The Blog

Death of the Lad: From 'Loaded' Culture to Clarkson

So what's left for the lad in 2015? Waking up to the frightening realization that they've signed the petition to keep Clarkson atand Kanye out of Glastonbury on the same day. It's enough to make anyone depressed.

Amid the immediate fall-out of Jeremy Clarkson's recent 'fracas' the presenter was at pains to make two things very clear: firstly that he was enjoying a 'nice cold pint', secondly the cancellation of filming would allow him to attend that evening's Chelsea game (which he did very publicly). Depressingly wrapping up 24-hours in which he'd assaulted a colleague with an attempt to score triple-word lad points, the shtick felt tired; the apology entirely absent.

It wasn't always this way. When Damon Albarn announced a preference for a beer and the blues some 20 years ago the adoption of traditional working-class pursuits into pop culture felt fresh and no-one cheered louder than Loaded magazine - the bible of lad culture which announced its closure this weekend following 21 years of ups and (more latterly) downs. So how did we get from Albarn's cheekbones to Clarkson's denims and, ultimately, the death of the lad?

It starts with the decidedly un-laddish club pioneer Steve Strange. His recent passing served as a timely reminder of a more distant and colourful era, the pansexual make up (and make-up) of his early 80s Blitz crowd fuelled a cultural movement free of gender restrictions where anyone could be anyone - boy or girl. Within months, however, Simon Le Bon was straddling the front of a yacht and before you could say Wilmott-Brown the 80s became a case of them and us.

The 'us' found solace in the euphoria of acid house and illegal raves, a coming together that flew in the face of a divide-and-conquer ruling elite. In the shadows Oasis quietly plotted to take out Phil Collins and working-class pursuits rose to the fore. Hitting the newsstands in 1994, Loaded was a breath of fresh air in its celebration of these often mundane day-to-day escapisms. Its early innocence (Bacon Sandwiches! Crisp World-Cups!) however, gradually made way for a more cynical approach. Humourous staples were fatally traded for glamourous models and, indistinguishable from its rivals, it suffered a slow and painful death.

As a new century arrived, reality TV plugged a brief gap between the printed press and the internet, beaming all corners of society into front rooms across the nation while crucially eating away at historical social prejudices. Nasty Nick may have grabbed the headlines, but it was Brian Dowling, the winner of C4's Big Brother second series in 2001 that marked a seismic shift in British attitudes towards sexuality with an emotional victory. That same year on BBC2 The Office sent a chill down the spine of any British male recognizing a part of himself reflected back in wannabe-Lad David Brent. The imperial phase was over.

While The Office had been cultish, Little Britain would introduce a much-loved cast of characters pitched somewhere between the aforementioned Blitz kids and the inhabitants of the Big Brother house to a mainstream television audience. A golden era for British comedy was ushered in. The chat show circuit came alive once again through sexually ambiguous regulars like David Walliams (effeminate supermodel lander) and Russell Brand (camp West Ham fan) in the same way uniquely British talents such as Frankie Howard and Kenneth Williams had dazzled in the 80s.

Concurrently the ubiquity of the Internet and social networking soon created a global community unmoved by domestic peer pressure and ritualistic behavior as a new era of fluidity permeated people's home, work and sex lives. Casualties included hedonistic lifestyles (reigned in by freelancers scared to lose both their lap tops and a days work) and historical gay venues (as with politics, traditional stereotypes shifted to populate the centre ground - and now just a click away). Blurred lines, indeed.

So what's left for the lad in 2015? Waking up to the frightening realization that they've signed the petition to keep Clarkson at Top Gear and Kanye out of Glastonbury on the same day. It's enough to make anyone depressed. Speaking of which an article for The Guardian last year by Owen Jones revealed suicide as the biggest killer of men under 50. The loaded gun? Not talking about it, a stiff upper-lip - laddishness in essence. It maybe too late for some still using the pint as a badge of honour, but for everyone else labels must surely be redundant in an increasingly fluid age. The lad has become the bloke. The bloke is Nigel Farage. That's enough, as they used to say, to make you drop your bacon sandwich.