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Is It OK to Be a Snob about Clothes?

It’s a casual age, but does class still influence your taste?

Smelling that country air...

When you’re shopping for clothes, do you ever think about class? As you peruse the rails or the online pics, are you asking yourself if something would suit your body shape and complexion? Or are you more concerned with whether or not something would make you look – for better or worse – like a contestant on “Love Island”?

Class seems to be both everywhere and nowhere in Britain today. On the one hand we have a fairly classless outlook – we think “we’re all middle class now”, as John Prescott famously declared back in 1997. But on the other hand, we lap up TV programmes that show Britain as a country that’s as class-based as ever. Two big hitters have just returned for another run. “Made in Chelsea” is now in its twenty-forth series and “The Only Way is Essex” is now in its thirtieth. Yet in spite of their success, it almost feels taboo to explicitly state that one is focussed on the lives of the upper/upper-middle class and the other is about the lives of the working class/new money. But that’s exactly how it is. Spencer Matthews, one of the most well-known faces to have found fame through MIC, was at school with Princes William and Harry before he became a celebrity. While Joey Essex, one of the best remembered characters from TOWIE, worked at Billingsgate Fish Market before he rose to stardom. In truth, we are as divided as ever; it’s just that we maintain an illusion of all being more or less the same by not talking about it in explicit terms anymore.

When it comes to men’s clothes, you find a similar story. Most of us, these days, shop on the high street (or the online version). Of course, there are those who steer clear of it altogether and source their wardrobe from more rarefied places or from second-hand suppliers; but, in the main we’re all buying our clothes from roughly the same selection of shops – places like H&M, Foot Locker, TK Maxx, Primark, Uniqlo, JD Sports, M&S, Next and so on. However, from this same clutch of outfitters, we produce, as a nation, a remarkably varied range of outfits; a range from which you can still easily pick out the class contours. True, it’s all more subtle than it used to be – it’s not a case of toffs in bowler hats and working men in flat caps, as in the famous class sketch with John Cleese and The Two Ronnies. (Now so well-known it has its own Wikipedia page!) But if you look at the fit of a shirt, the tightness of a pair of shorts or the severity of a fade, you soon work it out. What really makes this interesting, though, is that in 2022, it isn’t a question of means. With the same budget, you could buy an outfit from somewhere like Massimo Dutti, with a shirt, a pair of jeans and a smart pair of leather loafers, or you could get a tracksuit and a pair of trainers from somewhere like Footasylum. Indeed, the tracksuit and trainers could easily cost you a lot more. It’s not about money; it’s about tribal instincts....

Read the complete article at Menswear Style, an online men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine and one of the leading digital publications in the UK.

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