When I was growing up, my sisters and I would regularly be brought out in terrible fits of the cringes by my Mum being embarrassingly snobby about people – describing one of our neighbours as “a bit cor-blimey” or, people with a posh accent as ‘frightfully frightfully”. Us kids were rigorously conditioned to speak properly, “it’s someTHING not sumfing” and not to drop our ‘h’s’. She would wince visibly at any of the following– perms, tattoos, crop tops etc.
Her most excruciating tic was when anyone like a shop assistant, parking attendant or train conductor informally referred to her as ‘my love’ or ‘darlin’’ – she would recoil in horror and hiss back theatrically; ‘I’m not your darling’. I’m getting all quivery just writing about it now.
My mum aka Hyacinth Bucket
Luckily, now I’m an adult, live in my own flat at hang out with much nicer, more open-minded, reasonable people – people who would never dream of slagging people off just because of their social background. Or so you might think. In fact, living in East London and hanging out with creative types and people who work in fashion and the media, you often end up hearing some opinions of just as shockingly casual snobbery as I did while being raised by Hyacinth Bucket.
Even Guardian-reading liberals with otherwise very lovely manners, it turns out, have their bête-noirs, things that are so beyond the pale they are fair game for a slagging- and it’s usually a county of England, beginning with an ‘E’. (or their perception of it).
Have you noticed people whingeing publically that the club they went to at the weekend ‘was really great – music amazing, but, like they’d let quite a few awful orange Essex people in’ or – ‘XYZ used to be SUCH a cool bar. Like, now it’s ruined of course, since the Essex people found out about it’ and so on and so forth. ‘Coach loads of Essex people at Liverpool St’ (since when has Liverpool St been cool? It’s the commuter epicentre of the City) is also a complaint that I find baffling; you can’t even bear to share a pavement with people a bit different from yourselves? Change the demographic focus of that ire and you’d be left with straight-out racism.
These days “orange Essex people” are the object of much derision and moaning. I say Essex people. I’m sure hipsters don’t stop to ask anyone where exactly is their hometown before laying into why they shouldn’t be there. At one stage, before 2010, certain cool people might have grumbled indiscriminately about ‘out of towners’ – someone I recall used the affected expression ‘bridge and tunnel people’ (stupidly, because that was coined in New York, where you could only get to the island of Manhattan by bridge or tunnel – not quite the case in London.)
The stars of TOWIE strut their stuff
Now there is a telly program and an acronym for these supposed interlopers – “TOWIE on tour”. That one program has given a whole demographic of cool Londoners permission to let loose their snobbiest prejudices and air them without fear of recrimination – since the whole country laughs at them on telly, it makes it alright. But it’s not alright, is it? And not everyone from Essex is like the few caricatures on that one slice of constructed reality.
If hipsters were to stop and think about it, they actually have a lot more in common with the cast of TOWIE than they do with normal people, the ones who don’t belong to any particular tribe or other. Things they have in common: they both congregate in very specific areas and avoid mixing with people unlike themselves. They wear a very narrowly restricted uniform of ‘fashionable’ clothes.
Both groups clearly have an overlap in taste in music, bars and nightlife (and shops) otherwise the hipsters wouldn’t mind these Essex types hanging out in the venues they feel belong exclusively to them. Hipsters are angry, because if someone they don’t rate as cool likes the same thing as them, they feel insecure about liking it themselves in the first place, being obsessed with image above all things, rather than having confidence in their own taste.
The main difference between the likes of TOWIE and the East London trendies I know is that the former are aware of their own silliness and are purposely camping it up, exaggerating their foibles, whereas some of the trendies are very earnest. Deadly earnest, in fact.
Whenever I have tried to point out that they might be being a bit harsh, or even offensive by complaining that one group of people have no right to step on the turf of another group of people, my friends have always argued quite seriously why they shouldn’t be there. Well, hipsters – stop it! Everyone should be free to go out wherever they like for a pint, and if you don’t like it – maybe you should go and open your own PRIVATE hipsters bar, and see how much fun that is.