According to reports, culminating in an article this week in The Guardian, there's a new fashion trend going on amongst young British men. It's this "Nu-Lad" thing, right, and it's really cool. These guys not only enjoy buying fashionable, high-end brands, but they also—no, seriously, get this—enjoying wearing sportswear. And not fancy sportswear. They like wearing the sportswear of poor people, the kind they've been demonizing for decades.
I guess to get a grasp on why this is straight trash, you've gotta understand the British preoccupation with the class system. The class system that the British media—so dominated by stuffy, white bread, rolling hills and a fucking mansion rich boys—are saying doesn't exist anymore.
The writer of "Nu-Lads On The Block" talks of a fetishization of the streetwear of inner city black youth and the influence of British "terrace culture," the fashion-focused camaraderie of football (i.e. soccer) fans long tarred with the hooligan brush. This culture was once considered to be the iconography of what papers at the time would politely call "scum." Associated mostly with the working-class north of England and born of a longing for acceptance via the medium of very nice Adidas Trabs, you were considered the enemy if you so much as had the temerity to dress like one of them. And now it's been reduced to not much more than a vertical in the Urban Outfitters online store.
Being working class was once a source of pride. It was weird and probably misplaced, sure, but it was pride by anyone's definition. In much the same way that upper class Jeremys and Jemimas would long for the purity of their bloodline and status, the young black and white British underclass were proud to simply exist, against the odds, and wanted to celebrate that by buying some nice shit—some really nice, flashy shit with big logos and all that. It didn't matter if they could only afford one item. That was enough. A good suit. That Moschino coat. Some suede Armani western jacket bought for twenty quid down the pub off some desperate crackhead. That was enough for them to attain a semblance of acceptance from a structure that had been created to pen them in. How powerful could these ruling classes be if you had a jacket that was like a jacket they had?
It's not a British trait, this need to buy one ridiculously expensive item to accessorize with everyday garb. It's universal. It almost feels like it's written in our DNA, something lizard in our brain, some fucking primordial urge is telling us to forget that we can barely afford our mother's rent and that we should buy something reversible by Dries on plastic instead.
But it's this idea that an entire class of people can be deemed a sub-culture you can 'draw inspiration from' that's the most dangerous
All that means nothing now, as this desperate clamoring for a material stepping-stone out of a suffocating class system has been co-opted by a new monster—one that feeds off generous loans from their parents and extremely cheap lager. Ones that thinks an ironic appreciation of Sports Direct (think, any discount sports retail store and half it; it's mostly cheap umbrellas and off-brand Nikes) and clothes that don't really fit them is what's cool this week. In the writer's own words, they are "a hipster that doesn't look like a hipster. The nu-lad, a twenty-something guy from no discernible background, who prefers tracksuits to tweed, and a warm can of Stella over a pint of craft beer."
Let's unpack that real quick. Besides the fact that most twenty-something men are shit awful, who the fuck prefers a warm can of beer to literally anything else? And who doesn't prefer tracksuits to tweed? You know, besides those who think the Doctor Who-ization of mainstream British menswear is anything other than a fucking abomination.
Most of all though, it's the note of "no discernible background" that hangs in the air, engulfing what's around it. What does that mean? That their ethnic ambiguity allows them to wear what they please? Or does it serve to whitewash their aesthetic, absolving them of their sins and allowing them to dress like a young black man without being treated like a young black man?
At the end of the day, it's not the writer's fault. She's simply calling it like she sees it. Despite the knee-jerk anger such comments can bring, it's worth remembering that fashion steals all the goddamn time. You name it and you can bet your ass enterprising white people have repackaged it and sold it off to the masses. But it's this idea that an entire class of people can be deemed a sub-culture you can "draw inspiration from" that's the most dangerous. The working class is a huge group of people tied down by centuries of urban deprivation, not a "scene" you can just throw up on your "Summer Lewks 2K15" Pinterest board.
You are not your intentionally weathered Reebok Classics. They're ours. Give 'em back.