Despite what John Cleese and the Two Ronnies might tell you, class has always been a complex, subtly-graded hierarchy. At least in Britain. It’s only here that we have decoupled income and status so completely that we can produce complex chimeras such as "shabby genteel" and "chav". For our American cousins class is as streamlined as their spelling. If you’re rich, you’re posh.
It’s not surprising then that that most quintessentially British institution the BBC has commissioned a survey on class. One suggesting that there are not the traditional three classes of the Frost Report but seven.
They’ve missed out by not calling them Sleepy, Happy, Dopey etc, but the survey has nevertheless excited no small amount of interest. Perhaps because it’s a gross oversimplification. People like gross oversimplifications.
To forge some sort of bridge between accurate reporting and the gross oversimplifications that people enjoy reading, I’ve compiled a list of twelve more or less imaginary classes into which, like horoscopes, we can all see a little of ourselves.
Mountbattens are the highest stratum of society. If you own a coronet, you’re probably a Mountbatten. If you gave your child a Cornetto from the freezer for lunch, you’re probably not. Key wardrobe item: Ermine. Key possession: Buckinghamshire.
Mountebanks have almost as much money as Mountbattens, but they work (by and large) in the financial services industry. If you told your PA to email the Nanny to give your child a Cornetto from the freezer for lunch — but the freezer’s gold-plated — there’s every chance that you’re a Mountebank.
Milibanders combine prosperity with a social conscience and an earnest haircut. The short, neat Milibander haircut implies a businesslike attitude, especially for women. Female readers for whom the Miliband might be a little severe, perhaps those among you with (and I mean this in a sisterly way) big puffy cheeks like Churchill the Insurance Dog, should go for a Theresa May.
Bodenistas take great care to distinguish themselves from the rival Racing Green cult. Bodenistas are essentially rich urban Amish. Their dress, their diet and especially their interior décor policy, is aggressively tasteful. You’ll find them in the pages of Living Etc. They don’t seem to have tellies.
Box-setters are people who have tellies, but consider themselves too brainy to actually watch what’s on them. A young Box-setter is trained from birth to gorge on non-broadcast content using Baby Einstein DVDs. By the time they reach maturity they are ready to be released into the wild where they evangelise tirelessly for Breaking Bad or Borgen. Key phrase: “You haven’t seen the WIRE?”
Unlike some of the subtler social gradations, Twitterati can easily identified with a few simple questions. A full-blooded Twitteratum will have all the answers to all the world’s problems but — and this is the important part — must not be in a position to implement any of the solutions. Will always have a petition on the go. Key visual signifier: A Twibbon.
The past is another country. And Bufton-Tuftons live there. Sclerotic, splenetic, and permanently apoplectic about any change, whether it is the racial makeup of his community or the gauge of peel in his breakfast marmalade, the Bufton-Tufton is pretty sure that civilisation peaked with the invention of the trouser press. Key signifier: A trouser press.
8. Emergent Indie Kid
On the cusp of leaving the student lifestyle behind, the Emergent Indie Kid can be seen at any NCT class, They’re the one wearing the Killing Joke t-shirt. Their appetite for earnest politics and bleak industrial rock is liable to decay after prolonged exposure to the pressures of maintaining a Working Family™ and most EIKs will migrate into the Box-setter demographic in due course. Key possession: A recent Nick Cave CD.
What some see as culinary abnegation (eschewing meat, carbs, anything chewy) the Coldplayer sees as healthy living. Despite the reported contraceptive effects of tofu the Coldplayer is one of the most fertile classes of Briton, and may in time become dominant. Key trait: The Coldplayer’s tendency towards self-mortification can in some extreme cases lead to extended periods of listening to maudlin arena rock.
10. Convergent Comfy
In later life, certain demographics such as the Inveterate Fogey and the Former Lefty Firebrand may coalesce. Pressures such as discharged Mortgages and maturing ISAs can lead to a commingling of these former adversaries on neutral but agreeable territories such as National Trust properties and Garden Centres. Provided care is taken to avoid conversational minefields, such as the merits of Baroness Thatcher, the Convergent Comfy class may in time prove to be a stable demographic coalition.
11. "Different" Class
A vanishingly tiny demographic identified primarily by their powerful affection for the breakthrough 1995 long-player for Sheffield pop combo Pulp, The Different Class are anything but Common People.
12. Self-satisfied Social Commentariat
Related to the Twitterati but found more frequently on the pages of slightly left-of centre news and comment websites the Self-satisfied Social Commentariat rather fancy they are above arbitrary social divisions. In fact the SSC has a saprophytic relationship with surveys on class and is depends entirely for his sustenance on the outmoded British fascination with caste. Key signifier: Nice glasses.