CultureCulture
New Ruling Cultural Taste
Lee Jeong-min Reporter  |  jmlove1229@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2004.11.30  00:00:00
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

   

"CHAVS, NEDS, Townies, Kevs, Charvers, Steeks, Spides, Bazzas, Yarcos, Ratboys, Kappa Slappers, Skangers, Scutters, Janners, Stigs, Scallies, Hood Rats, whatever you know them as, the site is about them, Britains peasant underclass groups that are taking over our towns and cities!" This is an introduction of a web site " www.chavscum.co.uk". "Chav" is still a strange word to Koreans, but this word is a factor which has become the focus of international attention. Who is Chav considering oneself as one of Britain's new ruling class? Also, what is Chav?

Non-mainstream group of Europe

According to "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary", Chav is both a noun and an adjective. It refers to a young person, often without a high level of education, who follows a particular fashion. Explaining in detail, most Chavs are people of Arabian or Indian origin and now living in the outskirts of London or Paris who came to Europe because of a colonial policy before the Second World War, and remained there, especially in the suburbs of London after the war. Chavs have lived under the minimum support of ILO (International Labor Organization) which was founded to handle colonials, but their standard of living has remained low. That is, they have been remaining in adverse circumstances and poor conditions. They have often committed crimes, and the English have treated them as a non mainstream group in society and a scourge of England.

Unlike mainstreamers who are in harmony with the current society, Chavs not only enjoy causing confusion within society, but they also deck themselves up with unusual fashion items. For example, they love to wear flashy gold jewellery (hooped earrings, thick neck chains, sovereign rings and heavy bangles), white trainers, imitation clothes in fashionable brands with very prominent logos and baseball caps, frequently in Burberry check, a favorite style. Chavs also listen to only three music genres: Rap for the boys, R&B for the girls, and Dance for both sexes. They often drive their battered old customized car along their local high street at 15 mph, making a roaring sound. Although Chavs are not cultivated or polished, they have recently begun to attract public attention.

 

   
From hierarchic system to interactive branch

The most important factor which have brought Chav to fame is the mass-media, especially the Internet. At first, Chav of today was known by the Internet. The Internet, a global network, has played an important role in prospering Chav throught the world. Chavs introduce some celebrities who used to be poor, but now are famous, calling them "celebrity Chavs" at " www.chavscum. co.uk". These celebrities are one of the main reasons that makes people have so much interest in Chavs, especially their fashion style.

Although celebrities have an important role in making Chavs famous, the root cause is the increase in spread of information. In old times, information branch of society was hierarchic, so each class had different amount of information. That is, only the upper- class made and had much information, while the lower-class unilaterally accepted that data and imitated the lifestyle of the high society. At that time, the upper-class was the mainstream of society and regarded as the standard . It enlightened the lower-class by spreading culture or information. As information has become easier to obtain, however the gap between the upper and lower-class has diminished gradually, and now became almost none. In other words, information or cultural codes are shared under the interactive information branch nowadays, so the lifestyle or thoughts of the upper-class is not the only standard in society of today. The present age consists of people persuing diverse values, each person counting for much more than before.

The history of fashion can be applied to the extension of information, too. In old times, social structure was stiff and only the high fashion, a styles of the upper-class having vested interest, was approved as fashion at that time. From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, the creative designers appeared, and they made clothes including specific ideas. Nowadays there are various individual styles which coexist with the fashion of upper-class' and creative designers'. Today, high fashion designers as well as creative designers are concerned about street fashion. In this context, Chavs can also come to the center of public attention. Although Chavs' fashion style was regarded as strange in the past days, their freewheeling styles are considered as "cool" among the young these days. People of today have an open mind compared to people of the past ages. In other words, an atmosphere that accepts various values without prejudice is prevalent.

   
The "cheap" culture in Korea

The concern about the culture of the lower-class has increased among Koreans as well as Europeans. Most young people used to buy dress in the style of the upper-class, while many of them today enjoy wearing the "cheap" items. Imitation T-shirts decorated with parody logos of famous brands are popular among youth, and they also love to wear sportswear that used to be considered as clothes of a penniless bum. They are proud of their low-price items for their unique and economical characteristics. As the number of people who love the "cheap" items increases, enterprises aimed at serving them gradually develop and widen. Early in December, a club named "Club Chav" will open near the Kang-nam station, that is always crowded with the young. It shows that Chav culture, a symbol of the "cheap" culture, attracts Korean youngsters.

Popular culture also reflects the interest of the lower-class. Formerly, clothes that were polished, elegant, clean, and of high quality were favored by the public. Entertainers having images like those were also  loved by the mass. Most themes of dramas focused on stories about the upper-class, and film directors tried to make a showy movie. However, in each field, "cheap" articles and items of the lower-class began to be highlighted. In the beginning, to ornament with "cheap" items or to pursue such cheap-looking image looked bizarre, but now it is appraised as having a straightforward and cool image. Some say that the culture of the lower-class has not become the mainstream culture yet. However, it is an established fact that the culture of the non-mainstream group can approach the public through the change in popular culture.

People say that Lee Hyo-li and Ji Sang-lyeol are famous entertainers enjoying Chav style. Lee Hyo-li often wears bare midriff, training-wear and large hooped earrings. Her style is in the limelight of the public as a cool fashion style. Ji Sang-lyeol has a garage-look and a foil-perm. He often betrays conventional style boasting his new age look and his ignorance. There are many other entertainers who are loved for a Chav image. Dramas and movies like "Do as You Please", "Ireland", and "A Mongrel Dog" are examples of works focused on the life of non-mainstream groups. The main characters of those works are an ex-convict, a lunatic, a penniless bum, an actor of pornographic film, and a jobless person who does not have any dream or aspiration. The similarity between them is that they are non-mainstreamers and neglected people. These recent situations show that the existing consciousness has changed much, and that the non mainstream groups also have become an object of interest of the public.

   
What is the real Chav?

Recently, many entertainers and works representing the "cheap" fashion have made a great hit, so the number of people who go after "cheap" culture has also increased in Korea. In addition, media articles about Chav have begun to appear more and more. Due to these conditions, people wearing the visual trend? clothes might soon start naming themselves "Chav", simply by their appearance. They may say that they love artless things and distinguish themselves from others by Chav style. "When people come into contact with a certain culture, they usually meet a fashion, a visible cultural code, at the very beginning. Once people are fascinated by fashion style, they may begin to show interest in the culture itself. However, it is an undeniable fact that the noticeable point is fashion before everything," says Yang Jun-seok (A representative of "Club Chav"). That is, they think that Chav plays an important role as a tool that enables individual fashion style to flourish.

Although the visible point is surely important, people should not overlook the following. The visible aspects like fashion style or actions which seem to be cheap are not everything of Chav. Chavs are people who have been pressured, out of favor, and damaged from a historical point of view. However, most young Koreans who love Chav style do not know the history of Chavs in Europe. "Chavs do not use violence or fancy themselves to be the underclass thoughtlessly. They exclaim their poor life and situation, living as powerless people under the all-powerful system of society. Korean youngsters should not dismiss Chavs' rebellious discontent about irrational actuality as a kind of trend. People should know the cultural, social, and historical context before they think about themselves as real Chavs," said Park Sung-min (Prof. of ESMOD Seoul, a fashion school).

   
   
Turn one's eyes to the margin

Recently, Koreans have started to pay attention to both Chav and Chav culture. However, many young Koreans do not know exactly the historical and social background of Chav. Yet, their concern about Chav is very important in itself because such interest has a possibility of developing into an interest toward non-mainstream culture. As the culture has recently become diversified, the importance of variety has also been emphasized. The increasing interest in Chav can be evaluated as acceptance of diversity. These changes were possible due to change in people's cognition. However, Koreans still have the following assignment left: public interest should continuously look at whether the Chav boom is connected the concern about the culture of the lower-class, or if this is merely a trend. In addition, Koreans should make efforts to pay attention to the non-mainstream groups like Chav.

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