Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>Chav subculture
Subject: chav
Culture: English working class
Setting: urban England 1990s-2000s
Evolution: ... 1975 Anglo-American punk > chav subculture


* Jones 2011 p7-8
"There are some who defend the use of the word 'chav' and claim that, actually, working-class people are not demonized at all; 'chav' is simply used to designate anti-social hooligans and thugs.  This is questionable.  To begin with, no one can doubt that those on the receiving end are exclusively working class.  When 'chav' first appeared in the Collins English Dictionary in 2005, it was defined as 'a young working-class person who dresses in casual sports clothing'.  Since then, its meaning has broadened significantly.  One popular myth makes it an acronym for 'Council Housed And Violent'.  Many use it to show their distaste towards working-class people who have embraced consumerism, only to spend their money in supposedly tacky and uncivilized ways rather than with the discreet elegance of the bourgeoisie.  Celebrities from working-class backgrounds such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney or Cheryl Cole, for example, are routinely mocked as chavs."

* NSS Magazine online > The return of the chav phenomenon on TikTok
"Aside from funny videos and over-the-top looks, chavs was a hotly debated issue in the UK in the early 2000s.  The spread of this definition - for some a derogatory term of Romanus origin, for others the acronym of Council Housed and Violent - went hand in hand with the rise of a huge satire in the English media, with TV shows like Little Britain and the character of Vicky.  For many, however, all this was nothing more than a great demonization of the working class, because of jokes and sketches that targeted the weakest and most marginalized social classes of English society.  The conception spread that the chavs were lazy and without ambition people, satisfied with their (low) social position, and with no intention of overturning it, a clearly arbitrary and wrong point of view.  The term assumed even greater proportions when it began to be used also by Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time, wanting to indicate precisely poor young people without prospects."

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Kennedy 2023-01-29 online
"The official definition of a chav is a young person characterised by coarse and brash behaviour.  That doesn’t really come close to explaining the subtleties and widespread cultural essence of the British chav.  If you are outside right now, on the Tube or in the coffee shop, you probably have one next to you.  Don’t stare. 
    "There is confusion over the etymology of the word.  It could be from the Romany word chavi – meaning child – which was recorded in the 19th century.  Others say ‘chav’ derives from ‘Chatham average,’ a reference to the inhabitants of Kent town.  There are different words for chav in different parts of the country; knackers, skangers, spides, charvers, scallies, neds.  None of those words has quite the same power.  
    "The word as we know it sank into public consciousness in the early noughties – think ShamelessThe Catherine Tate Show, and it was soon scooped up by the press."

* NSS Magazine online > The return of the chav phenomenon on TikTok
"A deeply British phenomenon born in the early 2000s, the chavs were young kids belonging to the working class who lived in social housing, spoke in slang and with a very thick accent, they were known for their aggressive attitude, not only towards peers but also towards teachers, who often resulted in fights and brawls."

* Burrows 2014-11-07 online
"Chav is, of course, along with 'hoodie,' 'scally,' or 'ned,' reductive shorthand for an oft-imagined adolescent, usually from an estate, who, in addition to sportswear, likes weed, benefit fraud, FIFA, and intimidation.  It's a word that does nothing to help the problems that the myth might have grown out of—problems of underemployment and antisocial behavior."

* Jones 2011 p6-7
"When ex-convict Raoul Moat went on the run after shooting dead his ex-lover's partner in July 2010, he became an anti-hero for a minority of some of the country's most marginalized working-class people.  One criminologist, Professor David Wilkinson, argued he was 'tapping into that dispossessed, white-working-class, masculine mentality, whereby they can't make their way into the world legitimately so behaving the way that Moat has behaved, as this kind of anti-hero, has, I think, touched a nerve.'  White working-class men had, at a stroke, been reduced to knuckle-dragging thugs lacking legitimate aspirations.  The internet hosted a vitriolic free-for-all.  Take this comment on the Daily Mail site:
Look around the supermarket, the bus and increasingly now on the road, you will encounter ever-growing numbers of tattooed, loud, foul-mouthed proles, with scummy brats trailing in their wake, who are incapable of acknowledging or even recognising a common courtesy, and who in their own minds can never, ever, be in the wrong about anything.  These are the people who are getting sentimental about a vicious killer; they have no values, no morality and are so thick that they are beyond redemption.  You are better off just avoiding them.
This form of class hatred has become an integral, respectable part of modern British culture.  It is present in newspapers, TV comedy shows, films, internet forums, social networking sites and everyday conversations.  At the heart of the 'chavs' phenomenon is an attempt to obscure the reality of the working-class majority.  'We're all middle-class now', runs the popular mantra -- all except for a feckless, recalcitrant rump of the old working class.  Simon Heffer is a strong advocate of this theory.  One of the most prominent right-wing journalists in the country, he has often argued that 'something called the respectable working class has almost died out.  What sociologists used to call the working class does not now usually work at all, but is sustained by the welfare state.'  It has given way to what he calls a 'feral underclass'."

* Inspiration Unlimited Magazine 2024 online > How Burberry reclaimed its brand after becoming linked with “chav culture”
"... ‘Chav’ was a term used to refer to individuals in London who wore designer clothes but lacked good taste and breeding.  The term was derogatorily used to refer to people who attempted to live rich and lavish lifestyles while lacking good company, proper etiquette, and amicable behavior.  Chav culture came to be known as a type of fashion that involved designer brands, tacky jewelry, and bad taste."

* Raga 2020-07-13 online
"The word “chav” is a pejorative used to describe lower class, anti-social youths who grew up in council housing (what we call public housing). There really is no direct American equivalent of this social phenomenon but if trailer trash and wiggas had a baby, that baby would be pretty close to a chav.
    "Chav culture was formed in football (soccer) stadiums, and in the beginning, applied predominantly to skinheads and diehard football fans looking for a fight, whether with fans of an opposing team or with the police.
    "Many people have criticized the use of the term, arguing that it is derogatory to working-class people and is a coded attack on poor people.
    "But while chav culture was derided for years, and seen as an indication of someone’s lack of education and low social standing, the chavs have made significant contributions to the culture at large.
    "The effects of this subculture can still be felt today from the current dominance of streetwear in high fashion to the popularity of grime in the UK that came out of drill music that was popular in chav circles in the '90s and early 2000s."

* Nachiar 2022-02-03 online
"Think English neighborhoods filled with kids wearing designer tracksuits (fake or real, it doesn’t really matter), caps, white sneakers, etc., who speak in a specific slang and most probably smell like beer all the time.  These young men and women usually belonged to the English working class and were recognized to be brash, poorly educated, and known to have somewhat of an antisocial behavior.  It is a derogatory social term that represents, most importantly, caste and whiteness, among others.  The brands loved by these chavs consisted mainly of Burberry, Kappa, Nike, Adidas, and Stone Island, to name a few."


* NSS Magazine online > The return of the chav phenomenon on TikTok
"[T]he feature that was later poised to identify the chavs in the collective imagination, was their style, the aspect that is most replicated in the short videos posted on TikTok today. ....  [C]hav boys would prefer tracksuits of brands such as Nike, [A]didas, Kappa, possibly in black and blue hues."

* Bok 2004 p63
"White Nike trainers, tops and tracksuit bottoms with (preferably prominent) Burberry, Hackett, Nickelson, Reebok, etc. logos are compulsory.  Don't forget -- brands represent that all-important status."

* Caruso 2018-07-25 online
"The Cambridge Dictionary defines the term ‘chav’ as an insulting word, which usually refers to a young person, whose way of dressing - with tracksuits, white sneakers, caps and over the top jewelry -, speaking and behaving is thought to show their lack of education and low social class. What really mattered in the chav culture was showing off of a brand and the social position it implied, and it was not a big deal to wear imitations or knock-off clothes: at the highest point of this trend, the counterfeit market is bigger than ever.  Stone Island and especially Burberry, but also adidas and Kappa, are chavs’ favourite brands, real or fake, all paired with Nike Air Max 95s (called in slang 110s, because they costed £110 at that time) or the Nike Air Max Tns.
    "The history of the tracksuit would deserve its own book, especially because in England it's a big deal.  From the 70s the tracksuit is no longer something to be worn only at the gym or on tracks, but it becomes a fashionable item for everyday life.  In the 80s the hip-hop scene has a huge influence on this trend: the Three Stripes adidas tracksuits worn by the Run DMC made history and are now iconic.  But it's in the 90s that the tracksuit becomes something deeply connected with the English society and culture.  The so-called 'casuals' made the tracksuit their uniform and symbol.  This subculture was born on the terraces of football stadiums: while hooligans were openly eager to fight against police and opponents, and were mainly composed of skinheads and hard mobs, the casuals used their style to go undercover and unnoticed in the stadiums, also in order to distinguish themselves from the hooligans.  Especially Liverpool supporters embraced this style: Kappa, Sergio Tacchini, Ellesse, Fila, Lacoste tracksuits, paired with strictly white [A]didas, Fred Perry and Diadora sneakers.  The essence of the movement is always deeply connected to the football culture, along with drugs and alcohol abuse and the preference for punk and later brit pop.  The frontman of one of the most British bands of all time, Damon Albarn of Blur, made the tracksuit a central element of his style and the English culture.
    "In actual fact, such a simple “uniform” had much deeper social implications.  It’s worth highlighting that chavs were usually young boys and girls belonging to the English working class.  Sons and daughters of workers, hairdressers, salesclerks, part of the working-class world, very often living in council houses in Northern England, but also Ireland and Scotland.  Chavs were usually poorly educated and had a brash, loutish and sometimes antisocial behavior, for which they were often compared to hooligans.  Many believe that this word should not be used anymore, because it’s considered offensive and racist towards the English middle class, which in this way is discriminated and denigrated.
    "In a short period of time chav style becomes associated with bad taste and sloppiness, and the representatives of this trend become the favourite targets of radio and Tv shows, and on the tabloids everyone is talking about it.  The most prominent example of this is the radio and Tv sketch show Little Britain, which through sketches and exaggerated characters recounted faithfully and without any filters the English society."

* Kennedy 2023-01-29 online
"The Guardian — which still regards itself as a protector of the working class even though its readership is exclusively middle-class — once defined chav as ‘the noun which describes young men who wear cheap gold jewellery and baseball caps and hang around in shopping centers all over Britain.’  But that was only ever a small sub-section.  Chavs have evolved and smartened up.  The Slazenger trainers, baseball caps, and CP company coats have gone.  Now it’s all Gucci and Balenciaga. 
    "The Chav aesthetic has always been about deception, which is something snooty people never understand.  The 90s chav look evolved from male football fashion in the late 70s and 80s — the casuals.  Football skinheads had started to attract the unwanted attention of security guards and police officers around the grounds.  In an attempt to curb bad behaviour, bobbies would order the boys to take off their Doc Martens and leave them outside the stadium.  Nothing if not savvy, the hooligans adopted a new look.  When following England teams across Europe, the boys picked up French and Italian sportswear items from brands such as Lacoste, Sergio Tachini, Ellesse and Fila, allowing them to slip into the stadiums unnoticed. 
​   "[....]  This started a pattern which still keeps elite fashion buyers up at night: the chavification of glamorous brands.  Look at what happened to Burberry – a company that received the prestigious Royal Warrant in 1955 – after casuals adopted the Burberry cap as part of their uniform. 
    In 2004, after a heavy period of football rioting by the self-labeled ‘Burberry Boys’, the brand finally ordered manufacturers to discontinue their checked-caps range and clear shelves.  The association would forever be etched in people’s brains.  In the words of Peter York, author of The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook, ‘Quite a lot of people thought that Burberry would be worn by the person who mugged them.’"

* Nachiar 2022-02-03 online
"The downfall of Burberry can be associated entirely with the chavs, and a brand that once held a reputation that was so untarnished was dragged down slowly through the hierarchy of society until they reached the level of fake products that were accessible to anybody who wanted them.  There was a massive influx of fake Burberry products (the replicas and authentic products were so identical, it was hard to find the difference) that came in from China and were resold in the streets of the UK at unbelievably low prices.  On top of this, Danniella Westbrook, a famous TV personality, was often seen dressing in top-to-bottom Burberry check-patterned clothing.  Her famous cocaine-using lifestyle did not really help the image the brand was trying to uphold. All of this led to the brand slowly losing its reputation through the years and it was no longer considered iconic or desirable.
    "This subculture, attributed to all things negative, came to prominence through popular British media like Little Britain (2003-2006), Shameless (2004–2013), to name a few.  The term soon stuck and even made it into the front page of TIME magazine in 2008.  It damaged Burberry’s brand image so much it would require years of clever rebranding and marketing to turn this situation around and call themselves a luxury brand again."

* Raga 2020-07-13 online
"Chavs are easily recognizable by their flashy jewelry, paired with designer tracksuits (real or knock-off, doesn’t matter), white sneakers and baseball caps.  Fila, Nike and Kappa were favorites for matching tracksuits, while Adidas, Fred Perry and Diadora were the preferred brand of sneaker.  And of course: Burberry everything."

* Bok 2004 p52-53, 59
"The Burberry brand is reckoned to be the number one brand but other brands do come in and out of fashion.  A few years ago Polo and Tommy Hilfiger were worn all over the place but recently they have lost their popularity with most Chavs. [....]
    [....]  Although many Chavs bring back counterfeit clothes from the Costa, it is important in a Chav's existence to aspire to the genuine article.  With a Burberry cap costing more than a week's job-seeking allowance, Chavs will pull out all the stops to get their gear."

* Walker 2005-01-02 online
"It certainly seems that chav gear is often counterfeit, as Burberry plaid is both distinct and easy to copy.  It's the distinctness, actually, that helps make it such a ripe target for adoption by someone other than the classic swells that Burberry apparently prefers -- after all, in the United States, Burberry is one of many luxury brands popular among rap artists. All of which shows how fluid brand meaning has become since the days of sumptuary laws, and how it's ultimately consumers who decide what that meaning is.
    "Chavs are also reported to have a fondness for Gucci, Nokia phones and Stella Artois beer, among others.  Oakley Thump sunglasses (with a built-in MP3 player) were recently named 'chaviest gadget' at an alternative tech-awards ceremony.  Interestingly, James, the branding consultant, suggests that in some ways chav culture has parallels to punk culture.  'It's the same kind of slightly disenfranchised suburban kids,' he says, but this time, instead of building a subculture around, say, anger and intoxicants, they've built one around consumerism.  'In the same way in the 70's they would sort of do glue, now they're all just sitting at McDonald's wearing Burberry hats.'  In chav culture, then, Burberry may be -- to tweak the slogan that CBS Records used to sell the Clash, long ago -- the only brand that matters."


* Presdee 2000 p144
"On the carrying of knives, lock knives were the most popular in London whilst larger meat cleavers or machetes proved popular elsewhere.  Occasionally butterfly knives were carried because of the dramatic performance required to open them, which could impress the audience around you in the same way that cigarette lighters can be opened and lit using complex choreography.  Various other cutting blades were carried, including Stanley knives and small art knives that could easily be concealed or, it was thought, easily explained away."

* Royal Armouries Museum > Self-Defence Gallery
"[....]  These weapons came originally from a Far Eastern martial system.  In Britain it is a weapon that is counted as illegal and it is an offence to have one of these without good reason." ..