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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

Prince Harry

Even republicans approve, surely?

Microwaving tea

Recommended by scientists, apparently. Disgusting

No televised election debates

Disappointing; we were rather looking forward to May vs The Sturge


Olivia Coleman = nailed-on Future National Treasure

Spring Bank holidays

Too close together! Very bad!


“I queued for THREE BLOODY HOURS at B&Q for a new recycling bin! The entire town’s in CHAOS”


To be listened to whole on a long journey for maximum effect

Using a proper paper map

Strangely satisfying

The “Flash” Flash ad

It’s back! Possibly the best ever singing dog in an advert ever

Crap tacos

Reheated, with too much chilli: middle-class kebabs, basically

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Entries in Fanny Fandango (32)


    Nicole Farhi: a middle class tribute

    It’s a classic case of not appreciating something until it’s gone, but the news that Nicole Farhi was in administration made me think the Middle Class Handbook ought to have paid tribute to the brand before now. In recent years it has been guilty of over-diversifying and even frumpiness, but its comfortable-yet-stylish knitwear has long been a staple of a certain kind of middle-class lady. Probably quite arty and liberal, dressed quite outlandishly in her 20s, no stranger to metallic statement jewellery; this is how I imagine her at least.

    Funky Farhi is what I call her in my head. Funky Farhi liked the larger sizing, earthy colours and the way the brand and Nicole herself stood slightly apart from the fashion mainstream. One problem might be that the loose stuff has looked a bit out of date recently, and one imagines some Funky Farhis have followed their daughters into Zara. Still we hope the brand pulls through, and that its survival leads to a full-on FF revival.



    The MC woman used to have an ambivalent relationship with fashion. She was willing to keep up with it, not wishing to appear frumpy, but very much inclined towards “classics” rather than “hot new trends”. Over the last 10 years or so, however, that has changed. Some ascribe this to Sex And The City, but cause-and-effect is rarely so clear cut; one has to ask why SATC attracted such a large audience in the first place.

    Anyway, the upshot of this is that while the MC woman’s wardrobe was once fairly basic, unchanging and essentially an evolved versions of her mother’s, it is now a little more trend-based and shifting. Take the shoes. When once she could pretty much have done it all in court, loafer and sandal, she now packs more options (even a sport shoe worn for leisure!) and these can change from year to – well, let’s say half-decade to half-decade.

    Thanks to the contemporary obsession with fashion and shopping, we are now accustomed to the idea that a woman can never have too many shoes. The MC woman isn’t sure about this, as one ought to jolly well be able to make do with less than a dozen pairs. Those wishing to fit in will need the following:

    1. Ballet pump, ideally French Sole
      Possibly her favourite shoe; it secretly reminds her of being younger and going to ballet class. For off-duty days, really; so easy, and perfect for the awkward winter-spring transition when she’s still wearing tights but boots seem too much.
    2. Low heel slingback
      For dressing up, especially for work parties. Might also have stilettos, but hardly ever wears them. Zara acceptable these days, but obviously LKB or Russell & Bromley would be ideal.
    3. Tod’s Loafer
      Doesn’t have to be the v. expensive Tod’s, but that’s where she’s aiming. Perfect for light duty-wear: possibly the office, school parents’ evenings, visiting parents.
    4. Havaianas
      A hangover from holidays, and the MC liberating embrace of boho – one of the early Big Trends she bought into in the Noughties.
    5. Converse All-Star
      In plain white. Modern Adidas and Nike trainers are still a little de trop. Good for Sunday afternoon city strolls and pub lunches.
    6. Wellington boot
      For the country and snow. Not necessarily in green, that’s an old-fashioned joke from the days when there were fewer colours. The posher country set is likely to go for plain Hunter; the more adventurous wellie wearer will go for Liberty-style patterns and fun colours. 
    7. Brogues
      True, they make your feet look big, but then the nice middle-class girl always does a look a bit big in the foot. (It fits somehow, suggesting country pursuits.) The brand doesn’t matter, but there are nice ones in Office and Clarks.
    8. Shoe boots
      Probably suede. Middle-class women don’t like to teeter, so they will steer clear of shoe boots with stiletto heels and opt for the chunkier, more sensible sort. Clarks and Aldo have the answer.
    9. Mary Janes
      In fun colours. She likes these because a bit like the ballet pumps, there’s a school girlish quality to them. And she can tolerate them quite high; they’re actually really comfortable because of the ankle strap.


    How to be middle class: the blue shirt and yellow tie combo

    Here at the MCH we have been slightly disappointed by the failure of the much-promised fashion trend for pastels to be taken by real people; perhaps it’s the weather, and we shall have to wait until the early summer. We like a nice pastel, but of course being British MC, we don’t have to wait for them to be a la mode to see them; there are some of us (notably the Fair To Middlings) who wear them regardless of fashion cycles, and of these, my favourite are the chaps who do the pale-blue-shirt-with-primrose-yellow-tie look. Admittedly the blue and yellow in these cases are not always strictly speaking pastel, but they are pale, and they usually look rather nice.

    The combination, at its best worn with a blazer and Panama hat, is a 100% middle-class classic, one of those nice looks that make you realise the English MC male can, given the chance, be rather colourful; it’s up with the pink shirt and linen suits at country shows and the coloured corduroy trousers on the first day of the test at Lords. Who needs fashion trends?


    The Middle Classes and Boden: is the honeymoon period over?

    I have just noticed one of my friends on Facebook – a mum who would definitely class herself in the middle-class bracket, and has I think worn Boden – posting an angry denunciation of Boden on her wall. Attacking mini-Boden’s child model competition, she lays into the brand’s “poncey catalogue” and “identikit aspirational middle-class mini-boden uniform of blonde beach hut moron life”. This is quite interesting because I have some friends who work in fashion retail who recently told me of rumours that the folk at Boden are becoming worried about their label’s connotations of smugness and tweeness. This must in part be a reaction against the renewed anxieties about recession and the acknowledgement that most of us are going to be poorer for quite a while; austerity chic means adopting an oh-well acceptance of making do and mending, not trying to look like Sam Cam on a Cornish beach. In many ways, Primark is now more chic for the middle classes than Boden; unless they do something sharpish, Boden-bashing could become a bit of a retail sport in the coming year.

    Flickr: ripkas

    Best middle-class version food product: Hale & Hearty Choco Jungle Pops With Quinoa, Corn and Rice

    Yes, it is in essence Coco Pops. But its chocolate is organic, and the cereal is “deliciously wholesome”; in other words, Hale & Hearty could be doing for the “unhealthy” cereal what the banana & nut breakfast muffin once did for the bun, and American Spirit sort-of does for tobacco. It’s easy to take the piss out of, of course, but to be fair it’s very tasty. We look forward to the variety pack, with organic, raw-sugar Frosties.