. . . a slang term in wide use throughout the United Kingdom since 2004. It refers to a subcultural stereotype of people fixated on fashions such as flashy "bling" jewelery (generally fake gold), and genuine (rarely seen on chavs) or knock-off (more likely to be seen) designer clothing with the beige Burberry pattern (most famously the baseball cap which has since been discontinued by the company), and such brands as lonsdale, Berghaus, Burberry, Von Dutch, Louis Vuitton, Adidas, Nike, Lacoste and most well known Sergio Tacchini. . . .
Whatever the definition, my friend warned me that it’s a derogatory term and cautioned me against using it. That’s like telling a schizophrenic not to hear voices. However, before I was able to incorporate it into my vocabulary it dawned on me while walking home from Cacharel with what I thought was a nice purchase that I might be a bit of a chav myself.
Was Cacharel the French Burberry?
I consulted my beautiful and stylish French girlfriend Isabelle Francois (an obvious authority) for her opinion on the matter. Having experienced a perilous period in the late 80s and early 90s, Cacharel had since rebounded and saved itself. Pierre Cardin, she continued, had not been as fortunate. After a licensing rampage, his name was slapped on mass produced purses, belts, luggage, pens, watches, etc., eventually losing any air of exclusivity. (I was relieved to receive Isabelle’s opinion because the Cacharel item I had purchased was for my friend’s baby. It would be very cruel to mark an innocent child with a plaid “C” so early in life.)
Although Cacharel was in the clear, I wasn’t so sure about me. I distinctly remember purchasing Cacharel (and Givenchy) leather goods from Mervyn’s in Fullerton during the time frame in question - this sentence alone says it all. I was definitely a chav, the word just hadn’t been created yet. I was ahead of my time in at least one respect. But what about now? I consulted an expert who diagnosed me as follows:
You are 15 % chav
You clearly know you are not, nor will you ever be anything even closely resembling a bonafide chav but that doesn't stop you from jumping on the bling bandwagon every now and then. There's nothing wrong with a bit of pretending though you'll never be able to hold your own with the true Burberry brigade.
The Wall Street Journal recently covered this issue in the context of brand association and marketing. Here's an excerpt:
"No Kick From ‘Chavpagne’"
Young, Loutish British 'Chavs' Have a Taste for Champagne
An Image Problem for Makers?
By Jenny Clevstrom and Christina Passariello, The Wall Street Journal, 1219 words
Aug 18, 2006
Given their rowdy and generally unsavory reputation, being associated with chavs has posed problems for some high-end brands. When chavs adopted fashion house Burberry's signature beige, black and red tartan as their uniform a few years ago, U.K. sales of the brand dropped, and Britain became Burberry's weakest market by January 2005. Burberry PLC, which markets to young consumers in general, acknowledged that traditional customers were put off when chavs sported the brand. "It has not been helpful," finance director Stacey Cartwright told the press in January 2005. . . .
Full article available on WSJ's website
The article went on to discuss Prada and how the designer no longer distributes a certain style of black sneakers in England because of chavs' love for the shoe. Cristal was also mentioned in this article and it's association with chavs and hip-hop artists.
Fortunately, I’m no longer the label conscious girl from the late-80s. I learned after high school that all a pair of Chemin de Fers can do is get you a date for Sadie Hawkins and a ride in a Camaro. Not so important in 2006.
P.S. While we're on the subject of learning, I recently discovered:
(a) If you simply ask a butcher for "filet mignon" in Paris, he will give you pork by default, not beef. He explained that it may vary by region. I confirmed this with my Parisienne French teacher. Are they messing with me? I know it's a cut, but I thought it was beef. I'm going to have to check with my mother-in-law.
(b) Another American friend living in London informed me that the beer Stella Artois is often referred to as a "wife beater" due to its high alcohol content. Not politically correct, but funny nonetheless.