The North-South divide

A little spuggy, originally from the North-East of England, I migrated south to London (via Gloucestershire) seven years a go. Being a Northerner living amongst Southerners, I often think about this great ‘divide‘ that I hear people talk about and wonder what it actually translates to. Most of the time I come to one of two conclusions: 1. Who cares? And 2. Why do people think I am Irish?

However, having returned yesterday from a week up North, I have some observations and theories on this topic fresh in my mind (fashion observations mind you, no deep and meaningful comparisons about health, house prices or earnings to be found here!). So, without further a do, here they are:

  1. Northern people wear far fewer clothes. No shit Sherlock, I hear you say! It is perhaps an obvious statement, but why unlike their Southern counterparts, has the trend of layering never caught on in these parts? It is ironic as it is FAR colder and therefore the opposite would be expected to be true. However, historically, the North of England was poorer than the south, which means we can assume that fewer clothes were purchased in the region during the good old days. Now, this is no longer the case in the bad new days, but was the precedent for dress code set? When the means to buy more clothes came, people didn’t wear them together for warmth. They continued as those before them had, hardened to the adverse weather conditions, and just had more wardrobe choice. You can see evidence of this every Friday and Saturday night, when hundreds of thousands of men, woman, lads and lasses descend on the pubs and clubs, all of them without jackets. I remember shortly after turning 18 I went to Club Millennium in the Borough wearing just gold bikini bottoms, a gold backless top and gold stilettos (I’m spinning around had just been released if you need an explanation). Now on this occasion I will concede that I did take a small burgundy coloured leather jacket reminiscent of this one Posh and Becks wore, but only on the insistence of my Mam who was concerned about the effect the pouring rain would have on my outfit. My point is, it was usual for me (and still is for everyone else) to go out into winter blizzards wearing just a very mini-skirt, a small top, strappy sandals and no tights or no coat (I’m dry-retching at the bone-chilling thought of it now). There is no doubt in my mind, that should I not have left home for pastures new, the thought of wearing any form of outerwear for a night out would never have occurred to me. Turning blue in the taxi/bus queue is just what one does in the North. On relocating to the South, I discovered the wonder of the ‘cloakroom’ (you don’t tend to find them up North) and I have never since ventured out unsuitably attired for the season, although I still consider it when back home, but these days I am too much of a “Southern softie” much to the amusement of my parents.
  2. Northern people wear sports kits as fashion (TOON ARMY, TOON ARMY!). That just doesn’t happen down South; the men veer towards to a long sleeved shirt and the women to Reiss instead. What can we attribute this difference to? Well, as we are all frequently reminded, the North is renown for being friendly and more community orientated. This trusting mindset is probably how the football kit became popularised as everyday wear (and even smart evening wear in some cases). It shows which ‘community’ you align yourself with and who your ‘friends’ are. If you want to be really analytical here, you could draw parallels with the employment opportunities traditionally available down the pits and in the factories where uniforms were standard, and conclude that work uniforms were just traded for social ones… (I just fucking blow myself away sometimes). Anyway, back home I placed myself with the Geordies rather than the Mackems. I spent many an afternoon/evening in the pub wearing my Newcastle shirt mainly wondering why people kept shouting “She-Ra She-Ra!” to me. I honestly thought why do they keep referring to He-Man’s girlfriend? Do I look like her? I suspect I would be quite good at fighting crime. Took me quite some time to realise they meant Alan Shearer the football player and it was actually a greeting as opposed to a statement. On moving down South, it was apparent that sportswear is not appropriate social wear (unless a match is on the box), especially for women. If you wear it in the South, people actually assume you play sport and know the offside rule and stuff. My football shirt has since been banished to the bottom on my wardrobe never to see the light of day again along with my willingness to strike up random conversations with strangers.
  3. Northern people make more effort with their appearance on a night out. Women spend hours getting ready, full on beauty rituals are the norm and include washing their hair (even when they washed it that morning), a facial, manicure, pedicure, and applying fake tan and body shimmer. The men, shower, shave, and apply pong. But, the most noticeable difference is the style of clothes. Obviously, there is less off them, but they are also ‘dressier’ to use my Nana’s word. Unlike the people in the South, Northern peoples wardrobes are clearly split into sections: work, weekend and ‘going out’. The latter of these tend to be body-conscious, mainly monochrome (with splashes of red, pink and blue) and accompanied by fully co-ordinated accessories and make-up in the case of the women. There is a huge amount of effort made. This is because most people’s lives up North are geared towards their Friday and Saturday nights out. Which is different to the South, where popular evenings out often fall on weekdays. How does this effect the way people dress though? Well, more people in the North are employed locally or drive to the ‘office’. In the South folks often commute on public transport. This would go a long way to explaining why up North peoples’ appearance on a night out is a stark contrast to those down South. They are able to return home and spend some time preening before going ‘doon the toon’. Back home, it was normal for me to get in from work and spend up to three hours getting ready. I would shave my bikini line every time I went out! That equates to every Friday and Saturday and most Sundays btw (utter madness. And I wasn’t a floozy who was out to get some some either, in case you are wondering. It’s just what one did). In London, I meet my friends for drinks straight from work, often on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If I can be arsed to slick on some lip gloss and spray some deodorant before going, I consider myself to have made an effort and them damn lucky to have seen it! My family think I am shameful.

So you see, people may try and convince you that the North-South divide is about politics, industry and the living wage, but as I think I have proved, it is not. It is clearly about sartorial differences, perhaps originally caused by some of these aforementioned things, but that are now defining cultural trends of the individual regions. The North = revealing, uniformity and glamour. The South = layering, variation and understatement. As someone who has embraced the two ways of living/dressing I can honestly say both are equally fabulous and equally unfathomable to the opposite regional onlooker. That’s what makes each of them great and worth celebrating rather than berating.



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