The era of the Sloane Ranger now seems as distant as the Fifties
By Peter Whittle
Wednesday, July 29th, 2009
Amazing as it may seem, it was 28 years ago today that Prince Charles was exchanging vows with Lady Diana Spencer. There were a fair number of parties going on that day. Suppose William and Kate were doing the same thing today. Would we be rolling out the barrel?
That time seems as distant as the 50s. And there was also something very distinct, culturally, about the early 1980s. In his book The Triumph of the Political Class, Peter Oborne referred to Charles and Diana’s wedding as the centrepiece of a shortlived counterblast by an old Establishment which was soon to collapse. The Empire Strikes Back, if you like.
That same year, 1981, a large part of the country was in thrall to that lavish saga of doomed aristocracy, Brideshead Revisited, which was showing on ITV - yes, astonishingly, ITV. In the cinema, Chariots of Fire and its tale of gentlemen runners competing for King and Country was a home-grown hit which went on to win the Best Picture Oscar. In the pop charts, the new romantic Prince Charming himself, Adam Ant, was standing and delivering, a celebration of the traditional British penchant for dressing up and eccentricity.
Peter York and Ann Barr published The Sloane Ranger Handbook and had a massive bestseller. A sub-division, known as the ‘Young Fogeys’, made a brief appearance. Jeremy Hackett realised there was quite a market in clothes of the tweed and four-button cuff variety and so started a little sceond-hand shop selling them on the Kings Road. The ‘Season’ had a major revival, and with it reappeared black tie and ballgowns.
So what was it all about? Not, as yet, Thatcherism; in 1981 the ‘loadsa-money’ city yuppy had yet to make an appearance on the scene. With its strong aristocratic and nostalgic aesthetic, the cultural scene of that year could hardly be seen as a celebration of a new competitiveness and entrepreneurialism. It was instead perhaps a reaction to the grim uniformity and utilitarianism of the 70s, the nihilism of punk, and the general ropey, dingy quality of public life. We were looking upwards at the aristocracy, and backwards at our past.
Well, Brideshead came back last year, this time in a new cinema version, but proved dead on arrival. The New Sloane Ranger handbook was published too, and sunk without trace. Looking upwards now, there is hardly an aesthetic inspiration to be had in a class of disconnected Russian oligarchs. And for the young in particular, the past, which has been gradually erased from the popular imagaination, is no longer an option. As we stumble through this recession, and watch as the social fabric melts away, where do we avert our eyes this time?
Sloane Rangers arise... quietly.
By Henry Cave Devine
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Peter Whittle of The New Culture Forum has written a pointed and poignant submission to the Telegraph yesterday titled: "The era of the Sloane Rangers now seems as distant as the Fifties". I submit the following observations:
The numbers appear to have vastly dwindled with the passage of time as they grew older and blended into a world of books, gardens, children out in the world, smaller cars, activities less expensive and labour intensive than owning horses... and adapted quietly to a changed UK and world.
Their children inherited a less-secure existance (which they may be concerned about), and cocaine use along with binge drinking have grown and taken a painful toll. Many of their parents have passed to the next world taking dignity, WW II memories and Norland nannies with them, except the few that are now plain-clothes and non-Scottish, as have all but disappeared many of the valuable ceremonies such as lunch with wine at Boodle's or White's, CofE attendance and Barbour coat shopping as a rite of passage with lessons on ownership to follow.
But the SR's are out there, and where they have survived are still quietly congregating with friends and dogs, walking the paths through Surrey and Oxfordshire, Bombay Sapphire and the Macallan 18 on the sideboard with a few splits of soda and quinine water and an ice bucket slighly dented but well intact, and headscarfs to keep in the frizz and keep peeping eyes from viewing gray hair roots. And some are actually able to talk to their children about the mistakes they made and the time they wasted on events with nothing to show not even recountable memories.
SR's know not to raise their heads above the parapet in NuLabour's view and to keep their class quiet while others of lesser education and breeding but much more money give loud demonstrations of how "classy" money has made them when they unlike the SR's are clueless on anything having to do with dignity, family and how to mix a G&T to the right proportion before discussing the number of birds on the last walk-up.