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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    « She thinks/he thinks #5: Studded Leather | Main | How to be middle-class: singing “happy birthday” in a mortified hush »

    Abrandoned! The sudden, fickle rejection of once-loved pioneer brands 

    The other day I was having a very middle-class conversation about soup, with a work colleague who is very finicky about her food. "Well, I don't buy Covent Garden Soups," she said, when I mentioned my liking for their chicken variety. "Far too salty."

    I was mildly irritated by what I felt was a small show of soup-upmanship, but I also noted that this was a common kind of rejection, i.e. the self-styled connoisseur ostentatiously rejecting a brand that was once a pioneer. Think of Stella Artois or Starbucks, or perhaps even these days Green & Black's chocolate and Innocent Smoothies; the sales might be holding up, but the more fickle, discerning customers are looking for the new, more extreme, up-and-comers.

    This is because in this era of a mass middle class, the most significant class divide in terms of taste is between not middle and working, but middle-middle and lower-middle. One might call this King's Hill syndrome, after the lower-middle residents of King's Hill in Kent, who emerged as the least popular characters in Grayson Perry's All In The Best Possible Taste. The middle middles enjoy appropriating elements of working class culture (football, fry-ups, even the odd post-pub kebab) but when they see people of similar income but less exclusive tastes buying their old pioneer brands, those brands can be tainted for years - until, of course, they fall so far down the chain they can be reclaimed. It's all quite enough to get one reaching for a stiff Bombay Sapphire. 

    Reader Comments (3)

    Very true!

    Happens a lot with cafés too. Carluccio's and Patisserie Valerie (and Pret a while back) have all expanded fast and appeared on lower middles' radar. Usually coincides with being partly sold to megacorps.

    Next to go: Leon. Hired a former Burger King CEO; moving to franchises and popping up in stations and airports.

    January 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames

    So true with mens watches. Your aspirational brands like Omega,Tag Heuer, Breitling, Ebel, TW Steel, Maurice Lacroix, U-boat, Raymond Weil etc. just reek lower middle-class.

    January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ J Carter

    Middle-Middles and Lower-Middles? What about the Upper-Middles? I think most are less insecure and perfectly happy to enjoy fry-ups or whatever. I can't stand "precious-ness"!!

    January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally

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