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Displaced Masculinities: Chavs, Youth and Class in the Post-industrial City



In an insecure post-industrial society working-class young men must forge new youth transitions. This entails rethinking what it is to be a ‘man’ beyond the world of industrial paid employment. It also involves a reshaping of a whole ‘way of life’ with the erosion of traditional labour and leisure lifestyles. This ethnographic study contrasts the cultural habitations of young men from traditional skilled working-class backgrounds with those from families experiencing long-term inter-generational unemployment. It explores their differently textured ‘going out’ experiences, their values, attitudes and practices. By focusing upon the subtle and explicit demarcations that distinguish the ‘rough’ from the ‘respectable’ working-class, the article argues that social class is of marked and continuing salience in youth culture. Furthermore, the work suggests that by exhibiting ‘spectacular masculinities’ of white male excess, young men accrue a body capital that has a currency and a local exchange value within the circuits they inhabit.
DOI: 10.1177/0038038506067508
2006; 40; 813 Sociology
Anoop Nayak
Displaced Masculinities: Chavs, Youth and Class in the Post-industrial City
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DOI: 10.1177/0038038506067508
SAGE Publications
London,Thousand Oaks,
New Delhi
Displaced Masculinities: Chavs,Youth and Class
in the Post-industrial City
Anoop Nayak
Newcastle University
In an insecure post-industrial society working-class young men must forge new
youth transitions.This entails rethinking what it is to be a ‘man’ beyond the world
of industrial paid employment. It also involves a reshaping of a whole ‘way of
life’ with the erosion of traditional labour and leisure lifestyles. This ethnographic
study contrasts the cultural habitations of young men from traditional skilled
working-class backgrounds with those from families experiencing long-term inter-
generational unemployment. It explores their differently textured ‘going out’ expe-
riences, their values, attitudes and practices. By focusing upon the subtle and
explicit demarcations that distinguish the ‘rough’ from the ‘respectable’ working-
class, the article argues that social class is of marked and continuing salience in
youth culture. Furthermore, the work suggests that by exhibiting ‘spectacular
masculinities’ of white male excess, young men accrue a body capital that has a
currency and a local exchange value within the circuits they inhabit.
chavs / class cultures / masculinities / post-industrialism / youth
New Youth Transitions
or young white working-class men residing in the Western hemisphere, the
transition to manhood was once inextricably linked to the movement from
school to work (Bates, 1984; Hollands, 1990; McDowell, 2001; Willis,
1977). In the British post-war period, manufacturing employment was seen to
offer viable, if restricted, opportunities for working-class males. However
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monotonous this work was, it was seen to provide skilled knowledge, the mate-
rial benefits of regular pay, stability, security and a ‘job for life’. Within the
complex registers of masculinity, industrial employment also accrued its own
type of ‘body capital’, forged through notions of the patriarchal ‘bread-
winner’, physical ‘hardness’ and a strict sexual division of labour that split the
public ‘masculine’ world of work from the private domestic realm of women’s
unpaid labour. For many young men the financial independence ascribed to
earning a wage enabled them to vacate household duties and instil a pride in
‘craft’ or ‘graft’.
But as de-industrialization began to set in, young men were increasingly
less likely to be ‘learning to labour’, as the title of Paul Willis’s (1977) enduring
ethnography had previously suggested. Instead, working-class boys were caught
in the uncertain transition that accompanied ill-paid, poorly structured govern-
ment training schemes, or, quite simply, were left ‘schooling for the dole’ (Bates,
1984). By the 1980s for many working-class males this left a stark choice
between what Coffield et al. (1986) matter-of-factly identify as ‘Shit jobs and
Govvy schemes’ (p. 86). But more recently the dearth of manufacturing jobs in
Western nation states has in part been supplemented by an expanding service
sector economy and the urban regeneration of old industrial quarters. Whilst
this has seen an increase in youth participation in the labour market this new
shift is characterized by more casual forms of work, marked especially by part-
time working hours, fixed-term contracts, more ‘flexible’ patterns of employ-
ment and pay scales that can dip below the adult minimum wage.
At structural and cultural levels, then, the ‘pathways’ open to young men as
they attempt to make the transition to adulthood and the world of work are
rapidly changing and, according to Chatterton and Hollands, increasingly diverse:
The post-Fordist labour market has not only worked to delay and interrupt tradi-
tional youth transitions, but it has also worked to complexify them. Young people
today make a bewildering array of labour market transitions, including moving
through various training and educational routes through to temporary, contract and
part-time work, and in some cases to secure employment. (2003: 81)
Thus, while young working-class men are more likely to be ‘learning to
serve’ (McDowell, 2000) rather than ‘learning to labour’ this has given way to
new masculine subject positions struggling to adjust to a shifting gender order.
Recent work is now questioning how working-class males make the transition
from ‘boyz to men’ (Nayak, 2003) in a changing world filled with table-waiting
jobs, public administration, bar work, call centres and humdrum service sector
employment. In the post-industrial period contemporary masculine transitions
continue to be marked by opportunity, ‘risk’, uncertainty and labour market
insecurity (Vail et al., 1999). However, rather than leading to the collapse of
social class distinctions, theorists such as Ulrich Beck (1998[1992]: 35) argue
that such ‘risks seem to strengthen, not to abolish the class society’ in late
modernity. Instead, Beck maintains that mass unemployment is giving way to
‘new forms of pluralized underemployment’ (p.13) that can lead to more
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individualized labour biographies and high-risk life trajectories. It is within
these new times that young men are pursuing multiple, fragmented or unac-
complished transitions. This includes complex, fractured and ‘insecure transi-
tions’ (MacDonald, 1999: 171) mediating across school–work, local–global,
boyhood–manhood and so forth.
To elucidate the impact that recent transformations are ha ving upon mas-
culine identities, I draw upon multi-site ethnographic research conducted with
two groups of young men in school, neighbourhood and city-centre sites in
north-east England. The first group herald from families with a background
predominantly in skilled labour, and the second are largely from unemployed
communities. The data incorporate local history, interviews and observations
undertaken in the late 1990s, and recent web discussion derived from an elec-
tronic message board I helped organize in 2005.
The ethnography focuses
upon leisure lifestyles and the increasingly fragile, complex and contradictory
choices open to working-class young men as they seek to make the transition
from peer-group networks and formal education to the world of work. I begin
by charting the historical changes that have occurred in the region through the
emergence of the post-industrial city. I then examine the impact these new
‘landscapes of power’ (Zukin, 1993) are having upon the formation of young
masculinities heralding from working-class and unemployed families. The study
reveals that where some have been seduced by a culture of consumption others
are further alienated by it. However, young men remain creative actors trans-
posing older working-class values upon new leisure routines, forging alternative
pathways that waltz around the visible power structures of the corporate city,
and occasionally drawing upon symbolic codes of violence to enhance indi-
vidual reputations (Hollands, 1995). Developing the work of Connell (1995), I
go on to consider such acts of masculine excess as part of a ‘body-reflexive prac-
tice’ for working-class young men, through which the industrial past and the
post-industrial future is materially and symbolically negotiated. As
E.P. Thompson once expressed, class is an historical relation ‘embodied in real
people and in a real context’ (1982[1968]: 8). The focus on material relations,
place and class subjectivities is an attempt to move beyond the trope of ‘spec-
tacular masculinities’ that have become the central motif for representing male
working-class (and non-labouring) bodies, black and white alike. In addressing
masculinity directly, I also hope to avoid the romantic heroism that features
in much sociological literature on non-conformist ‘lads’ (Delamont, 2000).
This research suggests that new youth transitions do not automatically result in
‘new men’.
From Coal Mines to ‘Clubbing’:The Economic History of
North-east England
The north-east of England is a region historically rich in economic resources
and has long been associated with shipbuilding, coal mining and heavy
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engineering. In 1961 the region employed twice as many workers in these
industries as any other place in the country. Unlike many UK regions contain-
ing prominent port cities, the North East was less reliant upon colonial trading
links, leading some to speculate on the potential for a hegemonic ‘genuine local
ruling class’ (Massey, 1995: 194) to emerge, though in practice considerable
capital continued to flow out of the region. The mineral-based economy of coal
mining, or what Hudson eloquently terms ‘carboniferous capital’ (2000: 31),
enabled the region to prosper throughout the 19th century, during the war
periods and well into the post-war era. Indeed, at one point a quarter of the
nation’s coal came from the Gibside district alone. By the end of the First World
War some 78,000 people worked for the ammunitions company Armstrong
Whitworth, one of the largest employers in the area, making iron and high-
quality steel for guns, armaments, battleships, hydraulics and fuse-making facil-
ities. Around this core industry grew lighter industries, workshops and smaller
stores distributing nuts, screws, bolts, springs, barrels and a plethora of engi-
neering machinery. Even in the 1970s, 40 percent of employment was still based
in the manufacturing and primary industries of the area (Hollands, 1995;
Robinson, 1988).
However, this picture was to change with a succession of pit closures in the
1980s, to the extent that there is just one last remaining colliery. The once inter-
nationally renowned shipbuilding industry is today severely streamlined. This
process of economic restructuring was instigated by the demands of a compet-
itive global economy, poor management, disinvestment and overcapacity in the
market. It was also tied to a ruthless New Right agenda to shut down pits,
quash the old Labourite NUM (National Union of Miners) and invest in
business rather than manufacturing. As the north–south regional divide inten-
sified, the loss of local manufacturing, mining and shipbuilding industries
affected not only those made redundant at the time. Future generations of
young men whose cultural worlds would once have been educationally shaped
through a prism of schooling, training schemes, modern apprenticeships and
hard labour were now finding themselves viewed as unskilled, unemployable,
redundant youth.
Despite the scale of these economic changes the North East has more
recently been ‘re-branded’ (see Chatterton and Hollands, 2001). It has sought
to escape its traditional white working-class masculine associations with heavy
industry, socialist unions, cloth caps, working-men’s clubs, dog racing and fog
on the Tyne casual representations that at once set women and immigrant
communities apart from what was always a more intricate tapestry of mass
labour (Knox, 1992; Lawless, 1995). From its monochrome representation as a
bleak post-industrial outpost, the North East, and in particular its principal city
Newcastle upon Tyne, is today portrayed in the media as a ‘Party City’: a site
for excessive drinking and wild stag and hen nights. This celebrated stereotype
was used to promote the joint Newcastle and Gateshead European City of
Culture bid of 2003, primarily through the slogan ‘feel the buzz’. At the same
time there has been major investment in tourism, waterfront developments, the
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arts and new cultural industries. In particular this includes the building of the
Millennium Bridge, the Sage music centre and Baltic: a modern arts centre
designed in the former Gateshead flour mill. As the traditional ‘masculine’
infrastructure has been depleted, it has been replaced, then, by new cultural
industries, nightclubs, restaurants and café bars in what amounts to the cre-
ation of a vibrant, if much mythologized, night-time economy (Chatterton and
Hollands, 2001).
However, this shift from coal mining to ‘clubbing’ has had a profound
effect upon the material landscape and the formation of local identities. In par-
ticular, processes of gender cannot be set apart from economic restructuring,
but instead are embedded within the restructuring process itself. Thus, the
growth in a ‘soft economy’ centred upon services, catering and call-centre work
has transformed the region’s economic base and at the same time led to some
significant gender transformations in the labour market. The so-called ‘femi-
nization’ of labour means that women now make up around 50 percent of the
work force in a region where male employment has fallen (Hollands, 1997).
Although over a third of these women work part time, female employment has
rarely been so high. Their perceived willingness to service customers and work
flexible hours, combined with the absence of a staunch trade union history has
enabled young women to gain a smoother passage into this labour sector.
In contrast, the bodies of working-class young men may be seen as
‘troublesome’, non-conformist and marked by resistance (Campbell, 1993;
Cohen, 1997; Willis, 1977). As a carrier of signals and a dense economy of
signs, it has been stated that ‘the body is the most ubiquitous signifier of class’
(Skeggs, 1997: 82). Moreover, young men may also be unwilling to surrender
any real or imagined bodily capital they may accrue through physical tough-
ness. As such it is quite possible that some are guilty of treating part-time work,
customer relations and servicing in a disparaging manner as it does not resonate
with the historical portrayal of masculine work. Regardless, figures for 1996
reveal that 40 percent of young men aged 16–24 years were likely to be seek-
ing work, nearly double the rate of their female counterparts (Chatterton and
Hollands, 2001: 7). In a culture where the supposedly ‘feminized’ attributes of
‘deference and docility’ (McDowell, 2002: 40) are in demand, it would appear
that certain white working-class males may be out of step with an economy that
values flexibility, keyboard proficiency, telephone communication skills and
personal presentation.
Post-industrial masculinities must now adapt, risk
unemployment or, as we shall find, indulge in underground activity and
criminal hyper-masculine displays (Campbell, 1993).
Body-Reflexive Practices: Drinking and Going Out
Perhaps that is all there is left of white working-class culture when you take the
work away: football and beer. […] It seemed to me a celebration of nothingness.
(Darcus Howe, White Tribe, Channel 4, 13 January, 2000)
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Drinking culture remains firmly tied to the north-east industrial heritage.
Today, pubs with names such as The Baltic Tavern, The Free Trade, The Ship
Inn and Offshore 44 testify to the working-class ancestry of shipping, trade and
labour upon the River Tyne. Bean (1971: 97) has previously alluded to other
pubs such as ‘the Hydraulic Crane, the Rifle, the Gun, the Ordnance Arms, the
Forge Hammer, the Crooked Billet, the Moulders Arms, the Mechanics Arms,
the Shipwrights Hotel, the Vulcan, the Blast Furnace’ as further examples of
industrial ties. Elsewhere (1980), he compares the former row of drinking
establishments nearby a cluster of Armstrong’s engineering traders to ‘a chain
of industrial oases’ (p. 5). However, many of the old industrial drinking haunts
have disappeared or been replaced by new bars targeting young, affluent men
and women alike (Chatterton and Hollands, 2001). Where young men’s initia-
tion into drinking culture in the region had occurred through the rites of pas-
sage derived from manual labour, and the father–son rituals then cemented in
the working-men’s club (Coffield et al., 1986), this is no longer the case. Indeed,
local drinks such as Exhibition Ale (named after the Great Exhibition in
Newcastle), Newcastle Brown and ‘worky-ticket’, a term that derives from fac-
tory life and refers to the act of tinkering with your clocking-in and clocking-
off card (hence, working-your-ticket) are a declining part of the youth drinking
market. These have been displaced by global drink brands aimed at a shifting
and segmented youth market. Such community histories provide an interpreta-
tive backcloth against which new drinking practices are being produced where
working young women are no longer marginalized participants but are cultur-
ally situated in student cultures, hen nights, ‘lasses nights’ and in media repre-
sentations of ‘ladettes’.
It was these new establishments that were frequented by a group of young
white men, self-styled Real Geordies who ‘tek nae shit’ (Filo), ‘give as good as
we get’ (Duane) and, ‘kna who we are at the end of the day’ (Cambo). A
prominent legacy of white masculine manual labour ran through their familial
biographies. With few exceptions all spoke of fathers, uncles and grandfathers
who had developed specialist skills refined as sheet-metal workers, construc-
tion workers, offshore operators, glaziers, fitters and mechanics. For these
‘local lads’ their shared familial labour histories engender particular values,
understandings and practices. In declaring their pride in being Geordies the
young men identified themselves with the local football team and the symbolic
accoutrements of white, working-class masculinity. Although the term
‘Geordie’ has contested origins it is associated with parts of the locality, and,
amongst other definitions, is said to be the name given to coalminers, or pos-
sibly a nickname for George Stephenson’s pit safety lamp (Colls and Lancaster,
1992: x). But if the Real Geordies could no longer be ‘real’ in the true occu-
pational sense of the word, how exactly is this identity being performed, for
what purpose is it being resuscitated and what is real about it? As we shall
find, it is through reworked working-class traditions such as ‘circuit-drinking’
(Hollands, 1995) that a local, white masculine identity is being preserved,
recuperated and ultimately refashioned.
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During ‘neets oot on the toon’ (Spencer) the Real Geordies would pass
through a series of drinking venues usually having just one drink in each as they
linked up with other members to form a chain for circuit-drinking. This hedo-
nistic display allowed them to be seen in a number of public places and so belied
the appearance that money could be a meagre resource, hard won through part-
time work in the service sector employed at supermarkets, sport shops, petrol
stations, record stores and cafes. Furthermore, the circuit ritual enabled those
who missed the preliminary meeting place to join the chain at another venue.
Bottled lagers and vodka mixers tended to be favoured at the time of the
research and so displayed the recasting of an earlier drinking tradition in new
times. Here, working-men’s clubs, traditional pubs and real ale houses are
substituted for bars that include a club-style atmosphere where DJs play loud
house and chart music (Chatterton and Hollands, 2001). Visiting a number of
venues provided a structure for the evening; new places were always given a try,
assessed accordingly and subsequently incorporated or rejected from future
drinking routes. Circuit-drinking remained, then, a highly regulated activity
forged through familiar rituals and routine practices used to negotiate the new
and the old.
Moreover, collective drinking appeared to increase the potential of ‘funny
happenings’, operating as a stylized re-enactment of the earlier working-class
pastime of promenading. In this way, the subculture recuperated older forms of
an industrial white masculine culture through collective rituals related to male
drinking, fighting, football, and sexual conquest. As Connell explains, these
actions can be understood as ‘body-reflexive practices’ that are not biologically
inherent to individuals. Rather:
[T]hey involve social relations and symbolism; they may well involve large-scale
social institutions. Particular versions of masculinity are constituted in their circuits
as meaningful bodies and embodied meanings. Through body-reflexive practices,
more than individual lives are formed: a social world is formed. (1995: 64)
Drinking, swearing and physical horseplay are more than simply the
outer-skin of white masculinity. Thus, ‘funny stories’ referring to passing out,
throwing up or acting completely out of character when under the influence of
alcohol were reported such as the time Filo insisted on urinating from the
Tyne Bridge and ended up with pissed-streaked troowsers!; the occasion when
Fat Mal ruined his best silk shirt when he fell asleep on top of his kebab and
chilli sauce after a heavy night out with the ‘lads’; or the chip-throwing fight
that occurred in a local take-away and resulted in us all being barred from
the establishment.
The Real Geordies appeared to derive great satisfaction
from relating humorous events, sexual anecdotes and tales of casual, cartoon
violence. Such shared stories can bind people together and provide a sense of
collective history and mutual experience (Nayak and Kehily, 2001). Visually
this was enhanced as the Real Geordies would sport immaculate hairstyles and
dress in expensively tailored designer shirts that superficially may have sought
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to belie their class roots, yet in actuality only served to evince them. As an out-
of-school ‘uniform’, the promise of exclusivity, individuality and respectability
accorded to designer clothing is subsequently undermined when said items
become a mainstream dimension of working-class culture.
Despite changes to the manufacturing base the Real Geordies maintain
‘felt’ investments in the traditional basis of working-class culture. The spirit of
white masculine excess is very much alive in their nostalgic affection for the
region; the emphasis on male drinking pursuits; ‘industrial’ language and physi-
cal humour; the smattering of stories about fighting and sexual exploits; the
abundant parochial conservatism which coloured much of their opinions on
gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Body-reflexive practices such as ‘gettin’ mortal’
(drunk) (Shaun), playing and watching football and, somewhat predictably,
‘shaggin!’ (Carl) were a means of signifying masculine prowess beyond the
workplace. These techniques allow the anatomy of white male labour to be
reconfigured where ‘Body-reflexive practices form – and are formed by – struc-
tures which have historical weight and solidity’ (Connell, 1995: 65). The mas-
culine body as a historical marker of physical prowess and industrial potential,
as performed by a previous male generation, continues to hold contemporary
value on the street. Young men who could embody these qualities and prove
they could ‘handle themselves’ were widely respected in the peer group.
However, where the meaning of Geordie had once been tied to processes of
production (the colliery, shipyard or factory), in the new service sector economy
it was seemingly displaced into the arena of consumption (drinking, clubbing
and going out) (see Hollands, 1995).
Peripheral Youth and the Culture of the Street
Although some working-class young men were able to revel in the new corpo-
rate leisure spaces of the city, others could not. A number of young men from
long-term unemployed families found themselves to be more marginalized and
isolated than ever before. Economically, these ‘disconnected youth’
(MacDonald and Marsh, 2001) had been priced out of many of the new drink-
ing venues where bright lights, glitz and silver chrome predominated. Known
locally as Charvers (and nationally pilloried as Chavs), they further found that
their particular style of clothing, which included tracksuits, trainers and base-
ball caps, were banned from these establishments. Indeed, I collected a number
of fliers from bars and clubs that explicitly stated that certain venues were
Charver free zones’ and employed doormen to regulate this clientele.
In response to these forms of social exclusion, many Charvers had devel-
oped their own leisure spaces outside of the formal night-time economy, insti-
gating a staunch reliance upon the culture of the street (MacDonald and Marsh,
2001). For Charver lads this included the mundane activity of ‘hanging out’ on
street corners, drinking cans of beer, smoking and chatting to friends. Different
combinations of cannabis, hemp and marijuana were also popular, as were
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other drugs including ‘whizz’ (amphetamines) and ‘E’ (ecstasy). However, the
latter were generally reserved for specific music events that were staged in local
squats and disused buildings throughout the conurbation. Attending some of
these events enabled me to see how Charvers were excluded from the night-time
economy which involved smart dress codes and the additional expense of
entrance fees, drinks, and so forth. The illegal Rave scene was, then, cheaper
and more accessible in that it did not contain these restrictions, but it did rely
upon local knowledge through word of mouth. It also enabled Charvers to play
non-commercial music including high-speed Techno, Monkey Music, Deep
Trance and Jungle. The development of disused sites, warehouses and buildings
into hidden arenas of pleasure in the night-time economy is both a response to
social exclusion from the night-time economy and arguably an oblique critique
of the prevailing social order.
Seen in this light, youth subcultures constitute meaningful mutations’
(Hebdige, 1987[1979]: 131) where the musical tastes of Charvers resonate a
muffled echo from which to interpret the changing worlds they inhabit. The
uplifting Trance and steely Techno music drew closely on the contemporary
urban environment using samples from car alarms, push-button telephones,
police sirens, breaking glass, barking dogs, computer video games and a
cacophony of white noise. At the time this music was mutating into Hardcore
and New Monkey music (Spanish-influenced Maquina Techno, where indi-
viduals can also rap over drum loops) and was distinguishable from the more
chart-based Happyhouse music preferred by many of the Real Geordies and
other mainstream youth. Indeed, some young musical aficionados I spoke to
made careful distinctions between the ‘Cheesy House’ they associated with
‘townies’ and Real Geordies, the ‘nosebleed’ Techno and Monkey music asso-
ciated with Charvers, and the ‘intelligent’ House they preferred to listen to.
These subtle demarcations reveal the sophisticated properties that ‘subcultural
capital’ (Thornton, 1995) occupies in young people’s worlds and the gradations
demarcating the relatively acceptable from the non-acceptable. However, this
subcultural capital was continually being assessed and repositioned from dif-
ferent youth perspectives. Interestingly, some of the young people who had spo-
ken disparagingly about Charver style in one context were willing to admit that
they were ‘a bit Charverin their tastes towards music and certain elements of
fashion. Thus, James admitted liking ‘Rave, Coliseum kinda thing’ and was
willing to take on a Charver identity at certain times and spaces, revealing the
geographical contingency of subcultural identities which could be ‘toned down’
or ‘played up’ according to time, place and context.
However, it was by evoking the ‘culture of the street’ through real and sym-
bolic acts of violence that Charver lads were able to maintain their masculine
status as ‘hard’. The association that Charvers, Chavs or Radgies (as they were
sometimes called) had with unlawful activity meant that these young men were
frequently depicted as criminals with particular bodily traits, graphically
embodied through the image of ‘strutting lads’ (McDowell, 2002):
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Michelle: They think they’re dead hard.
Sam: Ya see them walking roon’ the toon and everythin’.
Michelle: With their head down and with an arched back and they think they’re
dead good.
James: They think they’re real gangstas.
By adopting the outward manifestations of street style baseball caps,
tracksuits, trainers, heavy gold jewellery and accompanying this apparel
with a pronounced walk, Charver lads were engaged in the body-reflexive
technique of ‘hard’ masculinity. The description of the characteristic walk and
styles of behaviour echo early commentaries of Edwardian working-class
youth who were alleged to adopt a ‘monkey walk’ or ‘monkey run’. Similarly,
Charvers were said to affect a loping stride and exaggerated, rough ‘Geordie’
accents. The Charver walk ‘head down with an arched back’ became
emblematic of their supposed subhuman, animalistic tendencies. The pen-
chant for Monkey music and the alleged ‘ape-like’ walk was also parodied in
other discussions and came to symbolize the stunted evolution of the
‘knuckle-grazing’ Charver youth.
The class distinctions used to demarcate Charvers are evident in a web dis-
cussion board I have recently been involved with, used to further elicit youth
responses. Although many self-identified Charvers keenly contested the negative
stereotypes surrounding them, broader associations with crime, violence and
unemployment featured in many young people’s commentaries. These state-
ments cuttingly reveal the symbolic violence of class:
I’ve had several friends jumped and beaten up by Chava’s high on dope and tanked
up on cider. They are scum […] Most of them will never attempt to get a job, they
are happy to play the system for every penny they can. They turn to crime to fuel
their binge drinking and drug addictions. (Up north)
Let me tell you, there is nothing positive to say about charvers. They are thick,
pathetic little toerags The only consolation for the civil members of society
among us is that these little morons are set for a life of misery, either behind bars or
unemployed. Charvers the real dregs of society. (Ben R.)
… there is only one type of charvar and that is the bad one, the thief the bully that
starts for no reason and thinks he’s proper hard all the time. The lad/lass who gets
wrecked all the time doesn’t care about his/her future, or anyone else. (Teddy)
Though a source of rebuke and mockery amongst Real Geordies, Goths,
Skaters and other local youth subcultures, Charvers were, nevertheless, feared.
In many cases the ‘gangsta’ reputation of this subculture meant their associa-
tions with crime and violence were continually reaffirmed in interviews with
other young people:
Anoop: What’s it mean if you’re a Charver?
Michelle: It means you’re from Nailton and you’re a rogue.
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Sam: My brother got jumped on by a load of Charvers outside the Regency Centre.
These twelve kids jumped on him and kicked him in the mouth, he’s got a big
lip out here.
The ‘rogue’ identities inhabited by Charver lads served to place them along-
side the somewhat spectacular ‘combustible masculinities’ Campbell (1993)
describes in her explosive account of the 1991 riots in the area. Tales of violence
were common in my interviews and web discussion with young people who
mentioned being chased, robbed, beaten up or physically intimidated; activities
which they unequivocally attributed to Charvers. In the popular imagination
Charver males are perceived as implicated in the learning of a ‘Badfellas’ mas-
culinity of the type Winlow (2001) has identified in his study of organized crime
in Sunderland. The spectacular portrayal of Charvers as ‘mad, bad and dan-
gerous’ – epitomized in journalistic reports of Chavs, local discourse and char-
acters in the Newcastle film production Purely Belter serve only to confirm
their class-inflected masculinities as excessive.
If the postures of Charver Kids are ‘ape-like’ and pronounced, other
body-reflexive practices such as smoking, spitting, swearing loudly and
drinking alcohol from bottles and cans in public further served to authenti-
cate their ‘roughness’. For Connell (1995), there is something ‘frenzied and
showy’ (p. 110) about this particular style that can be equated with a ‘protest
masculinity’ embodied by the ‘angry young men’ (Campbell, 1993) feminist
scholars identify. These spectacular masculinities were visible and audible.
Such bodily performances were augmented by a particular vocal intonation;
a distinctive, lilting dialect that served to accentuate the predominantly
‘rougher’ vowels of the local accent and were recognizable to other attuned
young people:
Sam: It’s jus’ like everyone [i.e. Charvers] goes round in big groups going, ‘Ooooh
treeeeeeendy’ in deep voices.
James: ‘Yaaaaar mon.’
Nicola: Yeah, they go, [with emphasis] ‘Howay then ya little Charver […]
They come up to you and say, [sing-song intonation] ‘What-d’ya-think-ya-
Thus, Charvers are regarded as bodily distinct in dress and comportment
from Real Geordies and other mainstream youth. They are said to affect gruff
accents, strange customs and mannerisms. Depicted as animalistic and ape-like
this discursive production was to elide with, and elaborate upon, a broader
vocabulary of race. As one web respondent reflected before going on to draw a
number of parallels, ‘Charvers and Chavs for me is the Caucasian equivalent to
the rude boyz/girlz of the 90’s’ (Jay).
A contemporary example of the double articulation of race and class
occurred when I asked some of the Real Geordies if they would be attending a
large annual fair taking place in the region. While some maintained that
the event was a source of excitement (‘Aye, they’ll be loadsa lasses gannin’!’)
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others also implied it was a place of danger, colonized by large groups of
Charvers looking to harass and steal money (‘It’s Charver country’). Some of
the Real Geordies went on to joke that the fair was full of ‘gypos’ (Gypsies), a
term that was ascribed to fairground workers and Charvers alike. While the
term Charver has various inflections its etymology remains uncertain. One
reading emphasizes that the word means ‘small child’ and has Romany con-
nections associated with travellers. Another suggests the word is derived from
a hybrid combination of the allegedly archetypal lower-class names Sharon and
Trevor (i.e. Shar/vor). The term has also become shorthand for class derision
where CHAV is an acronym for Council House And Violent. In one case, a
white youth elaborated on the term Charver to shout ‘Charwallah’ (a term that
refers to Indian tea-servants) at another white student, thus providing the
phrase with the additional derogatory value of a lower race and class status.
Regardless of the precise definition, Charver is defined across a shared dis-
course of lower working-class origins that at moments may become racialized.
In this respect, in popular imagination and cultural discourse Charvers are por-
trayed as a primitive ‘white trash’ urban underclass of the type Haylett (2001)
has described.
Furthermore, like many minority ethnic groups before them, Charvers
were associated with street crime, disease, drugs, over-breeding (many came
from large families) and the seedy underbelly of the ‘black economy’. They
resided in the de-industrial urban quarters of the locality and also mingled in
the few multi-ethnic zones of the conurbation. Their inner-city habitations
were often depicted as dark places and described as urban jungles, shanty
towns, a ‘blot’ on the ostensibly white landscape. The cultural representations
of Charvers as not-quite-white follows historical portrayals of other sup-
posedly ‘deviant’ working-class subcultures such as Teddy Boys, Punks or
Football Hooligans as animalistic and a ‘race apart’. The racialization of
Charver bodies, voices and deportment was subtly interwoven into their firm
associations with car crime. ‘Joyriding’, TWOCing (Taking Without Owner’s
Consent), ram-raiding, stealing, ‘ringing’ and high-speed chases with the
police were rapidly branded as Charver crimes’ by Real Geordies and other
young people I spoke with. The displacement of a more general idea of street
crime or car crime into Charver crime’ followed similar discursive routes to
the depiction of ‘mugging’ (and more recently ‘steaming’) as a racially dis-
tinct, and therefore more deplorable activity, ‘black crime’ (see Hall et al.,
1978 for discussion). Similarly, some youth spoke about being ‘chaved’ when
attacked by those they perceived, or at least imagined, to be Charvers. I would
contend that Charvers represent modern day anxieties concerning fear of
crime, economic displacement and loss of class respectability. Discursively
represented as a darkened underclass they appear as the new urban primitives
of contemporary society. Like black youth, Charvers are represented as
‘gangstas’, ‘rogues’, ‘apes’, society’s evolutionary ‘missing link’ in the chain of
human order.
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The ‘Ruffand the ‘Respectable’
‘Working classes’ is a descriptive term, which evades as much as it defines. It ties
loosely together a bundle of discrete phenomena. (E.P. Thompson, 1982[1968]: 9)
In unravelling the layered and differently patterned cultural habitus of what has
historically been defined as the ‘rough’ and ‘respectable’ working class, we gain
an insight into the variety of ways young men are responding to changing times.
The ethnographic portraits of Real Geordies and Charver Kids convey much
about the resilience of social class in ‘new times’. Class remains an ever present
arbiter – if unacknowledged signifier – structuring young lives. For if the
Charvers are portrayed as dirty, violent, impoverished and undeserving this is
precisely because the Real Geordies are attempting to be understood as clean,
thrifty, skilled and upwardly mobile. However, the performance of respect-
ability is always underscored by the effort to make it appear ‘just so’, as if
natural. When scrutinized by the critical gaze of the bourgeoisie each of these
subcultural youth groups are found wanting.
In deeming to construe Charvers as parasitic, animalistic and ‘beyond
the pale’ the Real Geordies only served to reveal their own class insecurity,
clinging on tooth and nail to the last vestiges of white respectability in the post-
industrial moment. Heralding from families that were once the ‘aristocracy of
labour’ (Gray, 1981), that had long engaged in ‘white flight’ from the city
centre, and were now established homeowners, the Real Geordies continually
sought to make moral distinctions between their lives and those of undeserving,
‘ruff Charver families. However, the sophisticated performance of class dis-
avowal only served to illustrate their own social class pretensions and seemingly
unarticulated fears of slipping back materially, culturally and spatially into non-
labouring lifestyles. It reminds us that ‘Respectability is usually the concern of
those who are not seen to have it’ (Skeggs, 1997: 1).
In the absence of lifelong labour the Real Geordies appear to be enacting
the unspoken traces of a former occupational culture that is socially embedded
in familial biographies and shared regional peer-group values. Thus, while the
collapse of traditional apprentice schemes may have affected the Real Geordies
most markedly in view of their familial labour histories, it had not dislodged
their investments in an industrial lineage and the anatomy of labour. Although
they may have sought to exert a sense of cultural prestige over Charver Kids it
would be inaccurate to locate the Real Geordies as the architects of a ‘dominant
hegemonic masculinity’ (Connell, 1995). As Connell has shown, masculinity
comprises an amalgam of configurations that are dynamic, changing and
always in flux. As working-class men the Real Geordies may exude power in
certain local circuits, but, with few resources to effectively alter the material
conditions of their existence, this hardly compares to a tightly marshalled, insti-
tutionally organized and effective hegemony. As such, I would interpret their
lives more closely through Raymond Williams’ (1985) description of a ‘residual
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culture’, hanging on to a disappearing industrial empire they have yet to relin-
quish. By symbolically valuing the culture of mining, shipbuilding and heavy
engineering through a preservation of routine, regulation and masculine chau-
vinism the Real Geordies appeared men out of time, the unreconstructed out-
siders-within whose claim to regional authenticity remained forever symbolic.
Despite evidence of an industrial hangover, there can be no escaping the
fact that the Real Geordies are on the cusp of change, caught in the flux of tran-
sition and negotiating felt and understood pathways through it. They do not
mimic the industrial past entirely but adapt their responses as they see fit. To
this extent Geordie identity is not being erased but is revitalized in new prac-
tices that at once draw upon, but magically reconfigure, industrial culture.
Thus, while the Real Geordies were moving towards uncertain futures they
felt assured in the knowledge that they could continue to live at home,
work insecure jobs and maintain a commitment to ‘birds, booze and a fuckin’
nite oot once in a while!’ (Jason). Consequently, they saw little point in saving
money and were determined to spend what they earned on clothes, drink,
music, football and what Carl termed, ‘living for the weekend’. This suggests a
more elastic, elongated set of youth transitions, in which the networks of kin-
ship and family continue to offer stability in uncertain times (Hollands, 1997;
MacDonald et al., 2000).
In this sense, the Real Geordies were managing a ‘structure of feeling’
(Williams, 1973[1961]) that intersected with their educational aspirations, cul-
tural values and leisure pursuits. This leaves us with the bold imprint that ‘class
does not disappear just because traditional ways of life fade away’ (Beck,
1998[1992]: 99) but forms part of a continuum in their lives. It is evident that
social class, which is rarely referred to directly, operates as a ‘structuring
absence’ (Skeggs, 1997: 74), peppering their biographies, permeating their aspi-
rations and shaping their broader value systems. Far from disappearing, the
anatomy of labour is discursively signalled, embodied and iterated in new styles
of consumption. Here, the long shadow of an industrial past that celebrated full
employment, continuity and a strict sexual division of labour, cast itself darkly
upon their hyperbolic performances. The identification with a ‘golden past’
enabled the Real Geordies to construe themselves as the eternal ‘backbone of
the nation’ salt-of-the-earth natives who had failed to inherit an industrial
heritage that was rightfully theirs.
In contrast, Charver Kids had long known that they occupied ‘stigmatized
bodies’ (Delamont, 2001: 61) that were economically disenfranchised, socially
excluded and culturally despised (MacDonald et al., 2005). They inhabited the
lower echelons of the (non)working class and had already begun to adapt to
these social class inequalities by enacting an unapologetic posture of survival
that was ‘ruff’, tough and street-wise. For example, I witnessed two teenage
Charver brothers loading a shopping trolley with materials from a nearby con-
struction site. When I questioned their night-time activities in a school interview
the following day it turned out that their father had actually asked them to col-
lect up the timber for him to sell at a knock-down rate. Such responses to
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poverty and the risks engendered were an attempt to temporarily refigure the
material injustices that abound. These, and other ‘scams’ were referred to by
the young men as ‘grafting’: the ignoble art of bodily street-wise labour.
In this way ‘grafting’ legitimated their actions and was a means of con-
tributing to the household economy. In the absence of work it represented a
means of recuperating the material and symbolic value of labour through theft,
risk and the culture of the street. As Richard Hoggart (1966[1957]) once
reported, ‘The working-classes have a strong natural ability to survive change
by adapting or assimilating what they want in the new and ignoring the rest’
(p. 32). In this respect the street ‘scam’ was a type of cultural apprenticeship
through which some Charver Kids and especially young males developed the
knowledge and skills required for a ‘career’ in crime. Charver lads explained to
me how the ‘scam’ encompassed a range of artful and dexterous activities from
‘dodging’ Metro fairs, ‘blaggin’(telling fibs to achieve a particular result), to
theft, burglary and shoplifting. Within their neighbourhoods these actions were
not unusual and demonstrated a survivalist response to the processes of global-
ization that had left many of these communities more localized and isolated
than ever before (MacDonald, 1999).
In the course of the study a number of Charver Kids did admit to illicit
activities, including petty theft, under-age drinking, the dealing and using of soft
drugs, ‘fencing’ goods and TWOCing. For some young people these practices
were seen as part of the culture of the estate and a social extension of their daily
youthscapes. However, for others, these casual activities were embedded in
deeper familial networks of crime and intimidation, with older males acting as
‘ringleaders’. The power of the apprenticeship was evident when male ring-
leaders would encourage even very small children to carry out illegal crimes,
safe in the knowledge that they were too young to be convicted by the law. In
response to a long-term unemployment that had spanned a generation, some
residents in the neighbourhood had established a thriving informal economy.
This included the buying and selling of cheap electrical goods, furniture and
branded fashion items. It was an open secret that these commodities were either
‘knock-off (stolen), seconds or ‘snides’ (fake). The exchange of these com-
modities for cash took place in a local pub until its closure and demolition after
a drug-raid. Subsequently much of the illegal business on the estate is now done
door to door, in what is an older re-enactment of working-class traditions.
Concluding Remarks
As an unspoken category in young men’s lives, social class is rendered visible
through a mobile economy of signs, discursively mapped onto the cartography
of the post-industrial city and the working and non-working bodies that lie
therein. Class demarcation is an unflinching whiplash that does not swerve
from discriminating between the deserving and undeserving, the clean
and filthy, the tasteful and distasteful, the modest and excessive, the ‘ruffand
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respectable. The symbolic elaboration of class signals is also iterated through
complex configurations of gender, race and sexuality that serve to accentuate
differences between youth groups and make palpable the desire to belong.
This informs us that while social class may rarely be discussed directly by young
people it continues to be threaded through the daily fabric of their lives: it is
stitched into codes of respect, accent, dress, music, bodily adornment and
comportment. In short, the affective politics of class is a felt practice, tacitly
understood and deeply internalized.
Of enduring significance here is the importance of place, locality and
regional identities. Despite major economic transformation and media re-
branding, the cultures of the old industrial city and the identities therein refuse
to be written out of existence. Rather, the post-industrial city is configured as a
palimpsest a cultural text upon which the previous inscriptions of past cul-
tures continue to be etched into the present, to be embodied by a new genera-
tion. As creative actors, young men respond to change by intertwining new and
old cultures. This is seen in the determined preservation of older drinking cus-
toms in new times; the redeployment of ‘grafting’ through a cultural appren-
ticeship of crime; the enactment of a muscular, body-capital to gain credibility
on the street; and a fierce commitment to traditional notions of ‘respect’. This
would suggest that some of the broader claims associated with the sociology of
transformations the upheaval of local traditions in the move to a global
culture, the fragmentation of identities in the shift to post-modernity, or the
meaninglessness of place in ‘new times’ – may yet benefit from fine-grain ethno-
graphic accounts that prioritize the everyday lives of ordinary people.
I would like to thank Joyce Canaan and Robert Hollands for their meticulous and
generous comments. I would also like to acknowledge the warmth of young people
who took part in the study and made it such a rewarding experience.
1The term youth transitions is used here in a critical and reexive manner. It
does not imply a compartmentalized series of ‘growing’ stages from youth to
adulthood but the recognition of all identities as socially constituted, overlap-
ping and changing. For a particularly robust defence of this terminology see
MacDonald et al. (2000).
2The website was part of a regional BBC issues series Inside Out shown on
21 February 2005. The series included a programme on Charvers for which I was
interviewed, accompanied by a web discussion that I was asked to respond to.
3At the time of writing a number of telephone call-centre jobs that once
flourished in the North East are now being outsourced to India where a highly
qualified, cheap labour source exists.
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4See, for example, Anna Ralph in the Newcastle paper The Journal, ‘Mummy
returns from her big night’, 21 June 2001, p.11.
5This incident arose when I encountered some of the young men in the city
centre one night, having interviewed them the previous week. Although it relays
the value of multi-site ethnography it also reveals how participant observation
remains an unpredictable social interaction.
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Anoop Nayak
Is Reader in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology at Newcastle University.
His research interests are in race and ethnicity; youth cultural identities; class cultures;
masculinities and social change. He is author of an ethnographic study Race, Place and
Globalization:Youth Cultures in a Changing World (2003, Oxford, Berg) and is currently co-
writing a book with Mary Jane Kehily on young masculinities and femininities for
Address: School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, University of Newcastle upon
Ty n e , N ewca stle NE 1 7 RU, U K.
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... Another predominant strand of literature highlights how masculine norms/cultures and peer-pressure combine to underscore men's behavior. This includes behaviors such as risky drinking (de Visser and Smith, 2007;Iwamoto & Smiler, 2013); drug use (Mahalik et al., 2015); speaking about women in sexist or derogatory terms (Flood, 2008); pursuing casual sex with women as part of a heterosexual "conquest" (Nayak, 2006); or watching (Johnson & Schiappa, 2010) and playing sports (Renold, 1997). In such research, autonomy, perhaps understandably, is somewhat backgrounded. ...
... One prominent way this influence of peer-pressure emerged in this research was through "banter". Following long established patterns in research on men and masculinities (e.g., Collinson, 1988;Nayak, 2006;Willis, 1977), participants considered banter a pivotal, expected and accepted element of homosocial interactions. In respect of drinking, participants often used this idea to explain that friends might "cop a bit of shit" (Alistair, FG7) if, for example, they fell behind in consumption in a round with mates (Caleb, FG17); "didn't have an answer or a reason and [just weren't] drinking for the sake of it" (Gabriel, FG7), or if they "came back [from the bar] with something flowery" (Shaun, FG7). ...
... However, they often spoke in ways that attempted to nullify the pernicious prospects of banter and reframed it as having a productive capacity. Here, consistent with recent sociological research, the importance of facilitating intimacy and connection with male friends featured prominently (Nayak, 2006;Roberts, 2018;Scoats & Robinson, 2020;Thurnell-Read, 2013). The pain of harsh comments was mediated in banter between friends as it occurred in a context of more equal power dynamics and trust than the kind of banter experienced among men who were acquaintances but not necessarily friends (see the above example of the cricket team; see also Roberts et al., 2019). ...
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Masculinities scholarship tends toward describing autonomy as bound up with hegemonic masculine ideals such as independence, atomization, and self‐sufficiency, without fully delving into the concept of autonomy. This article offers a more in‐depth conceptual treatment of autonomy, compared to its more simplified rendering in the literature on the dominant relational conceptualizations of masculinities. In doing so, we follow recent calls to avoid categorizing men according to typologies of masculinity, drawing instead on feminist theorizations of masculine autonomy and relationality to explore how both manifest in men's lives. We draw on a study of men's drinking practices, with our data coming from focus groups with 101 men in metropolitan and regional/rural Victoria, Australia; but the issues we attend to have relevance, and can be an impetus, for further scholarly thinking about autonomy in men's lives well beyond drinking practices, and in other similar industrialized nations. We explore how masculine autonomy remains an influential and harmful discourse, often impeding possibilities for men's greater intimacy, connection and care and reproducing gendered hierarchies. However, we simultaneously highlight how men are inescapably relationally situated, exposing masculine autonomy as a discursive ideal of valorized forms of masculinity rather than an achievable state in practice. We argue that acknowledging how men are relationally embedded and interdependent in practice offers potential avenues for further fostering men's care, intimacy and relationality, and might work toward ameliorating gendered inequalities that see care work and the work of sustaining relational networks disproportionately falling to women and marginalized men.
... In some studies on the geography of masculinities, researchers use terms to demarcate distinct friendship groups, for example Wards's (2013) Geeks and Valley Boiz. In other studies, researchers use the terms are that self-elected by the groups they study or are known as such by others in the local community, for example the lads and ear'oles in Willis (1977) and the Real Geordies and Charvers in Nayak (2006). In this article no such terms were used by young people, and I have not similarly deployed typologies, preferring instead to use the concept of 'manhood acts' keep the focus on how the category of men and gendered inequality is actually practiced and (re) produced. ...
... Urban spaces, particularly the street space have also been key sites of scholarly attention. Though subject to regulation, in comparison to more sedimented institutions such as schools, the street is a 'loosely structured milieu' (Connell 1987, 134) and geographers have consistently documented how young men use it as a form of theatre to convey masculinity (Connell 1987;Mcdowell 2003;Mcdowell and Harris 2019;Nayak 2006). Geographers have shown how these dynamics are particularly salient in former industrial localities where 'protest' forms of masculinity accompany young working-class men's 'hanging out' time to compensate for the loss of secure masculine trajectories (Mcdowell 2003;Mcdowell and Harris 2019;Nayak 2006). ...
... Though subject to regulation, in comparison to more sedimented institutions such as schools, the street is a 'loosely structured milieu' (Connell 1987, 134) and geographers have consistently documented how young men use it as a form of theatre to convey masculinity (Connell 1987;Mcdowell 2003;Mcdowell and Harris 2019;Nayak 2006). Geographers have shown how these dynamics are particularly salient in former industrial localities where 'protest' forms of masculinity accompany young working-class men's 'hanging out' time to compensate for the loss of secure masculine trajectories (Mcdowell 2003;Mcdowell and Harris 2019;Nayak 2006). ...
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This paper contributes to the literature on geographies of masculinities by examining how young men’s (aged 12–18) performances of masculinity through humour was mutually constitutive of and constituted by the spaces of the Fusion and Retro youth cafés in the city and suburbs of Cork in the south of Ireland. Research on open access youth provision such as youth clubs, centres and youth cafés have found that they can afford young people the opportunity to ‘be themselves’, reflecting the ideals of safety and inclusivity that are meant to be sustained in these spaces. Using ethnographic observations, this paper shows that such ideals are never a given as the inequality embedded in gendered performances mean the spaces must be continually (re)produced as inclusive. It contributes to an understanding of youth cafés as micropolitical spaces of becoming that shape and are shaped by negotiations over meanings of gender and masculinity in particular. Furthermore, it advances two new concepts - ‘humorous improprieties’ and ‘humour bombing’ - to the performative geographies literature, highlighting two nuanced ways in which young men construct themselves as men in relation to space.
... Indeed, Walkerdine's (2006) ethnographic study of a post-industrial Welsh 'steel town' demonstrates how many locals lament the loss of the 'comradeship and laughter' of their former workplace, as well as 'solidarity' in the face of daily exertion, pain and danger (Walkerdine, 2006, p. 27). Similarly, Nayak (2003, p. 7) contends that this period of industrial modernity offered jobs that, although physically demanding, 'provide[d] stability, life-long labour, masculine camaraderie, and a pride in either "craft" or "graft"' in a manner that has simply not been replicated in the late capitalist service-based economy (McDowell, 2000;Nayak, 2006;Nixon, 2009Nixon, , 2017. It is within this context, therefore, that we will interrogate male hardcore gym culture in this article. ...
... However, following the collapse of Britain's heavy industry and the subsequent transition into post-industrialism, the availability of these predominantly working-class, physically-skilled 'jobs for life' (Telford & Lloyd, 2020) has drastically reduced, leaving scores of men bereft of a gender-affirming source of labor (Nayak, 2003;Nixon, 2009;Winlow & Hall, 2006). In their place, these 'displaced' masculinities (Nayak, 2006) have increasingly been put to work in the service sector, with its stereotypically feminine reliance upon emotional labor and customer service (McDowell, 2003;Nixon, 2017). This transition is often framed within a wider narrative of masculinity in crisis (see Payne, 2008), wherein the problematization of gender and consequent erosion of the bastions of orthodox masculinity has somewhat obfuscated what it is to be a man. ...
... Centering his analysis on the practices of football hooliganism and hedonistic alcohol consumption, Nayak argues that these consumptive routines embodied the 'hard labour' of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne's economy under industrial modernity as, in his words, the 'culture of manual labour was recuperated and refashioned in new, out-of-work spaces that resonated with the eerie echo of industrial prowess' (Nayak, 2003, p. 22). As such, we cannot speak of a death of this grafting ethos, but rather a repurposing of the ethic of hard labor in line with the contemporary post-industrial context (Nayak, 2006). However, whilst Nayak provides a salient basis from which to unpack the gym-based graft we observed, our samples' bodywork perhaps represents a less abstracted reverberation of heavy industrial labor. ...
This article theorizes a link between contemporary masculinity in post-industrial spaces and ‘hardcore’ gym culture. Over the last three decades the health and fitness industry has grown exponentially, with bodily modification and the proliferation of gymnasia, health supplements and wearable fitness trackers now a dominant means by which many construct their identities. Simultaneously, the onset of wholesale neoliberalism, which has caused large-scale de-industrialization and the global outsourcing of labor, has resulted in a macro-economic shift from production to consumption in the West. Set against this backdrop, this article draws upon two ethnographic studies in ‘hardcore’ gyms to examine the significance of bodywork in the lives of men in two working-class, post-industrial locales in England. First, gym work is conceptualized as a form of both graft and craft within our samples, and the role of the male body as a post-industrial project is considered. Following this, the gym is presented as a site of fraternity which, following the loss of collectivizing industry in both areas, allows men to bond over a shared endeavor and build genuine kinship. Ultimately, we conclude that the gym is a space of production within consumption, furnishing our sample with a means of performing their embodied masculinity and repurposing formative notions of graft, craft, and fraternity in a new adaptive space.
... As Williams (1977:132) explains, such thick "structures of feeling" are deeply embedded in specific class histories, and "concerned with meanings and values as they are actually lived and felt". This aesthetic perseveres in the present, but in the arenas of circuit-drinking, football, and intensive bodybuilding (Giatzitzoglu 2018;Hollands 1990;Nayak 2006), epitomised through "hard masculinity". Classed and gendered, Geordie is also a racialised trope and, like the early industrial labourers Roediger depicts in the US, bespeaks "a racial identity, an identification with whiteness and work so strong that it need not even be spoken " (1992:19). ...
This participatory youth ethnography—utilising interviews, focus‐groups, observational diaries, and artwork—explores young people’s differing attitudes to current sexual equalities in a former ship‐building community in Northern England. Adapting Raymond Williams’ cultural Marxist framework on class, it identifies three intersecting repertoires of transition: a dominant liberal disposition of “inclusive sexualities”, based on the universal rights of the individual; a residual repertoire that recuperates masculinist tropes of patriarchy and “hardness”, associated with the passing industrial era; and an emergent paradigm that seeks to “trouble” and destabilise gender categories. We argue that place, locality, and labour market geographies critically impact upon the types of gender and sexual identities deemed “appropriate”, situating possibilities for enacting social justice through equality legislation. The participatory ethnography critically examines the spatial circulation, accumulation, and dissipation of gender and sexual equalities in young lives, identifying possibilities and challenges for future transformation.
... And the social spaces occupied by British people are huge. Working class actors still hold high levels of cultural capital within their own fields, for example Nayak's (2006) ethnographic study of working class males in the North East of England show social worlds built around clubbing, drinking and watching football. But the dominant form of culture within education favours middle class values and so the culture described in Nayak's study holds little currency in educational success. ...
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The issue of social class related inequalities in access to Higher Education (HE) has been high on the political agenda for nearly two decades. In spite of significant funding, channelled through university-led outreach activities to encourage disadvantaged young people into university, the social gap in HE participation persists. As a result, universities are under increasing pressure to provide hard evidence of 'what works' in terms of the outreach they deliver under the Government's Widening Participation (WP) agenda. Recent large-scale research identifies prior attainment at Key Stage 4 (GCSE) as the main barrier to HE access for disadvantaged students, and as a result the Office for Students (OfS) now require universities to raise students' pre-entry attainment. This research examines the potential for university-led outreach activities to help disadvantaged students over this attainment hurdle. Two of the three research questions posed draw on big data collected through HEAT, a system whereby universities in England record data on the students engaged in their outreach activities, tracking their subsequent progress in terms of school attainment and eventual HE entry. Research question one examines the extent to which outreach delivered in the past has been targeted towards the 'right' students, most in need of assistance with this level of attainment. I find a considerable amount of resource has been mis-targeted. In the second research question, I devise a quasi-experimental method that makes the best use of HEAT's collective tracking data to explore whether outreach activities are able to raise students' attainment. Results show a positive impact on attainment, although this is accompanied with a 'health warning' regarding the important unresolved issues of epistemology associated with my approach. The third research question moves away from HEAT's quantitative data and draws on qualitative methods to understand the specific activities universities are delivering to raise attainment, and how these might be expected to work. Content analysis of institutional Access Agreements provides a good starting point, and from this I generate a typology of attainment-raising activities being delivered by universities. This line of enquiry is extended through interviews with WP managers from 30 universities where Academic Tutoring delivered by student ambassadors emerges as the most common attainment-raising activity. This choice is seemingly driven by the demanding requirements on universities to show hard evidence of impact on exam results. However, closer examination of the processes and mechanisms through which Academic Tutoring activities are expected to work are not sufficiently theoretically convincing. ii I conclude the research with a series of recommendations for policy. These include lessening the strict requirements on universities to demonstrate impact when it comes to raising attainment in schools. This may encourage more creative activities, less reductionist in their approach than Academic Tutoring which appears to replicate what is already happening in schools. I also suggest that HEAT should be utilised for its monitoring capacity rather than being a 'scientific' predictor of impact evaluation. Government should investigate using HEAT as a mechanism to provide the OfS with data on the types of students receiving outreach and where they live in the country. Further research is also needed to better understand the circumstances under which Academic Tutoring outreach activities, which are already being delivered by universities, may be able to add value to the complex issue of raising attainment in schools. iii
... Sociological research has long explored the distaste the middle class keeps from working-class lifestyle (McRobbie, 2004;Nayak, 2006;Skeggs, 2005). According to Adams (2008), in the democratic world legal systems there is no longer a division of classes. ...
Im 21. Jahrhundert, die digitale EinzelhandelsTransparenz und die zunehmende weltweite Ungleichheit brachten eine neue Konsumkategorie: Humanistic Luxury. Diese Verbraucherkategorie von Produkten und Dienstleistungen richtet sich an gebildete Verbraucher der Mittelschicht und verspricht die Möglichkeit Status Güter zu erwerben und gleichzeitig an humanitären Bemühungen teilzunehmen. Ein Oxymoron, das wert ist, untersucht zu werden. Um Schlüsselfunktionen und Konsequenzen der Kategorie aufzuzeigen, wurde eine Methodenforschung der Grounded Theory durchgeführt. Vierzehn globale Verbraucher aus elf Ländern wurden eingehend Statusgruppe, ihre Werte und ihre Funktionen befragt zu definieren. Die Ergebnisse enthüllten drei distinkte Untergruppen innerhalb der Verbraucher, der moralische Überlegenheit anstrebt, und die Verbraucher aus Schwellenländern („Ich konsumiere ganz normal, aber jetzt unterstütze ich meine Gemeinschaft“). Diese Ergebnisse beleuchten die Folgen des humanistischen Luxus und einige der unwahrscheinlichen Quellen lokaler und globaler Ungleichheit Reproduktion im Bereich des Konsums. Diese Kategorie bietet keine Unterscheidung mehr auf der Grundlage des finanziellen, sondern des kulturellen und moralischen Kapitals. Humanistischer Luxus kann zwar dazu beitragen, die Verletzlichkeit des Handwerks zu beseitigen Die Hierarchien sind zementiert aber auch soziale, die bestätigen, wer „würdig“ ist und wer nicht, und was letztendlich die soziale Mobilität auf lokaler und globaler Ebene behindert.
To address the identity and equity issues informing the First-in-Family Males Project, this chapter recounts a short history of working-class masculinities in education as well as recent contemporary research on disadvantaged males. The aim is to draw on international and historical research to delineate important shifts in working-class masculinities in times of social change in order to better capture the complexities of upwardly mobile working-class masculinities. Working across a wide spectrum of fields and sub-fields—from schoolboy subjectivities, to educational policy to working-class masculinities—this chapter presents some of the foundational work in order to allow for a deeper consideration of the data.
Much of the sociological work examining the changing fortunes of working-class young men has emphasized their newly precarious position as well as the “hollowed out” nature of their class subjectivities. By contrast, and echoing work on the adaptability of hegemonic forms of masculinity, this article points to the ongoing salience of working-class masculinities, drawing on longitudinal research with young men in Russia’s Ul’yanovsk region between 2004 and 2013. It examines how young men are able to shift from a position of marginality to one of a complicit, breadwinning masculinity by bringing to bear a variety of social, cultural, bodily, and institutional resources rooted in their class, gender, and ethnic location. This journey also reflects young men’s negotiation of dialogical, moral selves, central to which is their acquired ability to reflect upon different ways of being a man by appealing to wider moral currents within Russian society.
The aim of this article is to examine how the representation of Coleen McLoughlin in terms of chav taste in the Daily Mail between 2004 and 2006, reinforced class distinctions and classed notions of femininity. Making recourse to Pierre Bourdieu’s terms of cultural capital and symbolic capital, this article demonstrates how the category of chav, identified with a lack of cultural and symbolic capital, reproduces historically classed associations and upholds the values of the symbolic order.
This paper presents two remarkably similar characterological figures who are stereotyped embodiments of working-class personas: Haagse Harry in The Hague and chavs in England. The two figures have similar attires, class positions, attitudes, and associated attributes. We compare and contextualize the indexical links between their linguistic features and their social characteristics. Firstly, while chavs can be both men and women, the fictional persona Haagse Harry represents an all-male lower-working-class subculture. Secondly, while Haagse Harry consistently speaks Broad Haags , the language of chavs is not rooted in any single regional dialect but invariably indexes working-class features. Thirdly, Haagse Harry , and his sociolect, has a higher social status compared to the language and persona of chavs, who embody British class prejudice. We demonstrate that the repertoire of linguistic features deployed in the stylisation of characterological figures is strongly dependent on patterns of variation and ideas that are prevalent in the local speech community.