Glorious Goodwood kicks off today, and the racing festival illustrates “one of the great curiosities of English life”, says Ed West in UnHerd. Many social trends are “popular with the toffs at the top and the plebs at the bottom, with not much interest in between”. Having big families and giving children silly names such as “Prince, Rara or Zenia” is rife among the working and upper classes, as is joining the army. The Regency-era Westminster dog pit, “where hounds would rip various other animals to pieces”, was a hit with both the urban poor and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. More recently, Burberry went from being the brand of choice for Sloane rangers to one “ubiquitous among football hooligans”.
Aristocrats and the poor can dress the same way and do the same stuff partly because they’re so socially distant. The middle classes in between are perpetually anxious about those just above or below them. They’re also far bigger sticklers for rules and morals, the things that built their class in the first place. It can mean they just spoil everyone else’s fun. As Billy Connolly once said: “The proper serious upper class are all f***ing nuts and they are a great laugh. The working class are all f***ing nuts and they are a great laugh. It’s just the middle that sucks.”