PSA: Working class culture isn’t a fashion trend

‘The need to pass themselves off as a struggling Uni student has morphed into an ability to wear working class attire as a symbol of modesty’


One of the first things I heard when I rocked up to my first-year accommodation, Pollock Halls, aka the most southern place you’ll find up north, was: “I won’t speak to anyone who didn’t go to private school”. Wearing my ‘northern powerhouse state school’ identity on my sleeve, I knew I was in for a wild ride.

Around 32.7 per cent of students at the University of Edinburgh attended private school, so it comes as no surprise that a lot of the people you make friends with come from a upper and middle-class background.

But, for a working-class person, the culture shock comes when you see supposed symbols of your class background worn as if they were the new ‘in’ trend. The lad who felt like sharing his discontent towards non-private school students coupled his statement with Adidas trackies, a beanie and an oversized vintage sweater.

When you’re drunkenly exclaiming at pres that you’ve ‘never met anyone as posh as them before’, most Edinburgh students will physically recoil at the mention of their privileged upbringing. The need to pass themselves off as a struggling Uni student, for some, has morphed into an ability to wear working class attire as a symbol of modesty.

An extreme example of this is the latest phenomenon of people buying Deliveroo and Tesco work jackets online for the express purpose of playing dress up as a ‘ketty working class person’ at a rave, and throwing them away when used.

Those who can easily float between social classes without facing the discrimination and demonization that comes with actually being poor should instead own and acknowledge that they do come from a place of affluence. We can still get along without you telling me we're of the same background.

Dawn Foster puts it best in her op-ed for Huck when she says: “While I was being told to shake off any vestige of my background, my classmates were confidently asserting they were far less middle class than the actuality, as if faking working class identity was a progressive form of dressing up”.

The way the world of higher education and careers is set up, be it unknowingly or knowingly, is to tell working class people that they must adapt to be more well-spoken and proper, while telling those of greater affluence that they should play down or be embarrassed by their privilege.

Not only this, but the amount of gentrification storming through Edinburgh’s ‘hipster’ cafes and bars is escalating at an alarming rate, so we should value any genuine identities we can still get a hold of.

In an ideal world, no one should feel the need to change their identity to fit a supposed model of modesty or properness. Whether you’re from Widnes, Warrington or from below the Watford Gap, we should all be able to get on in the knowledge that our own identity is valid and as equal as the next.

Featured image credit: Neil Stewart Photography

The Tab Edinburgh

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