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The secret millennial class war Were you a 'townie' or a 'mosher'?

"Read Mods and Rockers, but for pubescents growing up at the turn of the century". Credit: PYMCA/Universal Images Group/Getty

"Read Mods and Rockers, but for pubescents growing up at the turn of the century". Credit: PYMCA/Universal Images Group/Getty


January 6, 2023   6 mins

“Kevs”, “Neds”, “townies” and “dobbers”. Do these labels mean anything to you? How about “pikeys”, “grungers”, “moshers” and “skate-punks”? If bells are starting to ring, then I’d wager my strongest PokĂ©mon card that you went to a UK secondary school in the Noughties.

The slang-words describe two teenage tribes. One wore Reebok Classics, brands like Ellesse or Diadora, and (often Burberry) baseball caps. They smoked straights, drank alcopops (if they could get hold of them), liked football, and listened to the charts. The girls wore large earrings and carried drawstring bags from sports shops. The boys gelled their hair.

The other lot wore Vans and DC skateboarding shoes, baggy jeans, and Billabong hoodies or rucksacks. They smoked roll-ups and cannabis (if they could get hold of it), liked skateboarding or hacky-sack, and listened to rock or reggae. The girls had heavy eye make-up, and sometimes a nose piercing. The boys did not gel their hair. Read Mods and Rockers, but for pubescents growing up at the turn of the century.

This was a culture war played out in miniature, in an era of relative prosperity and peace. But it’s one which I think, as I’ll explain later, helps us understand modern political divides.

At my secondary school in Norwich, the two clans were omnipresent and — to start with, at least — mutually exclusive. I was ushered into the former tribe, when it became clear that I liked football and had never stood on a skateboard in my life. Each UK region had different descriptors for the groups, I later learnt, but our area used “townie” and “pikey”. “Pikey” being a derogatory term, albeit used to describe something completely different, I’ll use the word “mosher” in the rest of the article, to describe the skater tribe’.

As well as a general mood of sectarianism between the two groups — a “mosher” girl in my class was beaten up by “townies” from another school in Year 8, and retributions followed — there were political differences, too. Those who marched against Iraq were mostly of “mosher” heritage. And “mosher” saw themselves, more generally, as upholding social liberalism. This largely involved mimicking the other side’s use of the word “gay” (an all-purpose “townie” insult at the time) by grunting “Yer gay” in the broadest Norfolk accent they could muster. This backfired, in progressive terms, as many “moshers” discovered a liking for the term “gay” once they’d sampled it, and were soon chucking it about just as casually as their “townie” peers.

By age 16, affiliations had weakened. The clans had discovered common ground — or common enemies. People mixed and matched. And every now and then a “mosher” would surprise the “townies” by revealing themselves, under the big shoes and pocketed trousers, to be good at football. In particular, the ubiquitous desire for marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes made it necessary for the identities to mingle. A large group of smokers in our year — of both “townie” and “mosher” vintage — took to loitering in a circle at the end of the field, furtively imbibing cannabis or tobacco, and hocking phlegm into a huge, symbolic puddle of shared mucus.

Yet a duality remained. Many former “townies” left school at 16 or 18, and went to work — sometimes earning decent salaries and getting on the housing ladder, sometimes not. They had more money to spend and went out in different clubs — the sort where local footballers frequented the VIP area. And they learnt to drive.

“Moshers”, meanwhile, morphed into hippies or indie kids. They did not want to be known as “geeks” any more than the “townies”. But when the moment came, they were more likely to stay on at Sixth Form — and then, often, to leave the city to study or travel. As economic inequality moved into focus post-2008, some will have learnt to see terms such as “townie” and “chav” as marks of bigotry — little better than racial slurs. Many former “moshers” may now, in fact, be more offended by these words than those they once used them against.

The phenomenon I describe — evident across many parts of Britain, and especially away from big cities — ran far deeper than hobbies and fashion. Its roots were social. Where I grew up, “townies” mostly came from houses built this side of the Second World War. Some lived on the council estates which formed part of the school catchment. Many others lived on newer developments further out, or in expanses of owner-occupied suburban semis. We lived in a city and were proud of this status, but the “townie” strongholds — as their label, I suppose, implies — tended to be the areas which were least urban or least urbane.

The “mosher” spirit, by contrast, emanated from — although was not unique to — the Victorian or Georgian terraced houses closer to the city centre. These had bay windows and smaller gardens, and were en route to the university, in and around an area known as the Golden Triangle. This neighbourhood was characterised by its shabby chic tastes, strong social capital and high house prices. It was not super-rich, by any means, and may not even be much more affluent than “townie” dominated areas further out. But its sense of itself was quite different.

So, what does this nascent identity politics, conducted on the playing fields of Blair’s Britain, tell us about the UK in 2023? It would be daft to overstate it, but I think some contemporary fault-lines are evident.

The first is about what I’d call “the glossy and the matte”. This is a political distinction for all the ages; between those looking to advertise their social status and those looking to disguise it. Dressing up and dressing down, new money and old, gaucheness and “good taste”. Even George Eliot’s Middlemarch, set in the 1830s, touches on the same theme. It’s telling, I think, that my school, comprised as it was of a pretty ordinary economic intake, devised an alternative caste system on the basis of glossy and matte preferences.

Many of the subtler barriers to modern social mobility come down to the same distinctions. Amol Rajan’s documentary “How to break into the elite” depicts working-class graduates donning sharp suits for job interviews in the arts, only to find that the well-paid executives interviewing them are wearing t-shirts and trainers.

The second fault-line is between economic and cultural capital; materialism and post-materialism. It’s a while since I read Chavs by Owen Jones, but one thing that didn’t ring as true when I did was the idea that anti-“chav” sentiment sought to deride poverty. In my experience, at least back then, it was about a mutual contempt, between those who valued the signifiers of wealth or status and those who valued the signifiers of taste or intellect. It’s true that most of those in social housing were “townies”, but it’s also true that most of the “townies” I went to school with did not live in social housing.

I do think that the hierarchy which “moshers” sought to create was just as bad as that which “townies” were cultivating. But I don’t think it was quite as simple as “haves” mocking “have-nots”. Certainly, this isn’t what “pikeys” thought they were doing. Many regarded themselves as the underdogs, and their primary accusation was that “townies” were parochial — not that they were poor. In return it was they — the “dirty mosher” — who were disparaged for their lack of respectability.

The most obvious modern echo here is the Corbyn project. Scruffy and proud of it, the movement was contemptuous of what Tony Blair called “aspiration”. Corbyn and his team spoke primarily to post-materialist values and higher cultural capital, and appeared to see those who valued economic capital — “townies” and their ilk — through the lens of “false consciousness”.

Third, the fissure exposed a fault-line between mainstream and alternative. One interesting thing about my school’s dynamic was the fact that “townies” and “moshers” were so evenly matched in terms of numbers. A generation beforehand, “mosher” culture might have been peripheral, but by the time I went to school there were whole industries dedicated to “mosher” clothing and music. “Mosher” — ism was, at core, an act of rebellion — against suburban conformity and materialism. But, by 2001, striking out in this way was a popular pastime.

This links to a perennial question for those in the “alternative” corner: what happens when the identity you champion becomes mainstream? Many culture war debates relate to this. James Harris recently critiqued Stewart Lee, for example, for continuing to base his comedy on the idea that he’s part of a pioneering Left-wing vanguard. In fact, Harris writes, Lee’s liberal values are now very common.

Finally, as I’ve already touched upon, the “townie”-“mosher” split often ran along the fault-line between those who stay in the town and those who migrate elsewhere. Analysis from a few years ago cast this as a central tension in US politics, determining which way people voted in 2016. And Brexit may well have followed the same pattern.

Why were “townies” more likely to stay in the place they grew up and “moshers” to move to bigger cities? Beyond some of the socio-economic reasons, and those relating to access and expectations, there was a values dimension. Just as “townie” clothing was about adhering to the rules of contemporary fashion, the “townie” approach to life was commonly about succeeding within the framework of the place you lived. “Moshers”, by contrast, often styled themselves as misfits, for whom “every day was like Sunday”. They rejected the framework and were less tied to the place itself.

The upshot of this is that many “townies” and “moshers”, pulling in opposite directions from the very start, may have diverged more and more as the years passed. This applies to the age they had children, their experiences of the UK housing market and whether they cycle or drive.

So, what became of the “townies” and the “moshers”? They’re now in their mid-30s, and the world has changed shape since they were buying Nokia phone cases, watching Ali G, and half-listening to their parents discuss 9/11. The caps and skateboards have been retired, the gold chains and hacky-sacks decommissioned. But in a sense, I think, the confused conflict which they were engaged in lives on.

It governs how people define “success” in their own lives, and it explains why many of the polarisations which emerged after Brexit were so heavily rooted in symbolism, be it TV or food preferences. For millennials trying to make sense of all this, it’s worth taking a trip down memory lane, to the classrooms of 2000s Britain and the strange social eco-system which existed there.


Chris Clarke is a social researcher and former political press officer, and is the author of The Dark Knight and the Puppet Master

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Thank goodness I was a nerd and never got pulled into the prevailing cliques, and their rituals, because none of them wanted me. Unusually, although my enjoyment of learning made me a nerd, I was quite sporty and that saved me from complete ostracism and probably a few beatings. But ever since I’ve been deeply cynical about cliques of all sorts, and I struggle to identify with any organized group.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

J, was your school divided into cliques like this article describes? Mine was not at all. I was a stoner and a sort of immovable rock of rebellious quality where I never did any school work and missed about a third of all class – and they just left me alone as I left them alone (students and the authorities), but I have no recollections of cliques – some would be friends based on some activity they liked, but that is all, we all pretty much got along. I just cannot seem to get the picture this article describes at all. No one dressed to identify as some clique.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Where and when did you go to school?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

I think the situation is far worse than the author paints it. This is a quote for a a more recent pupil at my local school where I grew up.
“I went there myself and left last year, and I have to say it’s possibly the worst school within ****. There were race wars every other week, there were gangs, weapons and drugs are often found, and certain areas of the school felt like ghettos with only a select race are within an area. Honestly, if you’re thinking about taking your kids there, don’t, and if your kids are already there, move them. Do not blame the teachers, most of the kids don’t want to learn as all they do is mess around, and do all that has been said above. I legitimately felt deprived going there, and ultimately let down, so please do not subject your kids to this utter joke of a school.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“There were race wars every other week”
And just like that, you can tell the ethnic and religious mix of that school despite knowing nothing about it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Thing is when I was that age the school was 100% ethnic British

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Thing is when I was that age the school was 100% ethnic British

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“There were race wars every other week”
And just like that, you can tell the ethnic and religious mix of that school despite knowing nothing about it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Where and when did you go to school?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

I think the situation is far worse than the author paints it. This is a quote for a a more recent pupil at my local school where I grew up.
“I went there myself and left last year, and I have to say it’s possibly the worst school within ****. There were race wars every other week, there were gangs, weapons and drugs are often found, and certain areas of the school felt like ghettos with only a select race are within an area. Honestly, if you’re thinking about taking your kids there, don’t, and if your kids are already there, move them. Do not blame the teachers, most of the kids don’t want to learn as all they do is mess around, and do all that has been said above. I legitimately felt deprived going there, and ultimately let down, so please do not subject your kids to this utter joke of a school.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

J, was your school divided into cliques like this article describes? Mine was not at all. I was a stoner and a sort of immovable rock of rebellious quality where I never did any school work and missed about a third of all class – and they just left me alone as I left them alone (students and the authorities), but I have no recollections of cliques – some would be friends based on some activity they liked, but that is all, we all pretty much got along. I just cannot seem to get the picture this article describes at all. No one dressed to identify as some clique.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

Thank goodness I was a nerd and never got pulled into the prevailing cliques, and their rituals, because none of them wanted me. Unusually, although my enjoyment of learning made me a nerd, I was quite sporty and that saved me from complete ostracism and probably a few beatings. But ever since I’ve been deeply cynical about cliques of all sorts, and I struggle to identify with any organized group.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

We said scene kid, grebo, goth or emo. So my perspective, from inside the mosh pit. It was the music. We were committed to the bands that made the music.
The alternative scene had its own factions between the ’emo’, ‘skater’ and a bit of punk and goth revival mixed in, basically the culmination of rebellious British/ American rock culture over the years amalgamated for the 2000s. We had nothing unique just threw old ideas together and looked hot. Or we thought we did. I rocked massive new rock boots, fish nets and a tartan mini skirt, full length black velvet vampire matrix coat, more eyeliner than boots makeup counter and could be found from 14 in the mosh pit of carling academy Birmingham whenever I had made enough money babysitting. Or Brixton academy, or rock city in Nottingham. Leicester uni. That alt subculture was largely all about the music. About going to gigs, freezing your arse off outside hoping to get your ticket signed, screaming your heart out and jumping around like a lunatic in the best possible way, epic atmosphere. Merch tour t shirts were big. And what the music said. Green day American idiot and jesus of suburbia were massive hits that made mainstream, a screaming attack on the society we were building and the New Media emerging in America:

Don’t wanna be an American idiot
Don’t want a nation under the new media
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind-f*ck America
Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay
In television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue
Well, maybe I’m the fagg*t, America
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda
Now everybody, do the propaganda
And sing along to the age of paranoia

Flobots handlebars was massive on the alternative scene 2005:

I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run the business
And I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers, shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the system
I can do anything with no resistance
‘Cause I can lead a nation with a microphone
With a microphone
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let ’em all die of exasperation
Have ’em all healed of their lacerations
Have ’em all killed by assassination
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don’t like ’em
And I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command because
I can guide a missile by satellite
By satellite

That big corporate blob was emerging and getting stronger, the American government machine was working up to full crazy, we were at war in Iraq, propaganda everywhere. Politics seeped into alternative music. We starting using the Internet, 9/11 conspiracys abounded. The new world order and peak oil were the fringe topics of the day. The rise of Anonymous. First major ‘hacktivists’. Kerrang rock magazine was massive and essential reading. Blink 182, placebo, evanescence, the artic monkeys, the strokes, the libertines, red hot chilli’s, rage against the machine, Linkin Park were enormous, avenge sevenfold, Marilyn Mason, my chemical romance, paramour, slipknot, the killers, foo fighters, brand new, 30 seconds to Mars, white stripes, flobots, Jamie t and Adele both came up on the same alternative label in London around then too. There was so much good music about and so many big bands came up around then. That’s why the scene blew mainstream, because the music did. They are inextricably linked.
The blob needed killing when we were teenagers, like we screamed at you old people through our speakers repeatedly back then. That’s what the alternative scene could feel coming and rebelled against in the 2000s, it’s written into the music – The homogenisation and monetisation of everything – everyone pushed into suburban, branded, homogenised mega Corp, state and media controlled boxes in the process.
It was not a class war between townies and alt scene kids, maybe a culture war would be more appropriate. It was a kick back against what was rapidly arriving. Kids on the alt scene came from everywhere, there was no divide between different houses or areas. We all used to end up on the same trains outta Birmingham together at the end of a gig and there really were all sorts. It was a mindset. It was because you’d been hooked by the music.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

We said scene kid, grebo, goth or emo. So my perspective, from inside the mosh pit. It was the music. We were committed to the bands that made the music.
The alternative scene had its own factions between the ’emo’, ‘skater’ and a bit of punk and goth revival mixed in, basically the culmination of rebellious British/ American rock culture over the years amalgamated for the 2000s. We had nothing unique just threw old ideas together and looked hot. Or we thought we did. I rocked massive new rock boots, fish nets and a tartan mini skirt, full length black velvet vampire matrix coat, more eyeliner than boots makeup counter and could be found from 14 in the mosh pit of carling academy Birmingham whenever I had made enough money babysitting. Or Brixton academy, or rock city in Nottingham. Leicester uni. That alt subculture was largely all about the music. About going to gigs, freezing your arse off outside hoping to get your ticket signed, screaming your heart out and jumping around like a lunatic in the best possible way, epic atmosphere. Merch tour t shirts were big. And what the music said. Green day American idiot and jesus of suburbia were massive hits that made mainstream, a screaming attack on the society we were building and the New Media emerging in America:

Don’t wanna be an American idiot
Don’t want a nation under the new media
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind-f*ck America
Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay
In television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue
Well, maybe I’m the fagg*t, America
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda
Now everybody, do the propaganda
And sing along to the age of paranoia

Flobots handlebars was massive on the alternative scene 2005:

I can make new antibiotics
I can make computers survive aquatic conditions
I know how to run the business
And I can make you wanna buy a product
Movers, shakers and producers
Me and my friends understand the future
I see the strings that control the system
I can do anything with no resistance
‘Cause I can lead a nation with a microphone
With a microphone
I can hand out a million vaccinations
Or let ’em all die of exasperation
Have ’em all healed of their lacerations
Have ’em all killed by assassination
I can make anybody go to prison
Just because I don’t like ’em
And I can do anything with no permission
I have it all under my command because
I can guide a missile by satellite
By satellite

That big corporate blob was emerging and getting stronger, the American government machine was working up to full crazy, we were at war in Iraq, propaganda everywhere. Politics seeped into alternative music. We starting using the Internet, 9/11 conspiracys abounded. The new world order and peak oil were the fringe topics of the day. The rise of Anonymous. First major ‘hacktivists’. Kerrang rock magazine was massive and essential reading. Blink 182, placebo, evanescence, the artic monkeys, the strokes, the libertines, red hot chilli’s, rage against the machine, Linkin Park were enormous, avenge sevenfold, Marilyn Mason, my chemical romance, paramour, slipknot, the killers, foo fighters, brand new, 30 seconds to Mars, white stripes, flobots, Jamie t and Adele both came up on the same alternative label in London around then too. There was so much good music about and so many big bands came up around then. That’s why the scene blew mainstream, because the music did. They are inextricably linked.
The blob needed killing when we were teenagers, like we screamed at you old people through our speakers repeatedly back then. That’s what the alternative scene could feel coming and rebelled against in the 2000s, it’s written into the music – The homogenisation and monetisation of everything – everyone pushed into suburban, branded, homogenised mega Corp, state and media controlled boxes in the process.
It was not a class war between townies and alt scene kids, maybe a culture war would be more appropriate. It was a kick back against what was rapidly arriving. Kids on the alt scene came from everywhere, there was no divide between different houses or areas. We all used to end up on the same trains outta Birmingham together at the end of a gig and there really were all sorts. It was a mindset. It was because you’d been hooked by the music.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Interesting.
To me, as an old 1st gen ’77 punk, then new wave, then indie kid, it seems odd though to read about youth cults not primarily centred around differing musical tastes …
For my generation, it started with music, and that dictated fashion and political choices as well. Generally, a mod or metaller would be more right wing; a disco kid would be sort of vacuous, a punk or industrial kid would be more rebellious, an indie kid would be quite PC, etc. And you really could discern the politics and the music from the attire, no problem. But our little differences were heartfelt. I remember a metaller and a Japan fan coming to blows over an argument about why Japan’s song, “Nightporter” was or was not s**t lol.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Eddie Swales
Eddie Swales
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Music was still a big part of it when I was at secondary school in the early 2000s:
Moshers/goths listened to heavy music.
Skaters often listened to punk rock and pop punk.
Townies/chavs usually listened to electronic music or rap.

I didn’t fit into any of the main groups as a slightly nerdy kid who preferred unfashionable music – 60s pop/rock, prog, jazz… – but I was often called a ‘mosher’ because I grew my hair long for a couple of years and was generally more friendly with the moshers/skaters.

Last edited 1 year ago by Eddie Swales
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

In my experience of the same late seventies period, politics just didn’t come into it at all for anyone in my various schools.
My mates were into punk, heavy metal and prog rock. Some were into a couple of these, I was into all of them along with reggae and krautrock – and had no one to talk with on these. But no one I knew was into the politics of the music – most of them didn’t even analyse the lyrics. But my mates would dress ‘appropriately’ for gigs depending on the musical style – jeans for heavy metal; zipped leather and pins for punk – which was a form of politics I suppose, but meaningless as they changed their spots to match the context. I was boring and dressed the same style for anything, regardless of musical style. I did stick out a bit at punk concerts when next to my mates.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Eddie Swales
Eddie Swales
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Music was still a big part of it when I was at secondary school in the early 2000s:
Moshers/goths listened to heavy music.
Skaters often listened to punk rock and pop punk.
Townies/chavs usually listened to electronic music or rap.

I didn’t fit into any of the main groups as a slightly nerdy kid who preferred unfashionable music – 60s pop/rock, prog, jazz… – but I was often called a ‘mosher’ because I grew my hair long for a couple of years and was generally more friendly with the moshers/skaters.

Last edited 1 year ago by Eddie Swales
Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

In my experience of the same late seventies period, politics just didn’t come into it at all for anyone in my various schools.
My mates were into punk, heavy metal and prog rock. Some were into a couple of these, I was into all of them along with reggae and krautrock – and had no one to talk with on these. But no one I knew was into the politics of the music – most of them didn’t even analyse the lyrics. But my mates would dress ‘appropriately’ for gigs depending on the musical style – jeans for heavy metal; zipped leather and pins for punk – which was a form of politics I suppose, but meaningless as they changed their spots to match the context. I was boring and dressed the same style for anything, regardless of musical style. I did stick out a bit at punk concerts when next to my mates.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Interesting.
To me, as an old 1st gen ’77 punk, then new wave, then indie kid, it seems odd though to read about youth cults not primarily centred around differing musical tastes …
For my generation, it started with music, and that dictated fashion and political choices as well. Generally, a mod or metaller would be more right wing; a disco kid would be sort of vacuous, a punk or industrial kid would be more rebellious, an indie kid would be quite PC, etc. And you really could discern the politics and the music from the attire, no problem. But our little differences were heartfelt. I remember a metaller and a Japan fan coming to blows over an argument about why Japan’s song, “Nightporter” was or was not s**t lol.

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

At my school in South Wales in the 70s there were bitter divisions and violent confrontations between those who sang tenor or bass in the choir.

The basses were all jealous of us tenors because we’d get off with the all sexy sopranos and they’d be stuck with the rather dour altos.

In other words, I think the author has stretched this point a little far.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
1 year ago

At my school in South Wales in the 70s there were bitter divisions and violent confrontations between those who sang tenor or bass in the choir.

The basses were all jealous of us tenors because we’d get off with the all sexy sopranos and they’d be stuck with the rather dour altos.

In other words, I think the author has stretched this point a little far.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jonathan Andrews
Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago

A herd of horses will spread out and do their own thing when times are safe. When a predator is sensed they bunch together and become a unit. If a horse get old or maimed it will be ostracised. If another herd encroaches on their territory they will fight. Or, rather, the stallions will. The winner will have the choice of any female. The people who are most likely to form gangs are the threatened and insecure. The powerful do not have the need for nation or belonging. We are still biological animals. For now.

Vici C
Vici C
1 year ago

A herd of horses will spread out and do their own thing when times are safe. When a predator is sensed they bunch together and become a unit. If a horse get old or maimed it will be ostracised. If another herd encroaches on their territory they will fight. Or, rather, the stallions will. The winner will have the choice of any female. The people who are most likely to form gangs are the threatened and insecure. The powerful do not have the need for nation or belonging. We are still biological animals. For now.

Morgan Watkins
Morgan Watkins
1 year ago

Brilliant article. These mythical tribes seem to permeate beneath much of British society. We had the ‘casuals’ and ‘trendies’ and although not explicitly, there was a class element to it. Ironically a huge number of the trendies (despised by casuals) end up falling for politics all about rescuing the working class.

Morgan Watkins
Morgan Watkins
1 year ago

Brilliant article. These mythical tribes seem to permeate beneath much of British society. We had the ‘casuals’ and ‘trendies’ and although not explicitly, there was a class element to it. Ironically a huge number of the trendies (despised by casuals) end up falling for politics all about rescuing the working class.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

The terminology may be different, and at our school the “chavs” were distinct from the “townies” in that the chavs generally came from households on the benefit but apart from that the article is an accurate telling of my secondary school and the years that followed it

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I could not even begin to fallow what these two groups were – but what is even more incomprehensible is that there were two types. In my school days there were no large groups. Some very few stoners, some few athletes, a few into playing music, and then pretty much all the rest who just like people IRL were not really about anything – Some maybe more into TV, or Reading, or music or basic sport – but just kids. No hostility between groups, no really identifying into any group, no clothing marking some group one was part of..

Is this really how youth are? So absolutely pathetic they dress and behave like characters from two dominate groupings? You are one or the other for the most part? And if so why 2 such stupid sounding groups? And then you dress like one group or the other? That is just weird.

Sheep – and the other sheep… weird. I see the BLM Riots and the society is deviding – I guess you are trained this way from school – us and them… weird.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I find it stranger that you’ve never heard of young people being part of groups to be honest. We’ve had the Mods and Rockers Punks, New Romantics, Skinheads, the Football Firms etc. The ones mentioned in the article are merely a later incarnation, and all these groups always had rivalries.
I found the only people who weren’t in some group or other when they were young were generally those that had no friends

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Or we had friends in every group. I was in the art and theater clique, hung out primarily with greasers and stoners, and dated jocks. Life wasn’t “The Breakfast Club” when I was in high school.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I find it stranger that you’ve never heard of young people being part of groups to be honest.

That’s not what Phillip Arundel is saying, though, is it? What he’s taking issue with (and I’m inclined to agree) is that there are just two groups, as described in the article. My secondary education was also at a rural/seaside comprehensive school, and it was far more nuanced than that.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

There were undoubtedly some others of course, but the bulk of my school did loosely into those two groups

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Rowles

There were undoubtedly some others of course, but the bulk of my school did loosely into those two groups

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Or those who played sport at high level. If one played rugby in winter and cricket in summer, most of spare time was spent training. Once a boy post puberty is undertaking hard training, especially upper body, those who do not, tend not to try to push him about.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Nobody at our school played rugby, that was a sport for the toff public schoolboys who went to the fee paying school up the road. We used to fight with them as well actually

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Wrong actually, many of the so called toff schools play soccer: Old Etonians won the FA Cup twice…

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Wrong actually, many of the so called toff schools play soccer: Old Etonians won the FA Cup twice…

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Nobody at our school played rugby, that was a sport for the toff public schoolboys who went to the fee paying school up the road. We used to fight with them as well actually

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Phillip perhaps was only into egotism.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I avoided ‘joining’ particular group styles because I didn’t like the cultural straitjacket they represented – yes even as an early teenager. But I was still accepted by groups with differing preferences – no one was so ideological about it.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Or we had friends in every group. I was in the art and theater clique, hung out primarily with greasers and stoners, and dated jocks. Life wasn’t “The Breakfast Club” when I was in high school.

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I find it stranger that you’ve never heard of young people being part of groups to be honest.

That’s not what Phillip Arundel is saying, though, is it? What he’s taking issue with (and I’m inclined to agree) is that there are just two groups, as described in the article. My secondary education was also at a rural/seaside comprehensive school, and it was far more nuanced than that.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Or those who played sport at high level. If one played rugby in winter and cricket in summer, most of spare time was spent training. Once a boy post puberty is undertaking hard training, especially upper body, those who do not, tend not to try to push him about.

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Phillip perhaps was only into egotism.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I avoided ‘joining’ particular group styles because I didn’t like the cultural straitjacket they represented – yes even as an early teenager. But I was still accepted by groups with differing preferences – no one was so ideological about it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

I find it stranger that you’ve never heard of young people being part of groups to be honest. We’ve had the Mods and Rockers Punks, New Romantics, Skinheads, the Football Firms etc. The ones mentioned in the article are merely a later incarnation, and all these groups always had rivalries.
I found the only people who weren’t in some group or other when they were young were generally those that had no friends

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There were definitely no townies where I grew up, but that was probably because we lacked anything akin to a town. I grew up on an island, so chavs became an all encompassing category that essentially meant all those who wanted to conform to popular culture, and grungers became the all encompassing category for those who didn’t. There were different kinds of chavs and different kinds of grungers of course, partly based on economic status and partly on the kind of music that was preferred, for example, goths and metalheads were seen as different kinds of grungers to the indie kids, and the wannabe rappers were seen as different to the garage/dance music loving or pop loving chavs, with the pop and goth varieties generally considered the most economically affluent, but there was also a lot of mixing of the different groups because the community was so small.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

what about wet bobs and dry bobs?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Not terms I’m familiar with to be honest

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Eton.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

That’ll be why then, my bog standard comprehensive was a long way from Eton, a lot of the kids would have struggled to spell Eton to be honest

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

How very sad.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

so you were not in Pop?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

How very sad.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

so you were not in Pop?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

That’ll be why then, my bog standard comprehensive was a long way from Eton, a lot of the kids would have struggled to spell Eton to be honest

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Eton.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Not terms I’m familiar with to be honest

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I could not even begin to fallow what these two groups were – but what is even more incomprehensible is that there were two types. In my school days there were no large groups. Some very few stoners, some few athletes, a few into playing music, and then pretty much all the rest who just like people IRL were not really about anything – Some maybe more into TV, or Reading, or music or basic sport – but just kids. No hostility between groups, no really identifying into any group, no clothing marking some group one was part of..

Is this really how youth are? So absolutely pathetic they dress and behave like characters from two dominate groupings? You are one or the other for the most part? And if so why 2 such stupid sounding groups? And then you dress like one group or the other? That is just weird.

Sheep – and the other sheep… weird. I see the BLM Riots and the society is deviding – I guess you are trained this way from school – us and them… weird.

AL Crowe
AL Crowe
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There were definitely no townies where I grew up, but that was probably because we lacked anything akin to a town. I grew up on an island, so chavs became an all encompassing category that essentially meant all those who wanted to conform to popular culture, and grungers became the all encompassing category for those who didn’t. There were different kinds of chavs and different kinds of grungers of course, partly based on economic status and partly on the kind of music that was preferred, for example, goths and metalheads were seen as different kinds of grungers to the indie kids, and the wannabe rappers were seen as different to the garage/dance music loving or pop loving chavs, with the pop and goth varieties generally considered the most economically affluent, but there was also a lot of mixing of the different groups because the community was so small.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

what about wet bobs and dry bobs?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

The terminology may be different, and at our school the “chavs” were distinct from the “townies” in that the chavs generally came from households on the benefit but apart from that the article is an accurate telling of my secondary school and the years that followed it

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Was intrigued by this as not my generation and thus so many new terms I’m now conversant with, well at least a bit I think. But two thoughts kept recurring as I read it.
Firstly I wondered what tribes existed at Eton, Winchester and Dulwich College for obvious reasons during the formative years of three of the key male politicians of recent times? And maybe how different that might have been to the last 2 female PMs experience of tribes at respective Comps/Grammar?
Secondly how much recent death of Terry Hall had made me reflect on my own experience and it’s formative benefits. Clearly there was a tribe, for a certain period at least, and what an affirmation of a changing Britain at that time, below it’s political leadership, that was.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Was intrigued by this as not my generation and thus so many new terms I’m now conversant with, well at least a bit I think. But two thoughts kept recurring as I read it.
Firstly I wondered what tribes existed at Eton, Winchester and Dulwich College for obvious reasons during the formative years of three of the key male politicians of recent times? And maybe how different that might have been to the last 2 female PMs experience of tribes at respective Comps/Grammar?
Secondly how much recent death of Terry Hall had made me reflect on my own experience and it’s formative benefits. Clearly there was a tribe, for a certain period at least, and what an affirmation of a changing Britain at that time, below it’s political leadership, that was.

Jonny Stud
Jonny Stud
1 year ago

I went to secondary school 98-2003 in rural Lincolnshire, and although I relate to some of this my experience is quite different. The Townies in our school were the moneyed children with large village houses and ÂŁ40 weekly allowances, generally referred to derogatorily as ‘the cool gang’. Whilst there was a variety of smaller cliques like greebos, meatheads (what americans would call the jocks, but without the elitism and more likely to be looked down on than looked up to) etc there wasn’t really any internal issues. More like one big social family-as alluded to in this article alcohol etc were universal interests – although there was a couple of very small cliques that didn’t integrate. Our real issues were with the 2 other schools in town – you didn’t want to get caught with the wrong colour tie in the wrong area……
Like others have said music played a part in it, but as I remember it there were quite a few who straddled the boundaries of enjoying everything from r’n’b to garage to death metal which also helped I think.
But overall, this literally had no impact on everyone’s future politics or chances of school leaving. Only 5 of us in my year didn’t stay on for 6th for, so my experience is entirely different to the authors.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Would the Irgun Zvai Leumi or Lehi (Stern Gang) have given up? Off course NOT!
So why does anyone expect the Palestinians to give up?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Would the Irgun Zvai Leumi or Lehi (Stern Gang) have given up? Off course NOT!
So why does anyone expect the Palestinians to give up?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Lucy Browne
Lucy Browne
1 year ago

If your regional peculiarity had been to refer to one group of kids as ‘Pakis’ or the N-word that it’s no longer acceptable to even type, would you have used that to refer to them throughout this article?
Pikey is a very derogative term and highly offensive to Gypsies and Travellers, as you’ve mentioned in the article. So why on earth write a whole article based around its casual use when it’s never been a widespread term for skater/ indie kids. Couldn’t you have made the same points without using a slur throughout?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

What on earth is the N word?!!!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Don’t ask!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Nockers

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Don’t ask!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Nockers

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

Travellers deserve all the derogatory remarks thrown at them. A truly awful bunch of illiterate thieves who ruin every area they set up camp

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

Was widely used in the 2000s. I think you’re getting over excited.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NfNb9Qrbfz4

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

What on earth is the N word?!!!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

Travellers deserve all the derogatory remarks thrown at them. A truly awful bunch of illiterate thieves who ruin every area they set up camp

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Lucy Browne

Was widely used in the 2000s. I think you’re getting over excited.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NfNb9Qrbfz4

Lucy Browne
Lucy Browne
1 year ago

If your regional peculiarity had been to refer to one group of kids as ‘Pakis’ or the N-word that it’s no longer acceptable to even type, would you have used that to refer to them throughout this article?
Pikey is a very derogative term and highly offensive to Gypsies and Travellers, as you’ve mentioned in the article. So why on earth write a whole article based around its casual use when it’s never been a widespread term for skater/ indie kids. Couldn’t you have made the same points without using a slur throughout?