Monday, January 17, 2005

Chav

The British among you will have heard this expression. Essentially 'chav' has become a word that even my 72 year old mother uses. As the web site Chavworld.com says: 'chav' (slang) - a young person, often without a high level of education, who follows a particular fashion; Chavs usually wear designer labels including the chav favorite 'Burberry', and if they are girls, very short skirts, large hoop earrings and stilettos. Chavs see branded baseball caps as a status symbol and wear them at every opportunity. Normally found hanging around shopping centres.

So what is so interesting about this expression and why should anyone in, or connected to, Silicon Valley care? Well, I was struck when in the UK that Burberry is already having to defend itself against the 'chav' status. It seems young people that had been flocking to own a piece of clothing with Burberry tartan are now unstitching the tartan from items they own and they certainly won't be buying anything new that attaches them to the brand. All of this shows how quickly brands can be built and then destroyed. In this instance this is not some natural disaster, this is someone, somewhere taking the brand down. What if Apple's products were suddenly deemed chav? Would the iPod suddenly be hidden from view and would Creative's Zen replace it? I noticed on one of the sites that people were already identifying certain cell phones as Chav. Of course it could be said that all that's happening here is that the natural order of fashion is taking its course and that Burberry which came (back) onto the scene from nowhere is now about to go back into obscurity (at least in the UK). The shocking aspect is how fast it's happening and the role the Internet is playing. For example there are now dozens of web sites such as the rather down market Chavscum.co.uk that even offers suggestions for those looking for chav baby names (or perhaps the chance for people to make sure the name they are about to choose isn't chav).

Of course the whole 'chav' concept has yet to make its way across the Atlantic. But when it does I can just imagine what the consumer marketers will make of it. Until then you can go on buying Burberry... If you really want to.

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