared of them (including bus drivers). I've had the window on the bus nex to my head near shattered from kids throwing rocks at the bus windows and they had to take down a footbridge because kids were going up there and throwing stuff on the cars that drove below. Despite this, I have always been extremely uncomfortable with the "chavs" and to a lesser degree, "scallies" that people like to throw around. There are ugly, deep rooted things around the British class system that even after my time there I still can't really fully grasp. I knew people who lived on that council estate who had bought their home in the Right to Buy scheme and though they didn't make much at their job, they were extremely proud and self-sufficient.

I think council housing could maybe be likened to something between the projects and Section 8 housing? I don't know if there is actually a direct equivalent. As for the word chav, I would say that as a few others have mentioned, it's similar to what many people here think of as sort of a cross between a welfare queen and white trash. But again, I don't think there is a direct equivalent.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my experience, it's very wrong-headed to suggest that when Americans talk about "the undeserving poor", they're just thinking about black people in the projects. Remember, the Tea Party got started over outrage that the government would bail out "losers who paid too much for their homes." Most conservative Americans in rural states regard poor black people with distant distaste, but they *hate* poor white trash, in large part because they have relatives who are poor white trash and they are absolutely obsessed with distancing themselves from those people. One hates those with whom one has something in common.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


As a non-Englander, my first reaction to the photos--scratch that, my second reaction, after discomfort with the exploitation--is, "Jesus, those track suits, felt shoes, and hoodies look like the epitome of comfort."

The people in the photos seem to be rocking threads that you'd expect to find at a senior citizen's bingo tourney. Is supreme comfort the main aim of this clothing style?
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But you can see from the linked example here that this quickly becomes a stand-in for all people on benefits, when most of those are actually people in jobs getting tax credits and so on.

I think part of the problem may be that I don't know what general fashion trends are in the UK. Looking at those photos, they just kind of looked like people who dress strangely and have "Character actor" faces.

Can someone provide more context on what this "Shameless" show is that supposedly they are parodying?
posted by corb at 6:41 AM on September 11, 2012


Is supreme comfort the main aim of this clothing style?

Not as far as I was ever aware. At school it was all about having the more expensive trainers (sneakers) and Adidas tracksuits. I as a relatively poor but middle-class person kept away from all that and got made fun of for dressing so differently.

I'd also like to point out that while we can have all this discourse (mainly referring to some of the links posted) about the demonisation of the new working-class in the UK, there doesn't seem to have been much discussion of the political events that increased the divide and created the situation in the first place. That is to say fuck you, Blair (and of course Thatcher before that).
posted by opsin at 6:44 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


(though I find the fact that Vice have to subtitle people from the North-West, as though they were an Amazonian tribe, fucking hilarious)

They do that here with the show Honey Boo Boo (rural Georgia) and they do it in England with people from the NW (and other areas) and, specifically, Liverpool. I know you lived in the NW mippy and I'm not specifically directing this at you, but it absolutely makes me livid. It's a nasty subtle dig at people that are often perceived as backwards or stupid in a way that's socially acceptable. I guess we can't really call people rednecks or scallies any more in polite society, but we can point and snicker at their accents.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:45 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This looks like a spread from Sugar Ape.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


schleppo: "Everyone is missing the point here. Their benefits include an onsite fitness instructor, an onsite masseuse, yoga classes, and paid paternity leave? That's just bonkers to (most of) us Yanks."

...and that a "shitty place to work"(someone up thread) still starts at four weeks' vaca, up to five, bank holidays etc, makes me seethe.

(after six years here, I'll finally be up to two weeks vacation time...)
posted by notsnot at 6:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Statutory employment benefits in the UK.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose.

It's inevitable that 'nicely' and 'respectably' are defined to exclude the poor as much as possible, but that doesn't mean that we should we should act like people would magically not be poor if they dressed nicer or something, as the implication is that if they dressed 'respectably' they'd be able to find jobs (never mind that they might already have a job).
posted by hoyland at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I may just be a confused American, but what I've looked at online does seem to be on aesthetics - are these aesthetics not choice-based? Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

You've got a group who wear chav (I hate that word) clothes, and a smaller group within it that are persistent nuisances. The media put two and two together and start beating them all with the same convenient stick. We're a class-ridden society, and there's nothing we love more than disapproving of someone on a lower rung. Crab pot indeed.

The sportswear uniform is pretty standard if you're young and working class. You need to be of a particular mindset to want to stand out. I guess it boils down to identity... I wear jeans and t-shirts for the same reasons.
posted by Leon at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2012


Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

Well, where I grew up your clothing choice was fairly restricted - there were many many sportswear shops, but few selling other types of clothing (this was before Primark and a revamp to the town centre which saw other stores open) so most people when I was a teen either bought sportswear or cheap clothing from the market. (I went for a university interview wearing Doc Marten boots, because the shoe shops in the town then were a) trainer shops b) old lady shoes c) a store that sold what I've seen referred to as 'stripper shoes') It's not that clear-cut, though. In poor areas, money carries a lot of status, and if you are wearing a pair of £90 Nikes then you are someone who's cool. (There was a fashion for wearing clothing with the tags still attached a while back.) The thing with sportswear - aside from it being comfortable, and easier to wear than 'professional' clothing - is that there are pretty obvious cost signifiers there. You have the brand name right there on the front. I have a pair of boots that cost me £100 - they're great boots, and I was happy to find somethign that I needed in my awkward size - but because there are no clear signs of how much I paid for my boots, they will be seen as more mockable than the Adidas trainers that cost the wearer £50.

See also: gold jewellery, trainers on babies, and other uses of branding.

As a major thrift shopper, I don't find the pickings great in my home town - when money is tight, clothing is either cheap or worn until it bites the dust. Mind you, you find the odd quirky bit that all the hipsters drained out of London years ago when charity shopping became fashionable.
posted by mippy at 7:01 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I may just be a confused American, but what I've looked at online does seem to be on aesthetics - are these aesthetics not choice-based? Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

Several points:

1. The whole discourse of "respectable" clothes is pretty dodgy - it's always been used to impugn people who the elites wanted to expropriate. It doesn't matter what people are actually wearing. It can be anything - Native peoples scandalously running around in loincloths and feathers; Muslim people wearing shamefully old-fashioned robes instead of western dress; women wearing dress-reform bloomers; Roma people wearing sparklies. If it were the 19th century, we could get all worked up about Roma people having pierced ears. Everyone always wants to say "but this case is different! this really is tacky!" But "tacky" and "respectable" are always social. If you find yourself falling into a discourse that has been used over and over again to otherize people and justify taking away their freedom/stuff, chances are very good that you're using that discourse in just the same way.

I mean seriously, we have all been socialized into being racist and classist! We grew up with these ideas! We grew up with the idea of consumer morality - you're required to display your moral values through the correct consumption patterns, even if it's pointless! (Like really, what is so bad about a hoody and baggy pants? What is so bad about a crop top or a sparkly hat? Who gets hurt? No one gets hurt!)

Any time we find ourselves saying "that person is wearing [perfectly average garment worn by lots of other people] and this shows that they are tacky/have no self respect/have no judgment....there is something else going on. We're not exactly talking about someone waltzing down the street in a swastika crop-top and crotchless underwear here.

2. People's social relationships are legitimate and have value even if they are not middle class social relationships. People can choose what they want if it doesn't hurt other people - even if other people don't like it.

When I hear people talking about "why can't [some] working class people dress like middle class people, they totally could if they just went to the thrift store! I go to the thrift store and I am middle class!"....well, it seems like the same mentality that tore down all the working class neighborhoods and put people into highrises and tore up the social fabric. It's a total disregard for lived experience, for social relationships - it's saying that working class social relationships are both very simple and pathological, and should be replaced by middle class ones. Working class people should learn to mimic the dress of their "betters", even if this cuts them off from their own traditions and communities. In general, middle class people don't even perceive working class communities and traditions - they are invisible. And then when we force-march people to a bunch of high-rises in the suburbs and everything turns to shit, whoops, I guess there was a meaningful social network after all.

Look, most people want to dress like the people they see as their peers. That's not unreasonable. Some people want to dress like their peers to feel safe; some people don't really want to spend all their time thinking about clothes so they just wear what everyone else wears; some people actively like the fashion of their peer group. And why not? Middle class people do that! I dress like a butch queer hipster because this sends social signals to my fellow butch queer fashion people, not because I have decided that the platonic ideal of fashion involves retro glasses and brogues.

And there's the choice fallacy - a lot of that stuff is cheap - hoodies and tee shirts and jeans are cheap and easy to wash, plus easy to replace. I think a lot of middle class people don't really grasp just how short of money you can get. Or else they handwave because someone has an expensive sweatshirt without realizing that they themselves have a whole wardrobe full of nice shoes plus a good winter coat and a decent place to live.

Also, the thrift store fallacy - there simply isn't enough gently-used posh clothing to clothe all working people everywhere. Some people want to go to the thrift store and buy affordable posh clothes, some don't - but if every single working person decided that they wanted to buy used posh clothes, the stores would be empty overnight and prices would skyrocket. Second hand clothes are only cheaper because demand isn't that high. (In my neck of the woods, thrift store prices have shot up since the recession, especially in poor neighborhoods.)
posted by Frowner at 7:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [63 favorites]


I guess we can't really call people rednecks or scallies any more in polite society, but we can point and snicker at their accents.
It wasn't only his accent, but this reminds me how there was a terrible undercurrent of class snobbery when people used to present or discuss John Prescott. I don't know what it was, but kinda almost a shock(?) that somebody with so obvious working-class (and northern!) roots could get to the top of the pile.
posted by Jehan at 7:05 AM on September 11, 2012


I think part of the problem may be that I don't know what general fashion trends are in the UK. Looking at those photos, they just kind of looked like people who dress strangely and have "Character actor" faces.

ERm, well, it's variable. London is as provincial as anywhere else - there are fashionable things here that are not elsewhere in the country. (Also wanky things like pop-up shops - where I'm from these are not cool happenings but where you buy calendars from at Christmas - and 'food trends'). The sportswear clothing you see in the photos is very very popular in economically depressed NW towns. In Liverpool, it's fashionable (although seen as very tacky) to wear strong eyebrow make-up and pyjamas as outside wear. In London - well, I live in a stupidly middle-class part of town, but the teens I see wear Jack Wills clothing (it looks like sportswear, except it says JACK WILLS instead of NIKE, and their website forum has posts on like 'Which is the best private school) or Superdry.

The thing that keeps coming to mind here is that if you live on Shadsworth and you get a job working on a reception, say, you don't know what appropriate workplace dress is. That's the kind of thing that can make things difficult - a friend of mine from school grew up on a different estate, left school at 16 (she could have done further academic study if she'd wanted to, but couldn't afford to) and did a secretarial course and hated it. She didn't fit in, and she said that if she wanted to get a job in any of those companies, she'd have to spend loads of money she didn't have on clothing.
posted by mippy at 7:07 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't care if you're young, old, rich, poor, black, white, man, woman, etc....but at some level I expect people in the working world to dress professionally. And that means no wife beaters, sweat pants, hoodies, tights with ladders, skirts short enough to see your privates when you bend over, baseball caps worn backwards or sideways, pajama pants or slippers. What ever happened to having some personal pride and self respect when you go to a job? That being said, I did think the brochure was hilarious.
posted by Kokopuff at 7:17 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a nasty subtle dig at people that are often perceived as backwards or stupid in a way that's socially acceptable.

I met a man from Stoke on Trent once, and I had trouble understanding him. I wish there had been subtitles in our interaction. This has nothing to do with class issues. Sometimes there is a legitimate difficulty understanding certain accents.
posted by josher71 at 7:19 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Needs more stock photos.
posted by stormpooper at 7:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't care if you're young, old, rich, poor, black, white, man, woman, etc....but at some level I expect people in the working world to dress professionally.

You know how to dress professionally. You know how to behave in restaurants, you even know how to read, ride a bike, drive a car, delay gratification, decide on a goal, make plans, operate a word processor, negotiate workplace politics. These skills aren't quite innate, but they're so baked-in that they're below the level of conscious thought.

Can you see what a massive disadvantage you would be at if the last job in your family that didn't come with a paper hat was lost thirty years ago? How scared you'd be to expose yourself to rules you don't understand, and probable failure?

Sorry, I don't want to get at you. My trajectory's not dissimilar to mippy's, and I still have a foot in both worlds. I get pissed off at the "well why don't they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps?" attitude in one camp, and at the bucket of crabs mentality in the other.

I meet people who simply not capable of imagining an outcome, then planning and implementing the things they have to do to achieve it. And I really don't think it's their fault, because I think these skills are learnt from your family, and some families - whole communities - have lost them.
posted by Leon at 7:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [30 favorites]


I don't care if you're young, old, rich, poor, black, white, man, woman, etc....but at some level I expect people in the working world to dress professionally. And that means no wife beaters, sweat pants, hoodies, tights with ladders, skirts short enough to see your privates when you bend over, baseball caps worn backwards or sideways, pajama pants or slippers.

Nobody's disagreeing with you there. But imagine you're the second generation of long-term unemployed in your family, you've been out of the job market since you left school three years ago, and you've got a job. Your mates, and the people around you, dress in 'sweat pants' because that's fashionable, your wardrobe consists of the same, and you don't know anyone who is working in an office role. What would you wear to work?

You and I know what to wear, because we have an idea of what standards are. But this stuff is not second-nature to everyone. I'm in a position where I work in a job where the quality of our work is seen as more important than what we wear, and we have a casual office. In most low-paid jobs, the ones where you do not wear a uniform or get dirty, dress codes are more restrictive and a person on the minimum wage filing or answering calls at a call centre would be expected to come in the closest facsimile of professional dress they could afford. If I went to work in the City, for example, I wouldn't know what is considered appropriate dress there, and I'd have to find out. Luckily, I have people I can ask, who can lend me things they don't need until their first paycheque, and who can tell me whether it's fine to wear this colour of tights or that style of shirt. If you live in a deprived area, it's likely you won't have people to ask, and so it makes that transition more difficult.

When I was unemployed in Blackburn, I was offered a grant to buy interview clothing because I was/am classed as someone with a disability, and I went out and supplemented my second-hand jacket with a shirt and trousers. I wouldn't have been able to afford appropriate clothing otherwise, what with being unemployed. I bet that scheme has been dropped these days.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose.

IME, it's the middle-class (or above) frat boys who seem to wear nothing but hoodies, caps, and basketball shorts.

I'm a relentless thrifter and while I've occasionally found "nice" or "cool" pieces of clothing, it's impossible to count on it. No one could assemble a wardrobe solely from thrift stores and look "nice" or "respectable" as those words are defined by the middle/business/upper-classes. Partly because so little clothing is made to last these days, partly because "nice" and "respectable" as we define it largely means, clean, new, and fashionable,
posted by octobersurprise at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


When a certain style of dress is seen to be "trashy" by society at large, you make a decision to as to how you want to be identified when you choose to dress that way. It's not fair, but that is how it is.
posted by gjc at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


You do have to watch out for the occasional Worker-Dandyist deviationist, too.
posted by Abiezer at 7:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't care if you're young, old, rich, poor, black, white, man, woman, etc....but at some level I expect people in the working world to dress professionally.

See, this is something else that I don't quite follow.

In my experience, most people - regardless of class background - actually do dress broadly appropriately for work. And inappropriate work dress is far less class-linked than is assumed - there are plenty of middle class people in flip-flops and mini-skirts and untucked polos and so on. Of course, we could construe "inappropriate" to be "wears cheap pencil skirts and rather dreary knit sweaters and doesn't have a lot of those" - that would be class-linked "inappropriateness" because it would basically assume that only expensive clothes are "appropriate". But that's generally not what people mean.

So the thing is, I usually hear all this "those people aren't dressed appropriately" stuff about people when they are not at work - on the bus, at the weekend, going downtown, whatever. Or in situations where you don't necessarily expect to find yourself - if you're in court and you can't afford fancy clothes for court, that's just how it is. Or in situations where it really does not matter that much - honestly, if I am at church or in a museum or at the airport with someone who does not dress as fancily as I think appropriate, that is my problem.

People often say that this is about work, but it generally isn't.
posted by Frowner at 7:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


I can't read the word "estate" without picturing something like this. It's very confusing.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I notice that here we are discussing clothes and individual choice as if those things were the cause of poverty and inequality - once again, aesthetics and the fallacy of "choice" stand in for politics. That's precisely what I was trying to say upthread!
posted by Frowner at 7:50 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Creatively strong, great execution, but this is pretty out of order and fairly offensive, and I'm not big on identity cultural politics
posted by Bwithh at 7:51 AM on September 11, 2012


gjc: "When a certain style of dress is seen to be "trashy" by society at large, you make a decision to as to how you want to be identified when you choose to dress that way. It's not fair, but that is how it is."

Yes, but the identification goes two ways. You can wear Nike jogging bottoms and a football shirt not just because you're making a conscious aesthetic choice, but because it's a) what's available and b) lets you blend in to the social setting you live in. Indeed, Terry Pratchett's 'crab bucket' is a big part of the peer pressure that can keep individuals wedded to a lifestyle that holds them back in life:
"Crab bucket, thought Glenda as they hurried towards the Night Kitchen. That’s how it works. People from the Sisters disapproving when a girl takes the trolley bus. That’s crab bucket. Practically everything my mum ever told me, that’s crab bucket. Practically everything I’ve ever told Juliet, that’s crab bucket, too. Maybe it’s just another word for the Shove. It’s so nice and warm on the inside that you forget that there’s an outside. The worst of it is, the crab that mostly keeps you down is you… The realization had her mind on fire.

A lot hinges on the fact that, in most circumstances, people are not allowed to hit you with a mallet. They put up all kinds of visible and invisible signs that say ‘Do not do this’ in the hope that it’ll work, but if it doesn’t, then they shrug, because there is, really, no mallet at all. Look at Juliet talking to all those nobby ladies. She didn’t know that she shouldn’t talk to them like that. And it worked! Nobody hit her on the head with a hammer.”
— Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals
It's a lot more complicated than clothes and choices to wear or not wear certain things. These are surface - the real issues go much further back and far deeper. Build proper public transport, get industry to come back to the abandoned communities of the North and the Sunday best will follow. It's not simply a case of fitting everybody for a pair of khakis and a nice dress shirt.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:55 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the photos are REALLY well staged and shot.

The ad industry has its un-PC moments, but I think the main criticism here is the one in the thread - advertising is a very middle-class world and, given the competitive element to getting into working for an agency meaning you are likely to have to work for free or no pay for a while, and more likely than not in the most expensive cities in the country, it would surprise me if a significant proportion of the industry as a whole come from the lowest socio-economic groups. Same issues as journalism or TV or any other facet of the media, really - things establish themselves in a way that does not serve all social backgrounds well.
posted by mippy at 7:56 AM on September 11, 2012


Creatively strong...

Do you not reckon even by that narrow measure it's ten years behind the times with the Shameless stuff?
posted by Abiezer at 7:57 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Owen Jones's (formerly writing as Owen Hatherley)

Owen Jones and Owen Hatherley are two different people, both writing on social issues from a left-wing perspective. Confusing, I know.
posted by WPW at 7:58 AM on September 11, 2012


When a certain style of dress is seen to be "trashy" by society at large, you make a decision to as to how you want to be identified when you choose to dress that way. It's not fair, but that is how it is."

But this type of comment is always written from above, like the judgement of the rich on the poor is valid.

Do you think that middle class clothes can't look ridiculous to working class people? Every time I walk down the street in my loafers and browline frames, I know that the kids in this year's sneakers and hoodies are wondering why I even bother.

Or that middle class and elite clothes can't look evil? I also know that there are times when people assume that because I dress (and sound) so middle class, I am going to make things hard for them if they're working. Fancy accents and professorial/social worker clothes mean that people are going to tell you that you're doing it wrong, maybe make a casually racist comment without even noticing it, maybe take away something that you badly need because you "don't deserve it".

It's a two-way street.
posted by Frowner at 8:04 AM on September 11, 2012 [24 favorites]


Owen Jones and Owen Hatherley are two different people, both writing on social issues from a left-wing perspective. Confusing, I know.

How can this even be? They are both young blond white thin-faced men from the UK! I don't understand anything any more.
posted by Frowner at 8:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's the trouble with these Oxbridge academics, they all present themselves alike. Lobster bucket.
posted by Abiezer at 8:12 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's the trouble with these Oxbridge academics, they all present themselves alike. Lobster bucket.

I mean, I own a copy of Chavs. I've sat around reading it. I've told people it was by Owen Hatherley. I may even have shelved it next to my other books by Owen Hatherley. I think I need to go home and check on the authorship of all my favorite books - god only knows what I've been telling people. Maybe The Female Man is really by Octavia Butler and Angela Carter wrote The Golden Notebook.
posted by Frowner at 8:16 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu - is the system different in the US? Here, you have to put your name on a waiting list for social housing, unless you are classed as being in a 'vulnerable situation' such as having children.

I don't know if KokuRyu's public housing (in Canada, I believe) is the same as what we have in Toronto, but in Toronto, there is a years-long waiting list and you have to be pretty badly off to qualify. I don't know if there are any fast-tracks for families; we only waiting about 6 months to get in, but that was in the early 80s -- and I've known mothers with children to live in one-bedroom basement apartments. Sadly, we don't have any housing benefits that can be used outside of the main council-housing (Toronto Community Housing, used to be Metro Toronto Housing Authority) which are like American "projects".
posted by jb at 8:18 AM on September 11, 2012


On the one hand, I assume that this was intended as an internal document. On the other hand, how could they possibly think that: 1) it would be made public, and 2) that this was in anyway a good idea?

I mean, yeah, great photos and a mildly clever play on words but, really, this is tacky as shit and I frankly can't imagine working for a company who thinks it wise to put this in an official HR document. For all they know the new hotshot designer they just hired grew up in estate housing and is still best buds with "chav scum."
posted by asnider at 8:20 AM on September 11, 2012


Asnider, Iris sent it in to Campaign magazine themselves. Which was an... interesting choice, I guess.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2012


When a certain style of dress is seen to be "trashy" by society at large, you make a decision to as to how you want to be identified when you choose to dress that way. It's not fair, but that is how it is.

Interesting, perhaps you could fill us in on the reasoning behind your last clothing purchase. So....you're saying you didn't really think about it, you just bought more stuff like the things you were replacing? Why didn't you buy a tuxedo, that would have made you look like you belong to an entirely different social class! You could probably get a job as a symphony conductor or hedge-fund manager dressed like that! What do you mean that would be totally weird and uncomfortable, and everyone you know would consider that absurd and presumptuous? It's all just personal choice, man. You could be different if you really wanted to.
posted by facetious at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


Also, the comments on the Copybot post are great.
posted by sneebler at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2012


I don't know if KokuRyu's public housing (in Canada, I believe) is the same as what we have in Toronto, but in Toronto, there is a years-long waiting list and you have to be pretty badly off to qualify. I don't know if there are any fast-tracks for families

Very generally speaking, public housing in British Columbia is open to anyone, and the only criteria for eligibility in my case is that we as a family earn more than $36,000 a year (we do). This is called "market housing" and it is operated by the regional district.

For rental assistance, there is a waiting list for housing. For rental assistance, you generally have to earn less than $36,000 a year, but that's handled by the ministry of social services. Some of the housing here is reserved for people on rental assistance, notably folks who are living with long-term disability, but there are other people who are underemployed or just don't earn very much money.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2012


Why didn't you buy a tuxedo

To be honest, every time I ask myself this.
posted by jaduncan at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


We chose market housing because it's either really expensive to rent a house here in Victoria, and the quality of rentals for families is quite, quite bad. We moved back to Victoria at the height of the housing bubble that never burst, and, thanks to rock-bottom interest rates and a surplus of housing stock, are only just considering buying, in large part because of the money we have saved living in "market housing".
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2012


Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

My experience is that thrift shops in the UK were more expensive than in Canada or the US - with the exception of the Salvation Army.

My impression was that most of the thrift stores are actually "charity shops" - their purpose isn't so much to provide cheap clothing and housewares but to raise money for overseas (Oxfam) or hospitals or animal charities -- all except the Salvation Army. This was reinforced by my conversation with a British friend: he was surprised at how little North American stores charged and how they advertised themselves as being cheap (even the name "thrift store" as opposed to "charity store) rather than as raising money.

That said: have you tried to dress respectably from thrift stores? I adore thrift stores and I shop their for my own fun, but I NEVER look middle-class/professional. If I tried to do so, I would fail. The fit would be all wrong, the cuts all out-of-date, and frankly, a hell of a lot of the clothes in most thrift stores came from Walmart or the equivalent to start with. The really nice stuff usually ends up at a consignment shop. Maybe if I were a size 8 (US/Canada), I could do it. But with thrift shopping, my choices are a) lower-middle class middle-aged woman from the 80s or b) weird, slightly hippy-thing (I go for the latter).
posted by jb at 8:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


mippy: “Is the social housing/council estate analogue in the US the projects? The Wire was familiar to me in this way - not the drugs and guns way, but of kids who didn't know how to make a future for themselves, and if they did, they'd feel uncomfortable in that world (see the boy who took his girlfriend to a nice restaurant and felt completely out of place).”

To be clear, "projects" is a term really only used on the east coast of the US, and only used in larger cities anyhow; and the situation portrayed on The Wire is probably a situation shared by maybe half of 1% of the population of the US. It's a very diverse country. Public housing is generally something that the Federal government doesn't want to get messy with, so it varies vastly from state to state and even from city to city. There are a few commonalities, but in general it can be said (I think) that the differences between one US city's housing and another US city's housing are probably greater than the differences between one US city's housing and the UK's housing situation.
posted by koeselitz at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


how could they possibly think that: 1) it would be made public, and 2) that this was in anyway a good idea?
They work in advertising, we're not dealing with rocket scientists here.
posted by fullerine at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Asnider, Iris sent it in to Campaign magazine themselves. Which was an... interesting choice, I guess.

Brilliant. And somehow not at all shocking. Whenever an ad agency gets in trouble for something like this they've usually released it intentionally. No such thing as bad publicity, I guess.

Note to self: read all links in the FPP before commenting.
posted by asnider at 8:48 AM on September 11, 2012


Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

i would like to point out that this assumes that working class people look at themselves the way middle-class people supposedly look at them, i.e. as inferior and not nice/not respectable. if they do, then, huh, that's really weird - a bunch of people all deciding for no reason to look inferior and bad? hm, maybe they're all into punk rock or something? maybe they're part of a huge performance art piece? and if they don't, then i guess there isn't just one social and aesthetic scale that everyone agrees on, and along which everyone in the world is ranked from best to worst? it's all so confusing.
posted by facetious at 8:50 AM on September 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


how could they possibly think that: 1) it would be made public, and 2) that this was in anyway a good idea?

They work in advertising, we're not dealing with rocket scientists here.


That's true. They've also done that thing with the hard-to-read-font on a dark background. I guess no one in advertising has poor eyesight.
posted by jb at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2012


how could they possibly think that: 1) it would be made public

Also...that should say "wouldn't" be made public but, seeing as the agency intentionally made it public the point is moot.
posted by asnider at 8:51 AM on September 11, 2012


Why do you believe the people who make Donk to be chavs? Christ knows I hate that stuff, but they don't fulfill the stereotype by virtue of pursuing an interest and building a career from it. It says more about your prejudices than anything else (though I find the fact that Vice have to subtitle people from the North-West, as though they were an Amazonian tribe, fucking hilarious)

There's only one way I could possibly improve on what mippy said here, and that is by putting a banging donk on it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said: have you tried to dress respectably from thrift stores? I adore thrift stores and I shop their for my own fun, but I NEVER look middle-class/professional. If I tried to do so, I would fail. The fit would be all wrong, the cuts all out-of-date, and frankly, a hell of a lot of the clothes in most thrift stores came from Walmart or the equivalent to start with.

Yeah, it's not easy, especially if you aren't a standard size. And charity shops are in a strange place in the UK. On the one hand, people like Mary Portas (a 'retail guru') is attempting to smarten them up into boutique-like places, which in the show she did had locals complaining that they were actually being priced out of the market. On the other, the popularity of fast fashion means the stores cannot sell most of the donations they are getting at a competitive price - why would you buy a Primark coat for £8 that will last for one wash when the store will sell you one for £12 that will last three? - and people are selling more stuff on eBay because they need the money. (We don't really have consignment shops here.) London charity shops in particular are fairly expensive - one in Richmond was charging £50 for a coat that was £45 new, I've also seen knitting wool sold for more than I could buy it for in a store because the shops know that handicrafts are now trendy- because they price to make money for a charity, not to serve the needs of poorer people. Maybe that's why 'thrifting' has become a hobby here, because it's a way to get a fashionably quirky look to your home rather than a way to save money on basics. There's been a lot of discussion on UK fora about this of late - when I first moved to London I didn't earn a huge amount and I used to supplement my income by buying from charity shops and selling them on (I spent six months of unemployment reading antique and collectable guides from the library out of boredom, and studying completed auctions as a gambler would study the form) but that's very difficult to do now as charities have a better idea of what will make them money - which of course they're entitled to do.

As a charity shop aficionado (I'm wearing a 300SEK t-shirt I bought in Stockholm to work today) I couldn't rely on them to fill my wardrobe, because I'm not an average size in pretty much anything, and the style and amount of wear on most of the clothing would make a professional look even harder. I do look longingly on those huge supermarket-style stores they have in the US, though. And estate-sales - so many bloggers seem to find awesome sewing stuff at those things.

I wish they had charities over here where you could donate clothing for people who need interview/work wear, like the prom dress charities in the US. That would be such a good idea.
posted by mippy at 9:06 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


How costly is it to dress in a non-chav fashion? I was under the impression that the stereotypical chav conventions were not particularly cheap. Is "respectable" a code word for something pricey? Here in the US, it's pretty inexpensive to dress in a neutral, acceptable fashion.

To me this looks like Jesse Pinkman's style.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:26 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't read the word "estate" without picturing something like this. It's very confusing.
While I don't know the exact origin of the word "estate" in this case, there was a trend in the first half of the 1900s to build on the park and garden land of country houses. I seem to recall that it's one of the things that shocks Bowling when he goes back to Lower Binfield in Orwell's Coming Up for Air. I think the trend began with colliery estates, when landowners who found coal on their land would also build housing there so to be near to the pits.
posted by Jehan at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2012


Without wishing to sound like a middle class academic pontificating on the clothing choices of the working classes..

.. the point about "chav" wear was never that it was cheap kit worn out of necessity. The look derives from football casuals, who brought back Italian, French and German clothing and footwear from their trips abroad to support British teams. It was exclusive stuff and signified that you were hard enough to take on other firms in their back yard. That look was then much copied, first by football fans and then further.

Moving on 20 years, the stereotypical "chav" look involved some Burberry gear and chunky jewellery. Much as the original casuals' clothing was supposed to have been nicked or looted, so whether the Burberry gear was real or fake or whether it was plate or solid gold was besides the point, out of necessity.

Name brand leisurewear or shoes are not cheap. Which is why, for a certain type of mugger, shoes are particularly attractive.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


...Iris, the ad agency that invented 2012 Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.

This alone should earn them the fiery hate of all thinking people.


Oh, I don't know. There was something magnificent about having two animated penises as the Olympic mascots.
posted by yoink at 9:41 AM on September 11, 2012


People wear what they like to wear. They wear what other people the associate with wear. You could probably buy a cheap suit for what. Burberry stuff isn't particularly cheap. A Burberry tie is like $200. I never get to wear my Burberry ties because they are way too casual for the office and I never wear a tie outside work.

I had a boss I believe fit this stereotype. I work in New York but reported to London for some odd reason. This is a director in a large multinational. He only came to NY a few times a year, but when he did he would show up wearing a track suit, a diamond earring in each ear, neon sunglasses on a neon lanyard around his neck. He would borrow somebody's office l change into a $3000 suit, conduct his meetings and change back. He also had love and hate tattoos on his knuckles.

I really had to hand it to the London office for hiring this guy, he was out there. Terrible boss too.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everything I know about chavs I learned from Jaqueline Andrea Suzette Tyler (née Prentice) and laughing at Catherine Tate skits, so though I think the booklet is WAY misguided, I'm not sure I have much room to judge.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:43 AM on September 11, 2012


mippy - a quick google finds Dress for Success in the UK (and who do take direct clothing donations), and a Guardian article on another campaign that appears to have finished already.
posted by jb at 9:45 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, you can go to Primark and buy a suit and blouse for about £20, but it will be unlikely to be very durable at all, and people who care about these things will consider you a 'chav' for purchasing clothing from a cheap shop, or at least as someone wearing a low-quality outfit and therefore Not Our Type. Corporate/formal wear is pretty difficult to do on the cheap, as I remember all too well from my temping days and waiting anxiously for the sales at Next so I could buy trousers in long.(I don't shop in Primark myself, mainly because a) the queues drive me insane and I have little time to visit actual shops as it is b) I'm trying to buy more long-lasting well-made stuff, and that fits my shape well, and it doesn't deliver on both counts. Colleagues of mine can look fantastic in their wares, though.)

My default meeting outfit (ie. having to look smart) is a dress, tights and coloured shoes, which would be a total of about £100. If I worked in a corporate office I'd be expected to wear a suit - for one designed to fit me (I'm busty) I'd be looking at about the same. Then I'd need that kind of outfit across a week. And to live in an area where I won't get treated with abuse or suspicion for dressing corporate - I remember well enough what it was like walking around Shadsworh in my band T-shirt and docs as a teenager.
posted by mippy at 9:45 AM on September 11, 2012


The look derives from football casuals, who brought back Italian, French and German clothing and footwear from their trips abroad to support British teams. It was exclusive stuff and signified that you were hard enough to take on other firms in their back yard. That look was then much copied, first by football fans and then further.

It was also about not looking like your typical football hooligan. The police would stop and frisk a bunch of those in their denim and Doc Martens, you, with your Telegraph* folded up under your arm, Adidas shoes, and Lacoste shirt, would walk right through.

Then, the police wised up and found the cosh in the Telegraph. So, what to do now? Milwall Brick. Then, the police started looking for people carrying The Guardian or the The Times. Why? Because those were big broadsheet papers, and the typical fare for a football hooligan was a tabloid. Plus, of course, more paper=heavier brick.

* Not a tabloid. That would have given the game away!
posted by eriko at 9:46 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ad hominem - sounds like London hipster wear to be honest, and would get you beaten up by 'chavs' no doubt. I have seen so many bright young things with swirly neck or hand tattoos. YOU CAN'T WASH IT OFF KIDS.

Besides, you can't be rude about the man in the $3000 suit. COME ON.
posted by mippy at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The guy was in his 50s
posted by Ad hominem at 9:48 AM on September 11, 2012


Corporate/formal wear is pretty difficult to do on the cheap, as I remember all too well from my temping days and waiting anxiously for the sales at Next so I could buy trousers in long.

When I was a student living in the UK with very little money, I asked (plaintively) where I could get cheapish clothes. My SO could shop the men's section of Marks and Spencers, where they had good trousers for 10 pounds, but the women's seemed to start at 40 pounds. My husbands very well-to-do relatives told me to go to Next, as it was very cheap.

Yeah, I ended up only wearing men's clothes while there.
posted by jb at 9:50 AM on September 11, 2012


mippy, your comment way up in the thread could easily be describing the ghetto in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in which I spent my "formative" years, age 11 - age 17.

And reminds me that when I first read Irvine Welsh I was struck by how much the housing schemes sounded like the projects, with similar effects on the residents and perceptions of them in the wider culture.

I guess othering has some universal effects, regardless of the culture in which it takes place and the people to whom it is applied.

our wiggers

I don't want to derail, but I do want to state that I find the term "wigger" extremely bothersome, and preceding it with "our" adds fuel to the fire. Wigger contains what is perhaps the most incendiary slur in the English language, and it also implies that there is a "white" way to act.

The "our" is just patronizing. I don't think it'd be well received if, as an American, I spoke of "our women" or "our Latinos." This is not a call for the comment to be deleted or a castigation of the poster, just wanted the record to note my objection.

posted by lord_wolf at 9:52 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


...by the desire that the people who made those comments be forced to look back on their words, up on the internet and documented in perpetuity, and feel thoroughly, toe-curlingly, fall-through-the-floorly embarrassed by them.

I think time alone will achieve that nicely. Sure - there are some workplace benefits which are all about fun: fitness coaches and football games. But many are rather serious contractual issues. One day soon the first distraught, furious or litigious employee will walk into Iris' HR office clutching a copy of this benefits statement in their hand. Somebody who faces a bankrupting redundancy, a terminal cancer diagnosis or a newly born kid with severe disabilities for example. They will fail to laugh at the jokes - but their lawyers might look pleased when they look at the copy.
posted by rongorongo at 9:52 AM on September 11, 2012


eriko - have you read Casuals? Can't remember who wrote it now, but the very specific codes of style there - and how they were often disseminated via shoplifting networks at European away games - were fascinating.

Of course now, you can tell a dodgy pub by a notice in the window advising no football shirts, no caps, no Rockports, and sometimes no Burberry. In the local club my mates went to, this also extended to wearing a jumper over your Ben Sherman pastel shirt, presumably because people carried a knife under them (I can't think of any other reason). I walked through the door, aged 16, wearing a pair of steel-toed Doc Martens, with no backward glances from the bouncer. Horrible place. I put my head down in my then-boyfriend's lap because I was tired, and a bouncer came over with a torch to check I wasn't giving him fellatio. I spent my 18th birthday there with 'free champagne', which even to my plebian Northern tongue I could tell was cheap fizzy perry, wondering why I wasn't enjoying myself. Homophobic lads in pastel shirts voguing to dance remixes of the Backstreet Boys, and greasy-haired booze-o-youths squeezing my arse absentmindedly whenever I got up to go to the loo.

(Mind you, Rio's in Whalley was worse. I was in the loo - of course, none of the locks worked - a girl pushed it open, I looked at her as if to say 'yeah, bit busy here' and she stood behind me, shouting to her mate and texting. I would have said something, but given I was earlier threatened with a slapping for the crime of walking in front of some girl's cousin, I decided it was best to finish and leave.)
posted by mippy at 9:54 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an aside, You can always tell London bankers from New York bankers just by their shirts. Their spread collar shirts seem to be slightly wider than Their American counterparts. They also wear lavender checks and other colors that don't really fly here, unless you are British. I wonder where they get them.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:55 AM on September 11, 2012


The guy was in his 50s

Doesn't matter. Either he was a hipster, or too rich to care about how he looked. Like Simon Cowell. Only a man with more money than God can have a haircut that looks like he dipped his head in Dulux and painted the wall with it.
posted by mippy at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2012


> frankly, a hell of a lot of the clothes in most thrift stores came from Walmart or the equivalent to start with.

So what about those then? My bog-standard work uniform is anonymous khaki trousers and equally anonymous blue button-down long-sleeve office shirts. Oxford cloth. Both from Walmart--which is far and away the cheapest source of utterly unexceptionable make-you-invisible work clothes like these, cheaper new than the stock in any used clothing shop I've ever been in.

As for seeing how one dresses for life roles that aren't one's own but that one might like to move into, don't they have the telly in the UK yet?
posted by jfuller at 10:00 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably Boden or Thomas Pink, Ad hominem. IME bankers don't buy their clothes, their wives or assistants do. I'm stereotyping, obviously.

Mind you, we don't get those funny khaki pants here very much at all. (Which is confusing - to me khaki is a mossy green, not the colour of a bus seat cover.) You can spot a US tourist on the tube because they will be wearing khakis, into which they will have tucked their shirts.
posted by mippy at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I may just be a confused American, but what I've looked at online does seem to be on aesthetics - are these aesthetics not choice-based? Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose. Many do. Are these options not available in the UK?

The Burberry thing is a perfect example of why this is wrong.

Burberry was at one point the epitome of Posh. So the "chavs" started wearing it. As a result of their wearing it, the brand became tainted and tacky (for a more historical example of this, see St. Audrey's Lace, which was at one point considered nice, then adopted by lower classes, and so treated as tacky, to the point where it became the basis for the word "tawdry.")

If respectability of clothes is determined by those clothes not being worn by your type of people, then no, they cannot dress "respectably."
posted by Navelgazer at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


jfuller - as Eddy Grant once sung in Electric Avenue, 'can't afford a thing on TV'. When do you see estates portrayed on TV? On BBC documentaries about urban deprivation, on comedy shows where we're asked to laugh at the characters, or on dramas like Shameless which are basically pantomimes (and massively popular with the chattering classes). It doesn't reflect your life. I remember buying magazines as a teenager which featured clothing I could not buy where I lived. And if they sold it, I couldn't afford it. And if I'd tried to imitate it, it would have been a little bit wrong, and I would have had the piss taken out of me, like the time when I thought it would be a good idea to wear a dress on non-uniform day when everyone else was in three-stripe Adidas. (And yeah, school, but estates that have that very gang/group like culture aren't dissimilar.)

You can do it, but it requires a bit of knowledge, determination, and in a way, a willingness to ignore the status quo when you're not sure it won't later bite you on the ass. Have you ever seen Working Girl? Or this thread? This stuff doesn't come naturally to everyone. It involves resources, a mindset, a desire to do something even when people say 'what are you going to get from that, then?' My mother worked unpaid to get into her job as a care assistant and people she knew didn't understand why you would want to do something with no immediate reward, which is what work is for - to give you money to pay bills.

Burberry was at one point the epitome of Posh. So the "chavs" started wearing it. As a result of their wearing it, the brand became tainted and tacky

Kiiiiind of - it was more that fake versions were being produced. The ubiquituous 'chav' symbol of the Burberry check cap? Never made by the company. Someone designed one with the same or almost the same check, and it sold. Note that the stereotype does not incorporate the brand's most famous piece, the trench coat, because until you take it off and look at the inside you don't know where it's from.
posted by mippy at 10:12 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't matter. Either he was a hipster, or too rich to care about how he looked

Ok, I Will trust your judgement, London hipsters must be very different than New York hipsters. I think here the cutoff is like 25.

Probably Boden or Thomas Pink, Ad

Plenty of people here wear Thomas Pink shirts, it does have a bit of an association with gay men. In a way that they are extra specially stylish. I'd say the vast majority of shirts here are from Brooks Brothers or maybe Ted Baker? You can get Sean Jean shirts with lavender checks, I have some but I don't wear lavender to the office.

The thing with Burberry here, I think, here is that it is very preppy and young looking in an affected way. Those knit ties look like something out of PT Anderson film. Plus people notice the pattern a mine away and ask if you are going yachting or something.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2012


Ah, looks like I was mistaken about the cap. Always thought that started as a fake.
posted by mippy at 10:17 AM on September 11, 2012


Plenty of people here wear Thomas Pink shirts, it does have a bit of an association with gay men. In a way that they are extra specially stylish. I'd say the vast majority of shirts here are from Brooks Brothers or maybe Ted Baker? You can get Sean Jean shirts with lavender checks, I have some but I don't wear lavender to the office.

See, that's a whole stratum of office dressing that I know nothing about - I know very little about men's fashion, and particularly little about corporate dresssing, because nobody I know well is within this world. I don't know what it signifies if someone wears a blue suit, or a sharkskin one, or a lavender shirt. I think the thing with corporate dressing though is that it's a stylistic code that is very much in-the-know - you would be able to tell the difference between these things, but there is no outward branding or signifiers. (I once owned a McQueen suit jacket that was incredibly well cut - I wore it to every interview I had until it got too worn - but I could not look at a £100, a £1000 and a £3000 suit and easily tell you which is which, and I could probably only hazard a guess once I'd felt the fabric.) You have to be in that world to know how to dress that world.

So if someone came to your office in a £20 suit for an interview as the copy boy or the tea girl, would it be picked up on? Would it count against them?
posted by mippy at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2012


If I were a film-maker I would LOVE to remake Working Girl as a British story, with Wythenshawe/Peckham standing in for the Bronx or whereever it was Melanie Griffiths and her nogoodnik boyfriend were from.
posted by mippy at 10:24 AM on September 11, 2012


mippy, your comment way up in the thread could easily be describing the ghetto in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in which I spent my "formative" years, age 11 - age 17.

that's my point. on the one hand you have the Thatcher/Reagan economic program creating a permanent economic underclass and on the other hand you have the language of class warfare alienating people from their economic allies: you have more interests in common with people percieved as "chavs" than "tories"
posted by ennui.bz at 10:36 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


but in the US, the language of class is inseparable from the language of race...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also in 2006 Prince William of Wales, future King of England and his younger brother Prince Harry had dressed up as Chavs resulting in headlines in The Sun naming him 'Future Bling of England'.

Those boys just don't get it, do they.
posted by orange swan at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2012


Mind you, we don't get those funny khaki pants here very much at all. (Which is confusing - to me khaki is a mossy green, not the colour of a bus seat cover.) You can spot a US tourist on the tube because they will be wearing khakis, into which they will have tucked their shirts.

So wait, what does one do with one's shirt tails? Let them flap all over the place? Tsk.

And I take issue with this whole khaki business, as khakis originate in the British occupation of India - it's from the Urdu for dust and the original color was apparently from tea-dye, so probably always brownish.

I don't know - first it's the loud shirts, then they try to tell you that you should let the shirts flap about, then they tell you that your pants should be green. This is just killing my childhood anglophilia here.
posted by Frowner at 10:39 AM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


When do you see estates portrayed on TV?

Misfits, Top Boy, Dr Who, The Bill, one hundred thousand murder dramas. They're never off the TV. Not to mention Harry Brown, Fish Tank etc. I don't think the working class lack fictional representations of themselves.
posted by Summer at 10:44 AM on September 11, 2012


So if someone came to your office in a £20 suit for an interview as the copy boy or the tea girl, would it be picked up on? Would it count against them?

I have interviewed hundreds of programmers for "wall street" programming jobs. The only one I ever judged on his clothes hadn't removed the tags from his suit. I just thought it was kind of funny. They all, without fail, have terrible suits.

We don't have tea girls here. We do have Client Services people, to fetch VIP clients drinks, or crab legs, or whatever the fuck they want. We hire models,acresses and very attractive gay men for that role. I've never seen one look bad.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2012


Mippy, is England really the shithole you're making it out to be? I mean, once a chav, always a chav? And grown men beaten up for being hipster wannabe chavs?

Everything you describe sounds codified such that the game is so fixed there's no use even trying. You even buy into it. At this point, the Iris booklet begins to sound less offensive and almost reasonable.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:58 AM on September 11, 2012


The bit of England I grew up in is indeed a shithole. Lots of places aren't.

TV: Misfits is a London council estate, which is hugely different in subculture from the North in terms of ethnic mix, slang, drugs used etc. (As were Kidulthood etc. Have you ever heard an accent in. Film recently like those in the Panorama clip, or the Donk thing? Because I'm not seeing those kids. The exception would be Ken Loach's Looking For Eric.
Just like Skins was nothing like the state school, northern experiences of my nephew's. The Bill has been offair for five years, and so has Rose Tyler in Dr Who. Top Boy I don't know, I'm afraid. And if you think most of the people who watched Red Road weren't middle class, I don'tknow what to say. They don't build arthouse cinemas in poor towns.

Khaki - well, maybe I'm going off the eyeshadow definition there.
posted by mippy at 11:29 AM on September 11, 2012


And I take issue with this whole khaki business, as khakis originate in the British occupation of India

Yep, here is the platonic ideal of khaki pants. Note the color is shown as "British Khaki"
posted by Ad hominem at 11:44 AM on September 11, 2012


Lol at murder dramas. There was a for real murder on my mum's street a few years ago. She complained that instead of watching Midsomer Murders, there was one happening outside to see. I did give her a telling off.

Sorry, can't type very well while walking. Point was, you don't see kids like that represented on TV, because kidsllike that Don't get to write and produce and direct TV. And my home town was so insular, people didn't even holiday outside the county. University is a convenient way for smart poor kids to pack up and leave and see different things - which is why the rise in fees grinds my gannet so much - but if you don't leave, you never do. It's hard to pack up and go somewhere different as an adult, without the caring hand of an institution to make it easier (I've done it twice) and sometimes the attitude is - well, what do you want to do that for anyway?
posted by mippy at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


That awkward moment when you recognise your ex in the first picture in the Iris booklet...
posted by Wordshore at 11:50 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only one I ever judged on his clothes hadn't removed the tags from his suit.

Was he just so proud to be there?

Probably Boden or Thomas Pink

It makes me sad because I've never seen such beautiful shirts before.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I bet these pictures are hilarious if you work in that office and know the people in them. Chavs make fun of posh gits, posh gits make fun of chavs, northerners make fun of southerners who make fun of northerners. Every takes the piss out of everybody else's accent. It's the British way. Grow a fucking sense of humor.
posted by w0mbat at 12:01 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


> When do you see estates portrayed on TV?

That wasn't my drift, though. It was asked up-thread why young people who want out of the estates have a hard time escaping the estate "look" and the answer seemed to be "Well, where are they going to see any other look?" So my bringing up TV was by way of asking whether models of non-estate dress aren't commonly to be had on the tube? And they gots the tube, right?


> (I once owned a McQueen suit jacket that was incredibly well cut - I wore it to every
> interview I had until it got too worn - but I could not look at a £100, a £1000 and a
> £3000 suit and easily tell you which is which, and I could probably only hazard a guess
> once I'd felt the fabric.)

It can be legitimately hard to tell if the suit is on a guy on the slender side of average build who stands up straight, because any suit will look good on him. If otoh you see a guy who is built like a potato and your first impression is "he is sharply dressed" and only after that "...Oh, and he is built like a potato" then you are looking at a guy who is expensively tailored.


> I think the thing with corporate dressing though is that it's a stylistic code that is very
> much in-the-know -

There is no such code, though there are of course uncounted magazines, websites, and consultants who would have you believe there is an arcane game that must be played by spending lots of money on clothes.

That's for suckers. It's actually dead simple: navy blue two-piece (no vest) three-button suit, non-reflective material, no pattern. Bottom jacket button (only) unbuttoned, but all buttonholes work. Trumps everything else, is suitable anywhere at any time of day before 6 PM, and is all a male needs, ever, unless he really is a lumberjack. Black lace-up shoes, leather laces, untraconservative tie, you are dressed to joust with the ruling class wherever you may find a covert full.

Though you may want to think carefully before taking this from someone who has said he can usually be found wearing stuff from Walmart.
posted by jfuller at 12:22 PM on September 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I bet these pictures are hilarious if you work in that office and know the people in them. Chavs make fun of posh gits, posh gits make fun of chavs, northerners make fun of southerners who make fun of northerners. Every takes the piss out of everybody else's accent. It's the British way. Grow a fucking sense of humor.

Humour takes on a different meaning if those doing the mocking are more privileged than the people they're mocking. That's why the photos in this brochure are so startling to me: someone thought it was a good idea to exploit stereotypes of people in a lower socioeconomic position for the amusement of those in a higher socioeconomic position. It comes down to lack of awareness of inequality issues or just not giving a shit. It's hard to tell which in this case.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:26 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What about the cost (time and money) of maintenance for more formal clothes too? When I had to buy a professional wardrobe all at once, the cost was hard to take, but the upkeep was even worse. You could save on some of that by washing things on your own, but then you have to have a machine or go to the laundromat. If you get a stain in the wrong place the clothing may be rendered worthless. The logistics of keeping up appearances are really a burden. This is not a problem if your dress code is very lax, or if you have a huge amount of money, but if you are caught in the middle of those things it's awful.

In one of Ruth Rendell's novels she has a middle-class character sitting in a waiting room looking at all the people wearing tracksuits and realizing what a practical item of clothing the tracksuit really is. Comfortable, washable, hard to destroy. Rendell is kind of funny; she a baroness and all that and sometimes her ideas about contemporary life are incredibly off-- which in a way makes it more likely that if she says it, there's probably a lot of truth to it.
posted by BibiRose at 12:27 PM on September 11, 2012


mippy: When I was unemployed in Blackburn, I was offered a grant to buy interview clothing because I was/am classed as someone with a disability, and I went out and supplemented my second-hand jacket with a shirt and trousers. I wouldn't have been able to afford appropriate clothing otherwise, what with being unemployed. I bet that scheme has been dropped these days.

Job grants are abolished from next April, though anecdotally they are harder to get lately anyway.

No cut too small ...
posted by wilko at 12:34 PM on September 11, 2012


And there's the choice fallacy - a lot of that stuff is cheap - hoodies and tee shirts and jeans are cheap and easy to wash, plus easy to replace. I think a lot of middle class people don't really grasp just how short of money you can get.

Honestly, this is so wrong that it makes me question a lot of your other pronouncements on the subject. Lower-class teenagers dress to show off expense as much as possible. As was noted upthread, leaving the price tag on your $300 track suit was a very popular fashion statement for a while. Part of why sneakers are so popular is because everyone knows how much each kind costs.

Grown-ups, of course, dress more price-consciously. But grown-ups aren't wearing hoodies, track suits, and sneakers.

but in the US, the language of class is inseparable from the language of race...

That's really only true for people in the coastal cities. Most class conflict in the US is white-on-white---"good Christians" vs. "white trash". Spend a little time in West Virginia, North Dakota, Washington state, etc., and you'll get a sense of how an awful lot of the country sees race conflict as something that happens somewhere else, while class conflict happens right here, all the time. The idea that class = race is only believed by people who spend most of their time in NYC, Chicago, L.A., or San Francisco, where that is true.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:00 PM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Playing on the chav stereotype is obnoxious, of course, but stigmas against the working class or those on welfare are sadly not new. What's new here is describing employee benefits like this:
Free stuff. Cheap stuff. Serious stuff. Fun stuff. As one of us, you're entitled to it. Have you earned it? Probably not. But listen, if there's free stuff going begging, you'd be a fool not to grab it, right?
Imagine what it must feel as a new employee to receive this booklet: if you take maternity leave, you are like an irresponsible, teenage unwed mother. "No matter who the father is, the family will take of you."

Isn't the next step to apply this logic to wages? This is a vision of society where you deserve nothing, you are entitled to nothing, you are the property of your employer and you should be grateful for what you do get because it is always more than you deserve. Everyone is dragging down society, except for the 1%.

Frowner: People's social relationships are legitimate and have value even if they are not middle class social relationships. People can choose what they want if it doesn't hurt other people - even if other people don't like it.

Although popular, I think this is a very bad argument. It's a mistake to represent the differences between the middle class and the working class as primarily about culture. Effectively, you are calling for tolerance for the poor, and saying that we will see that their culture is beautiful and authentic if only we learn to appreciate it properly. This condescending middle class attitude basically keeps the poor in their place, because then we can say that poverty is not really an economic problem to be solved, but a cultural expression that should be celebrated.

Yes, working class culture offends middle class sensibilities. What if this is intentional? You say that chav culture is beautiful, if only we look at it from the right angle. But what if the ugliness, the crudeness, the violence is the whole point, that it simply reflects the ugliness and violence of capitalism, and exposes the hollowness of middle class pretensions. And as Brecht says, "What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?" What is the freeloading of the poor compared with the freeloading of the capitalist class of the backs of workers? What are the crimes of the poor compared with the daily criminal activity that is the normal part of our system? The Wire brilliantly portrayed this by having Stringer Bell take MBA classes, implying that business itself is a criminal enterprise.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:14 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Part of why sneakers are so popular is because everyone knows how much each kind costs.

The new Nike Lebron James sneaker hits the three hundred dollar price point for the first time.
posted by bukvich at 1:20 PM on September 11, 2012


Imagine what it must feel as a new employee to receive this booklet: if you take maternity leave, you are like an irresponsible, teenage unwed mother.

In the UK you are entitled to 38 weeks maternity leave on full pay as standard, and 52 weeks in total (I'm not sure whether it's half-pay or unpaid, but it's your legal right to take it.). The partner of the mother can take two weeks.
posted by mippy at 2:04 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But grown-ups aren't wearing hoodies, track suits, and sneakers.

Well, maybe not track suits...
posted by asnider at 2:09 PM on September 11, 2012



Honestly, this is so wrong that it makes me question a lot of your other pronouncements on the subject. Lower-class teenagers dress to show off expense as much as possible. As was noted upthread, leaving the price tag on your $300 track suit was a very popular fashion statement for a while. Part of why sneakers are so popular is because everyone knows how much each kind costs.


See, that's not my experience at all. I live in a neighborhood where people are poor, and if you have expensive sneakers then you have cheap jeans, and you probably don't have expensive sneakers. This whole "lookit the proles blowing all their money on Burberry" does not describe the reality of any working class person I have ever known. (Or maybe you have expensive jeans, expensive sneakers and an expensive hoodie - but all your other clothes are cheap, or you actually have good knock-offs, or they fell off the back of a truck, or you shoplifted them. )

I guess what bugs me is people getting all handwavy over working class status symbols while never mentioning 1. all the things you don't have if you're poor (a car - especially a reliable one - costs way more than a tracksuit) and 2. all the status symbols that just seem like "essentials" to middle class people. Like dress shoes or a nice bag or a good winter coat.


Although popular, I think this is a very bad argument. It's a mistake to represent the differences between the middle class and the working class as primarily about culture. Effectively, you are calling for tolerance for the poor, and saying that we will see that their culture is beautiful and authentic if only we learn to appreciate it properly. This condescending middle class attitude basically keeps the poor in their place, because then we can say that poverty is not really an economic problem to be solved, but a cultural expression that should be celebrated.


I think you're really misreading what I said. My point was that middle class people often talk about working class people as if their [sartorial, in this case] choices were all either the result of ignorance or pathology. Why don't working class people buy professional second hand clothes regardless of cost or suitability? Why don't working class people live like middle class people only on a reduced scale? Why are they so tacky? And this is usually from well-meaning middle class people who can only imagine what they think they'd do themselves if they were suddenly very, very broke. It has nothing to do with whether a culture is "beautiful" or not (I'm not sure what that means) - and everything to do with getting your head around the idea that people who do differently than you have reasonable reasons.

I feel like your comment has an underlying layer of "middle class is best after all", which is sort of weird. Yeah, what if working people are all going around thinking "letting my house go into foreclosure and owning only one pair of jeans and yelling at my partner because I'm freaking out about how we're going to eat this week, that will really expose the violence of the system!" But no. I just....like, here's the thing. I've grown up working poor, I've lived in poor neighborhoods all my life, I've helped friends through some truly shitty situations due to poverty. This whole "pathology of working class life" is just something that I do not see. I see some people who are stressed and messed up and unhappy because of capitalism, and I see some people for whom being very quiet in public and dressing in subfusc natural fabrics are not particularly interesting things to do.

When people are all "the violence and pathology of working class life exposes the violence of capitalism", basically they're saying that, yes, working class life is in itself violent and pathological. That seems messed up to me, especially from people who are left and middle class. All this sort of Bataille/Savage Messiah stuff - it's all very well if you want to lead a louche and precarious life to expose the violence of the system, but most people are just trying to get by.

That line also seems to overlook the actual, real radical traditions that persist in working culture, from Captain Swing and workingman's libraries on down to present day greymarket activity, self care and self education. That's where the critique of capitalism inherent to working class life is found, not in some imagined pathology.
posted by Frowner at 2:11 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frowner, from your use of phrases like 'foreclosure' and 'neighborhood', I surmise that you are American, where the class situation, while similar, is different. so it's not surprising that you don't recognise the facets of British culture discussed on this thread.

Cars, for example, are a working class status symbol - if you're a young lad, you want a supercar, but you'll make do with your 1993 Ford Fiesta to which you have fitted spoilers and a bass tube so you can ride it around pumping out Wigan Pier music. In the UK, car ownership is seen as more optional than in the US, and in London at least a large proportion of people do not have a car because there is no need for one, and they are costly to run.

Also, working people here, unless they are older than I or lucky, will most likely not own their house. I earn a salary above the national average, and because I need to live and eat and stuff, I can't save up the large sum needed to get a mortgage in the city in which I live, and by the time I do, house prices will have rocketed again necessitating Weimar-like sums just to secure a small one-bed. If you are on minimum wage, you will be lucky to be able to rent a place that isn't tiny, in an unsafe area or infested with damp. Home ownership is not the entry-level middle-class occupation that it is in the US. There is a huge divide between renters and landlords, and fewer rights given to renters - from not being able to paint or keep pets to the threat of being told you have two months maximum to leave your home and find somewhere else if you can't pay your rent or if the landlord decides s/he wants other tenants. And then there's the six-week deposit and myriad, spurious fees that renting privately involves. If you are working class, you are looking at never owning a home. Never. Unless you win the lottery. (Hey classists, this is why the 'underclass' enjoy their 'tax on the stupid' - because it lets you dream a little.)
posted by mippy at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2012


In the UK you are entitled to 38 weeks maternity leave on full pay as standard, and 52 weeks in total (I'm not sure whether it's half-pay or unpaid, but it's your legal right to take it.). The partner of the mother can take two weeks.


It always strikes me when things like this come up, because I always end up comparing this in my mind to home/the US. And here the equivalent number is:

0 weeks paid (for both parents), and
12 weeks unpaid,

so long as you both work at a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of you, have worked there for at least a year, and have worked at least 1250 hours within that year (Don't want to burden companies that hire part-time workers, you see).

And I don't personally want kids, mind you. But I look at this and think of all the people I know who are just starting to look at the idea of a family or are going through that now, and I can't even really imagine what it'd be like to live in a place that says "You get this. Not at the whim of the employer that controls your access to medical care. It's just something you should have. Go. Take care of your child."

As terrible as this booklet is (and it truly is fascinating to see discussion of class issues and identity that isn't focused at US politics), I can only imagine what a US equivalent booklet would be. Though I'm not sure if this instinct to understand through analogy is the best way to go about it.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:32 PM on September 11, 2012


Residents unhappy about documentary. And in the sidebar, a kid gets beaten up because he has long hair. Kind of my mixed feelings illustrated, there.
posted by mippy at 2:41 PM on September 11, 2012


Yo cuz! Turns out South Philly is full of chavs!

MY GOD IT'S FULL OF CHAVS
posted by Mister_A at 2:45 PM on September 11, 2012


For an excellent primer on "chavs" and their relationship with the council estates in which they live, illegal aliens, and middle-class British society, I recommend the recent documentary Attack of the Block. (It's on Netflix.)
posted by miyabo at 3:13 PM on September 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


When people are all "the violence and pathology of working class life exposes the violence of capitalism", basically they're saying that, yes, working class life is in itself violent and pathological.

But then you fall into the opposite trap of saying "No, working class people are all good, simple hard-working people who just want to feed their families," basically romanticizing them in the eyes of the middle class. Then what if working class life was violent and pathological? Don't they have the right to be angry?

Of course these stereotypes are technically wrong. It's an illusion of the middle class that all or even most of the working class are like that. But the underlying truth about this illusion is not "You think they are X, but it's not quite like that, they are also Y and it's much more complex and nuanced…"

My point is to ask why the middle class needs to believe in these stereotypes? They aren't just uninformed and need to watch a few good documentaries to realize it, it's not an academic question of "What is it really like to be working class?"

The purpose of this fantasy -- which may or may not be factually accurate -- is to claim that the failures of the system are not really failures, the large number of people excluded from a comfortable middle class life is due to their poor work ethic, incorrect fashion choices, tasteless music or whatever.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:40 PM on September 11, 2012


To be clear, "projects" is a term really only used on the east coast of the US, and only used in larger cities anyhow;

What? People use that term all the time in SF and Oakland. I think it is used where ever there are housing projects. I've never seen it characterized as an east coast term.

Here, at least, even the underclass or lower working class (through thrift shops and other such things) have the ability to dress relatively nicely and respectably if they choose.

The idea that poor people need castoffs from better-off people in order to look "respectable" really rubs me the wrong way. There's an implication that whatever they're wearing, if it's not what middle-class people would wear, it's not respectable. Poor people with jobs generally wear the clothes appropriate to that job- you don't get to keep said job if you don't, as a rule. What people on welfare wear is really up to them, as far as I'm concerned.

He only came to NY a few times a year, but when he did he would show up wearing a track suit, a diamond earring in each ear, neon sunglasses on a neon lanyard around his neck.

This sounds like what Russian mafia types wear, or at least their sons, especially the ones who run seedy nightclubs. At least that's what the ones in the City used to wear.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:04 PM on September 11, 2012


Humour takes on a different meaning if those doing the mocking are more privileged than the people they're mocking. That's why the photos in this brochure are so startling to me: someone thought it was a good idea to exploit stereotypes of people in a lower socioeconomic position for the amusement of those in a higher socioeconomic position. It comes down to lack of awareness of inequality issues or just not giving a shit. It's hard to tell which in this case.


Look, the problem is that you are assuming that chavs are inferior to people who work in advertising, and you are trying to protect them from what you see as their superiors. I say bollocks to that. Everyone is as good as everyone else and everybody is fair game. Don't try to repackage your snobbery as social awareness.
posted by w0mbat at 5:50 PM on September 11, 2012


I'm a relentless thrifter and while I've occasionally found "nice" or "cool" pieces of clothing, it's impossible to count on it. No one could assemble a wardrobe solely from thrift stores and look "nice" or "respectable" as those words are defined by the middle/business/upper-classes. Partly because so little clothing is made to last these days, partly because "nice" and "respectable" as we define it largely means, clean, new, and fashionable,

I think our experiences have been largely different. Our definitions of nice and respectable have varied through the years, but it does not largely mean new and fashionable. It does mean clean. Clean is easy to get with a washboard and a bar of soap. I've done it, in ages past.

For men? A button up shirt and a pair of slacks will not always be fashionable for a man. But "oh my goodness, he's wearing a solid color instead of stripes?" is very different than "Oh my goodness, I can see his underwear." Yes, a solid, dark-colored knee-length or ankle-length skirt and a white blouse will not always be fashionable for a woman. But it will always be fine to come to work in. Those things haven't altered significantly over the last fifty years.

Or that middle class and elite clothes can't look evil?

You are going to have to explain that one to me. Hopefully before my clothing revolts and I no longer have the energy to type.
posted by corb at 6:14 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, the problem is that you are assuming that chavs are inferior to people who work in advertising, and you are trying to protect them from what you see as their superiors. I say bollocks to that. Everyone is as good as everyone else and everybody is fair game. Don't try to repackage your snobbery as social awareness.

Maybe it's not what you're doing to your supposed inferiors with this kind of mocking; it's what you do to yourself.
posted by BibiRose at 6:48 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we normally tend to differentiate ourselves from our not-too-distant peers. On this level the differences are more about values, or at least they appear to be. It would be fairer game for the long-haired goth boy on the estate to make fun of chav culture, especially if he's a recent former chav himself or otherwise close enough to it that they're his peers. He might feel he's advocating a more positive set of values - reading is cool, fighting is stupid - and he could demonstrate that in his tastes, swapping the tracksuit for jeans.

I have friends who'll admit to having gone through a chav phase, but that doesn't mean that they don't use the word or that they use it in only a positive way. I think it can be used in a negative but not dehumanising way- like middle class young people talk about emos. I don't think that ought to be out of bounds.

However, the people at the ad agency aren't operating in the same context as the people they're depicting. Their peers are people more like me and probably you. I'm at a safe distance from being a chav but dangerously close to being a media wanker, so when I see the images I feel like I've got to demonstrate that my values are different from theirs, that I'm conscious of the role of class and that I don't think punching down is cool. Maybe that's why this booklet seems bad taste to me.
posted by PJMcPrettypants at 8:11 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we normally tend to differentiate ourselves from our not-too-distant peers. On this level the differences are more about values, or at least they appear to be. It would be fairer game for the long-haired goth boy on the estate to make fun of chav culture, especially if he's a recent former chav himself or otherwise close enough to it that they're his peers. He might feel he's advocating a more positive set of values - reading is cool, fighting is stupid - and he could demonstrate that in his tastes, swapping the tracksuit for jeans.

But see then every time we hear a joke, we must carefully check the class background, racial identity, and gender identification of the person making it before we can have a reaction. Are we sure the ad agency people are upper-class? Maybe they're an agency with a bunch of upstarts from council flats? Or maybe they're a bunch of storekeeper's kids from Glasgow? Maybe half of them went to Oxford, a third went to Yale, and a third have vocational training---then what? You get into endless blah-blah-blah about who gets to say what, and it's stupid and a drag.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:52 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, the problem is that you are assuming that chavs are inferior to people who work in advertising, and you are trying to protect them from what you see as their superiors. I say bollocks to that. Everyone is as good as everyone else and everybody is fair game.

I wasn't talking about anyone being superior or inferior. I said that they occupied different socioeconomic statuses. Those who have higher socioeconomic status (this is a descriptor, not a judgment) have more privilege than those who have a lower socioeconomic status. It's important for people to be aware of their own privilege and not use it to make fun of those with less privilege.

Being more privileged doesn't make someone superior, and being less privileged doesn't make someone inferior. But power differentials like that don't need to be exacerbated by misguided use of stereotypes for humour.

Don't try to repackage your snobbery as social awareness.

I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say, if you read my comment as snobbery towards those being stereotyped.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:45 PM on September 11, 2012


Yes, a solid, dark-colored knee-length or ankle-length skirt and a white blouse will not always be fashionable for a woman. But it will always be fine to come to work in.

Where do you work that people show up in "chav-wear?" Because the only people I see who wear anything close to this type of clothing to work are doing IT, science, or some other semi-lucrative nerd-type work. The people this brochure is aimed at tend to work at places that require a uniform.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:49 PM on September 11, 2012


The brochure is aimed at people working in an advertising agency. I am amused at the idea of white-collar/creative jobs adopting a uniform, though. I reckon it would involve an ironic wolf t-shirt.
posted by mippy at 12:25 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am amused at the idea of white-collar/creative jobs adopting a uniform, though.

You've already hinted at the very uniform they use: "white-collar". Shirt and tie, blouse and skirt, done.
posted by Dysk at 12:46 AM on September 12, 2012


Look, the problem is that you are assuming that chavs are inferior to people who work in advertising, and you are trying to protect them from what you see as their superiors. I say bollocks to that. Everyone is as good as everyone else and everybody is fair game. Don't try to repackage your snobbery as social awareness.

Oh, it's cute when people think they've pulled off this sort of awesome intellectual reversal. Oh, it is in fact the people who don't like poor people being mocked that are the snobs! Oh, how embarrassing for us!

Yeah, no. It's not about anyone being superior or inferior. It's about people with more or less privilege and less power. And about how repulsive and - if nothing else - how comically lazy it is when a more privileged group bashes on a less privileged one.

Sort of enjoying the line of argument though. So pretty much all racists, sexist, homophobic jokes are ok, because we're all fair game and to protest is snobbish? Nice.
posted by ominous_paws at 2:04 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You've already hinted at the very uniform they use: "white-collar". Shirt and tie, blouse and skirt, done.

That's ridiculously overdressed for an advertising agency. If you turned up in a tie people would ask if you had an interview.
posted by Summer at 3:22 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, most agencies are very much casual dress. Even the standards for meetings are different from what would be expected in, say, a banking organisation.
posted by mippy at 3:35 AM on September 12, 2012


Unless working class has turned into a euphemism, I don't think chavs are part it. Working class, by definition, works. Chavs, however, are people whose only support comes from welfare, hustles, and stealing. That's the whole point of the stereotype- they are creeps who don't work. So when people make fun of chavs, they aren't making fun of the poor, proud workingman too ignorant to know whether his socks should match his ascot or not.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on September 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"oh my goodness, he's wearing a solid color instead of stripes?" is very different than "Oh my goodness, I can see his underwear."

If the definition of "respectable" is just no visible underwear—a low bar, that—then a respectable wardrobe could be pieced together from the local dumpster. If "respectable" means "appropriate to a white-collar organization with a dress code," then I remain unconvinced that such a wardrobe can be assembled from thrift store finds.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 AM on September 12, 2012


Hell, I'm middle class as they come, and I apparently can't navigate sartorial norms in office jobs, as evidenced. Kinda says something. At any rate, even if you lose the tie, you're still looking at black leather shoes, dark trousers, and a white (or off-white or very pale pastel) button-down shirt with a collar. It's not really 'white collar' work otherwise.
posted by Dysk at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2012


If the definition of "respectable" is just no visible underwear—a low bar, that—then a respectable wardrobe could be pieced together from the local dumpster. If "respectable" means "appropriate to a white-collar organization with a dress code," then I remain unconvinced that such a wardrobe can be assembled from thrift store finds.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:41 AM on September 12 [+] [!]


Yeah, it's a lot more subtle/difficult, especially for women.

I married up, and my husband's relatives aren't aristocrats (well, only some of them), but solidly upper-middle class (middle-class by UK terms), but you can tell instantly see the difference in their clothes from what my lower-middle-class family wears, even when they are dressed up. The cuts, the colours, everything is different. I remember when my mom took me shopping for my first "office clothes," when I was trying to get a job between university and grad school. Of course, she didn't know anything about office clothes, despite working in an office, and I ended up with stuff that made me look about 10 years older than I was -- and more suited to a PTA meeting than any fancy office. I'm lucky - I never did end up with an office job with a dress-code more than "business casual." But if I'd wanted to work outside of the non-profit sector, my complete lack of appropriate fashion would have really held me back. (Seriously - we were having a conversation with a graduate of an elite undergrad, and she was explaining how none of us would ever be hired by a consultancy. We might be smart and have graduate degrees, but we didn't have the right "look").

Anyways - this is all off-topic re "chavs". It's just a fashion, it's what secondary school kids wear or people off-work. I used to wear ripped tights and black lipstick; I had a streak bleached in my hair -- and it didn't matter, because I was in high school. (Man, I really should dye my hair again while I'm working for the scientists - they don't care).

What's really offensive about this booklet is the stereotyping of people on "benefits" (aka welfare and unemployment) as criminals and anti-social.
posted by jb at 8:53 AM on September 12, 2012


Translation for Americans: Chavs are what we here call "juggalos."
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:36 AM on September 12, 2012


I think "trailer trash" works too. Trailer parks may be the closest US equivalent to council estates, since public housing residents in the US are really poor.
posted by miyabo at 11:25 AM on September 12, 2012


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