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On the way out

The end of the Sloane age

Diana, Princess of Wales (and Sloanes). Tim Graham/Getty

Around 50 years ago, I started recognising a group of “uncannily similar upper-middle-class girls” working in smart London jobs, says Peter York in The Oldie. I dubbed them Sloanes: women you’d see on the Tube “all in the same Gucci and Hermès kit”, and all living in the poshest neighbourhoods of west London. By the time I wrote The Sloane Ranger Handbook a few years later, everyone wanted to emulate their style. “The most famous girl in the world” was a Sloane: the newly married Princess Diana. “The clothes, the interiors, the events” – all were dissected and emulated by an array of aspirants.

Yet by the early 1990s, the Sloane world started to “fragment under the new pressures of money, ambition and globalisation”. Careerists from New York, Tokyo and Hamburg flocked to London and “culled the Sloanes”, many of whom retreated to the countryside and took jobs “running toffs’ estates”. Russian oligarchs and Chinese billionaires colonised the central postcodes – SW1, SW3, SW7 – that the Sloanes had thought of as their own. The final nail in the coffin was Harry Enfield’s TV character Tim Nice-But-Dim, a Sloane-esque “bumbling idiot” laughed at by City slickers and media smarties for his “touching faith in the toff Establishment”. The only way for Sloanes to be taken seriously was to “un-Sloane themselves”.