Around the World in 180 Days

A journey across the Atlantic and into matrimony

Class Culture March 17, 2010

Filed under: daily life — rhet @ 5:23 am

Years ago, when T tried to explain the class culture of the UK, I stubbornly didn’t believe him. I thought, surely in these modern times, class isn’t that big of a deal and that the UK couldn’t be all that different from the US when it came to class. Well, it turns out I was wrong and the guy who is native to the country actually knew what he was talking about! Go figure.

It dawned on me the other day when I was thinking about how something as simple as a haircut could demonstrate ones class here. With certain styles, sporting X cut means you are of X class. I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, but generally if you wear a chavy hairsyle, people will assume you are a chav*.  And unless my memories of the homeland are slipping away faster than I thought, I can’t come up with one single haircut that would so clearly define a person in the US.

Now, I’m just using haircuts as an example here, as the same goes for a persons clothes among other things. Obviously in the US (and pretty much anywhere in the world really), you can get a pretty good idea about someone by how they’re dressed and how they present themselves but it’s becoming more and more apparent to me how distinguished and obvious the class structure tends to be here.

T says it’s gotten a lot better over the last 20 years but I still find the whole thing a bit odd and judgemental to my laid back American sensibilities. It’s hard to deny the stereotypes though when you see a group of teens dressed in sweat pants or track suits, loitering on the street accosting passersby with rude comments as the group who have taken over our local Subway have been doing. I can’t help but  avert my eyes and walk by quickly when I see them.

*Chav is a term applied to certain young people in the United Kingdom. The stereotypical “chav” is an aggressive teenager, typically unemployed or of white working class background  who repeatedly engages in anti-social behaviour, such as street drinking, drug abuse and rowdiness, or other forms of juvenile delinquency.

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3 Responses to “Class Culture”

  1. we can them Neds here in EK. It is hard to not stereotype, but so many people here in the UK use defining traits such as the hair cut, clothes, etc to define who they are…

    I have yet to find a place where I can get an American hair cut either….no one knows what I am taking about or even when I bring pictures in they still do it with a British flare. I don’t want the British flare….my head doesn’t like that. HA HA!

  2. Well … I think that the mullet would stand in there, for your “defining” haircuts in the US. Maybe. Except … well, not.

    Class here is truly interesting, as is the whole idea of social contact. In the US, we freely share our social contacts. Here in the UK, they take it to mean that they’re somehow responsible for whomever they put forward as someone they know. It’s bizarre, strange, and downright backwards, so far as I can tell. It’s the way they are, though, and it’ll get you, next time you decide to ask of somebody knows somebody….

  3. Carlie Says:

    Mary~ Even I don’t know what you mean by an American hair cut!

    David~ the mullet is a pretty uh..identifiable trait..but its one of those ‘so uncool its cool’ things now!


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