A group sat in the deep shadow of a mature tree, its foliage providing shade from the brilliant sunshine that has become a routine feature of this English summer. Five young men, aged perhaps seventeen or eighteen, intent on the game of cards they were playing. Chatting and laughing among themselves, they opened their circle as four contemporaries joined them, two more young men and two young women. The arrivals carried large cardboard cups of Coca-Cola from the nearby McDonald’s restaurant. One of the original five broke away from the circle and went to sit against the trunk of the tree, taking out his smartphone he began busily sending messages. Perhaps the convention among them was that phones were for use when there was no-one with whom to have conversation. Eventually, the group broke up, leaving four card players to continue their game.
To assume they were from middle class backgrounds was reasonable. Slim and healthy in appearance, affluent in their casual attire and coiffure, there was a quiet self confidence and composure. There were no cans of beer, no cigarettes, no loud-shouted obscenities, why should there be? A culture of anti-social behaviour and aggression sometimes marks those of a similar age. Vocabularies can decline to the point of obscenities replacing every adjective. A need for alcohol and drugs can become entrenched.
Perhaps it is much easier to be confident and composed if you come from a secure and comfortable home, if you have money enough in your pocket to buy label tee-shirts and large Coca-Colas from McDonald’s. Perhaps it is much easier to be quiet and at ease in your enjoyment when there is no feeling of a need to prove yourself to your peers. Perhaps a good education means having a vocabulary adequate to expressing a range of feelings without having to resort to obscene language. Perhaps having friends who share similar attitudes and similar backgrounds means having no feelings of a need to show aggression or anger to prove oneself.
Perhaps class differences were always perceptible from the time youth culture emerged in the Twentieth Century, though perhaps distinctive fashions more easily masked those differences. A mod or a hippy or a punk looked like other members of those groups, regardless of their background. The present lack of a youth fashion culture that is entirely distinctive means it is more easy for an observer to discern class background; they themselves know who they are.
I wonder if it’s not more accent that marks than the clothes. I remember the attitude to the ‘traveller’ communities that developed in the UK drawn from the upper-middle class. Basically Glastonbury before they inherited the ancestral acres. But I do get what you mean.
I remember lusting as a teen after 501’s and loafers with leather soles. But what I remember mostly about clothes from childhood was the arrival of cousins from the USA in colours. Real colours, reds, yellows, blacks, whathaveyou. Made from nylon and other man made fabrics, where I was in earth colours of wools, cottons and cloths. Kids can be stupid.
I think received pronunciation is not nearly as important as in times past – the signs of class difference now are probably more subtle – but, nonetheless, just as real