It all started with Sporty Spice: suddenly a nation of sportswear toting, beer swigging, aggressive idiots were born. No longer was gym kit reserved for sweating it out in a keep-fit class, it was also for fighting, swearing and drinking in. I arrived at the UCL Chav Night dressed head to toe in white after an uncomfortable train journey in which my co-passengers either eyed me up warily or sniggered at my excessive blusher. What I found a room decked out in Burberry wallpaper, packed with lolly-sucking, cap wearing youths.
The revellers could be from my estate in South London, if it wasn’t for the hint of polished Home Counties accents slipping through the Vicky Pollard-speak that everyone seemed to have adopted for the evening. With puffed out chests and limps at the ready the males of the group – with the exception of “Ego Sum Chavus” – circled each other. Exclamations of “yo whassup brother, is you looking at me bitch cos I will proper mash ya face up” and “if you ask fucking nicely like you can take me picture journo bitch”, filled the air. I took the photo anyway.
These students from one of the most prestigious universities in the country had taken on what they believed to be full Chav transformations, with several of the girls sporting baby bumps for the occasion, but how accurate were their observations? Take one low slung pink velour tracksuit, add one pair of sling-back gold stilettos, slap on four inches of make up and garnish with jewellery brought from the Argos Bargain Bin and the Chav is born. And the behaviour of the students? It was not only aggressive – alluding to the criminal – but also was tinged with an inherent moral supremacy. One girl bragged to me that she had borrowed her clothes from an old school friend, but hadn’t informed her what the clothes are for. I don’t believe her school friend would have been thrilled if she had discovered the true nature of the loan.
But act does not equal identity. We are all compartmentalised individuals compromising of millions of characteristics. I am a straight, blonde, Brummie, sister, vodka drinking, girlfriend and a student. I am not exclusively any of these things but all of them are essential components in forming the macrocosm that is my Identity.
The message of the Chav night was clear: we are better than you. No member of the non-university elite was spared; single mothers, black youths and council estate kids were all present in elements; people who grew up in the road next to yours, the kids who had free school dinners and never had new clothes. Chav night was just another way the institutions of our country try to control the underclasses. To wear Burberry to a football ground guarantees not being allowed entrance, but what I wear is not an outer symbol of how I act. The world would be a much easier place to negotiate if we were all coded like those old fashioned Westerns- white for the good guys and black for the baddies. If all criminals and rapists were labelled how much easier it would be to get the last bus home. But we are not ‘types’ and the ‘chav’ is no more of a fixed Identity than your own.