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   Inside Out - North East: Monday February 21, 2005


Vicky Pollard and kids
Charver culture is all pervasive in our towns

Charvers are everywhere - on the bus, down the pub, at the football match, and in the supermarket. They've been called "the new ruling class", a modern breed of uncouth yobs, and "a peasant underclass".

Inside Out goes behind the Burberry hats and Berghaus trackie bottoms to explore the true nature of charverdom.

"At the end of the day Charvs are about poverty - so while you can poke fun at how they look and what they might do - this is about young, poor people."
Anoop Nayak.

Read our Q & A webchat with sociologist Anoop Nayak from University of Newcastle and "charver watcher" Steve Drayton.

Charvers rule

"Charver" is the buzz word of 2005 - you hear it everywhere you go in the North East of England.

Some critics use the word as a term of abuse, whilst supporters proclaim that being a charver is something to be proud of.

There's all types of charvers featured in the media - inner city charvers, single parent charvers, celebrity charvers and sporting charvers - the list is endless.

Inside Out examines what it really means to be part of the new charver culture.


Charvers are also known as chavs, townies, ratboys, scallies, and scutters. Commonly chavs in the south and charvs in the north.

Charver fashion - male

  • Sportswear - designer or "fake designer" plus trainers and trackie bottoms.
  • Shell suits.
  • Gold necklaces
  • Baseball cap especially Burberry
  • Black loafers for evening
  • Polyester shirts
  • Large gold sovereign rings

    Charver style - female
  • Hooped gold earrings and chunky gold penchants
  • Fake sports gear - trainers, tracksuit tops
  • Very short skirts with platforms
  • Ultra tight bun - "council house facelift"
  • Huge bangles and bling-bling jewellery

Charver lingo
Belter - great as in "purely belter"
Bella - cheap white wine
Bizzies - police
Chaw - to steal
Cush or cushty - cool
Gadgie - old bloke
Ket - confectionery
Minging - smelly
Monged - drunk
Numpty - dim person
Proper - useful adjective
Scran - food
Sharon - girl
Tab - cigarette
Tatie - stupid person
Wor kid - younger brother

Working class youth

The term "charver" first emerged in the early 1990s after the Tyneside riots, but its roots run much deeper.

The word is generally thought to be Romany in origin.

It is said that travellers would call their children chavs or charvers - a bit like the traditional Geordie word "bairn".

Some claim that charv is a more recent term, coming out of an amalgam of Sharon and Trev, two common charver names.

Others think it comes out of the old Indian word "charwallah", meaning a lower class tea servant.

But today the word charver is being used to describe a much broader group of people.

The charver raised its head in the North East a decade ago, and the trend shows no sign of abating.

Sociologist Anoop Nayak from the University of Newcastle says that charvers are a little like America's trailer trash:

"It's been taken on as a term for working class youth - a kind of white trash underclass".

The term is sometimes, but not always, associated with young people with anti-social behaviour.

The charver has become something of a social stereotype.

Typical charver activities are often thought to be binge drinking, joy riding, football hooliganism and truancy.

Cool or common?

Charvers typically live in sink estates and in inner city areas, and are often seen as undeserving by middle classes, as Anoop Nayak explains.

"I think charvers are seen as being undeserving - they are seen as soaking up state benefits and are seen as having lots of children.

"They are seen as being a drain on the state - and they are seen as being very different to the respectable working class who want to be employed."

Some educationalists argue that charvers reject school as uncool and refuse to do course work, thereby flunking their exams.

To some charvers their social standing outside of school is more important than qualifications.

It gives young men and women an identity and a status especially amongst their peers.

Charver fashion

"A charver is someone who wears stripy clothes and starts fights with people for no reason at all."
Fashion student.

The charver look has infiltrated fashion - it's everywhere, and, in expert hands, it has a street credibility of its own.

Girl with Burberry umbrella
The distinctive Burberry look has been reclaimed by charvers

Famous brands are an important part of the charver fashion sense, whether real or fake labels.

We asked a group of Newcastle fashion students what they identified as charver brands.

"Henri Lloyd, Burberry, Stone Island etc - and there is Louis Vuitton, Nike, Reebox, Adidas, Von Dutch - and all the slogans," says one student.

Another is amazed a the cost of being a charver, "You'd be surprised at how much they pay - so it is expensive - the bigger the brand, the more street cred they get".

Charverdom is everywhere - it has become part of cultural life, and it makes its followers feel important.

"These clothes cost us a lot of money - they make us feel good." Aaron Harrison.

Charver fashion is seen as an authentic street style, and many celebrities are buying in to the charver dream, from Wayne Rooney and his fiancee Coleen to Jordan and TV soap stars.

Street style

The charver may be the butt of cheap jokes and the whipping boy of the chattering classes, but he's also part of a youth movement with a street culture all of its own.

MC Jaycee
Pump up the volume - charvers answer their critics

For some being a charv is more than just an attitude - it's tribal and an important part of youth culture.

Charvers listen to three main music genres - rap, dance and r'n'b - and especially like chart music.

Increasingly charver music is developing real roots - the latest dance music linked to it is a form of techno called "monkey music" or Makina.

MCs prove themselves with music and lyrics that reflect what's going on in their lives.

Monkey music

Jamie Collins from Sunderland is one of the MCs making the new monkey music.

He takes pride in calling himself MC Jaycee - and his music and charver culture has given him a new identity.

Jamie describes the type of music he's making and the relevance of it to street culture:

"It's just rapping over the tunes, about things you do, places where your gang mates go - it's what you get up to - it's what you see around you.

"My lyrics are about places I like to go, certain clubs, certain people I know. Nowhere else listens to this type of music."

So what's a typical Saturday night out for a charver - "Just gaan out, have a drink, natter and that" says Aaron Harrison.

Romany family
Charvers -from Romany origins to street-wise culture

"Just because I dress like a charver doesn't make me a bad person.

"Being a charver is about sticking in with a fashion with all your friends, respecting all your friends - and getting alcohol obviously."

Aaron thinks it's unfair to brand charvers as useless troublemakers:

"Other people wear the same clothes and... other people go looking for fights and that - then on the other side, there is us who dress exactly the same, but we don't go looking for fights."

For these young men they see charverdom as an authentic street movement, and the fashion gives these kids a sense of belonging and pride.

Anoop Nayak also sees the positive aspects of charverdom, "I think one of the things that charver gives people is an identity.

"It is a collective identity... it is felt, it is experienced, and also on the street, occasionally it is feared."

Charver culture?

It's easy for the middle classes to target charvers so they can reassure themselves that they're better than other people less fortunate than themselves.

Charver cool? Celebrities like Jordan love charver style

Charvers are young and working class, but at least they're trying to forge an identity for themselves.

Although not all charvers are angels, perhaps we should think twice before taking aim.

After all the charver style is influential amongst celebrities, its music is starting to become genuinely innovative, and its followers have a reclaimed sense of identity.

Charvers - the new ruling class? Whilst some would argue it's merely an extension of the old "yob culture", others would defend it as the new Cool Britannia.

Read the webchat on charvers.

See also ...

Inside Out: North East
Likely Lads

On the rest of Inside Out
Charver dads

BBC Education

On the rest of the web
Newcastle Central

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Readers' Comments

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I do some youth work in my local community (Gateshead area) and have seen a lot of lovely kids go right "off the rails" when they have become involved wiyh groups of "chavas", most feel pressured by peers to fit in. You can only hope they come to their senses before too much damage is done or they get into too much trouble or end up hurt. The sad thing is that all these kids get tarred with the same brush and many of them are nice "ordinary" kids, but because they follow chava fashion people automatically assume they are trouble makers! We accusse them of being sheep & following the crowd, but aren't we just as bad for condeming them all!!!!!

kelly newcastle
its quite obvious to me that to get through school without being bullied. u have to be part ov the crowd, which means dress act and talk like a chaver.

Hannah Gaunt

do people actually call chavs charvers?? i cant believe that. i had some friend who used to be normal people, they turned chav, now they are only seen on street corners wearin short skirts and fake hoodies. Whenever any member of the public goes anywhere near them by the bus stop of wherever, they just hav abuse yelled at them, and the scary thing is that they think it makes them look cool.

I think what people dont realise is that wearing 'charver' clothes or listening to 'charver' music doesn't make you a charver. They may look like one but a real charver (because the term does get thrown around these days) is basicalley a thug that isup to no good (e.g. smashing glass bottles off peoples heads for no reason) I have respect for people that like the music and dress like that but arent actually are charver as they are decent human beings.

The thing that really annoys me is how certain newspapers act like they invented the chav (and for the record its..cha-r-v) and glamorise their lifestyle. People like Julie Burchill really haven't got a clue, these aren't people making a fashion statement and challenging class systems. The only experiences i've had with charvs have been bad, the only people who have yelled abuse and threatened to hit me for wearing a music t-shirt are charvs.

I listen to rave and have a pair of trackies. does this mean im a charver. in the eyes of society i would be, and just for those two simple facts, i would be a thief, a binge drinker nd have loads of kids. Its all a sterotype. Of course there will be people who wear trackies and listen to rave who will be what i describe above but this is a minority. A charver is sum1 who starts fights for no reason and gets drunk all the time but is not just a person who listens to a different type of music and dresses differently. In essence society and most people who grief chavers have got it wrong. It seems to me that chavers get called because of what they wear and style of music they listen to, people say they are all the same. Well from my perspective isnt evey1 else the same. for example, every1 wears clothes what are 'in fashion' just to fit in! well would this make all of them look the same. anyway who says it fashion. some mad designer makes clothes with holes in and calls that fashion. then every1 buys them just because its the popular thing to do. Society and most people who call chavers are sheep and just do what they are told and copy what evey1 else does. so arnt they the problem. no imagination to break free and try there own thing instead of being a puppet on the srings of peer pressure and the media. Also chavers have a passion for the music they love. People who call chavers usually listen to chart music that is fed to them by the music industry and therefore have no reall feel for what they are listening to. I ask what is wrong with rave music. Some people like it and some dont. same with evey type of music. I've been to quite a few raves and been to local nightclubs. I see much more trouble at clubs in the town from what would be called 'normal' people. There is never much happens at a rave. Every1 is friendly. I know im obviously siding towards liking charvers but i dont. i dont like 'CHAVERS' as i stated above but i dont have any problems with people who were certain clothes or listen to different music like it seems most do.

Wey, uz charvaz treat are mates like family, and respect them..

A proper Charv as a Passion for Rave ( Monkey ) and wud rather sit in a house with a set of deks and a mic and MC till they cant talk than go looking for fights. Use just Lable us simple as that !! I Run my own under 18s rave in Middlesbrough and if any of use wanna come down and take a look and Youths ( Charvs as u say ) and see what there real passion is - you will see kids from 13 - 18 dance for 7 hours without a problem i have even had moshers in my event mixing wid the so called charvs and come up to me and Thank me for a great Night.

Geordie Lass
I dont see how people can say charvers are poor. Have you seen the thick gold chains, the sovereigns and massive earrings they wear. Clothes like fred perry, henri lloyd, burberry and rockport cost a lot too. Ive got a lot of mates who would be classed as charvers and they are some of the friendliest people I know. I like the music associated with them have been to the clubs like The New Monkey, Hangar, Timezone, etc and Ive had no trouble at all. You get the odd few people who think they are better and want to cause trouble but you get that in every different kind of 'culture' like goths/sweatys or spice boys, etc. Compare charvers to sweatys whats the difference? Charvers are a gang of youths who listen to rave like to drink, smoke some like to do drugs. Sweatys are a gang of youths who like to drink n some do drugs. Charvers listen to music associated with drugs n being high on life. Sweatys listen to music associated with death and murder. Tell me which ones you think end up being worse off. Ive heard too many stoies about people who worship the likes of marilyn manson and end up killing people yet no-one seems to think theres a problem with that kind of culture. I think more people should be made aware of that kind of behaviour and stop giving charvers the bad name coz most of us are decent people with decent jobs who like the music and the clothes because thats the culture we've been brought up in.

I have been classed as a chaver for years now I am 19 and since I was about 12 I have been classed as one. I dont wear fake trainers and tracksuits nowt but the best for me. I may be a charver but I gan to college and have been going for 3 years now and plan to be a barrister. I gan to the new monkey and used to go every week. All I can say is dont judge a book by its cover.

Right, I like these comments, some made me laugh. But most are wrong, there is only one type of charvar and that is the bad one, the thief the bully that starts for no reason and thinks hes proper hard all the time. The lad/lass who gets wrecked all the time doesnt care about his/her future, or anyone else. All the other examples that have been mentioned just arent charvars they just people who where tracksuits and juilery. I where Tracksuit bottoms and a chain sometime, i often where a cap and i quite like the music, I go to a club called HANGAR-13 wich plays mutch the same music as the new monkey only its over 18's.

Terri Blackburn
Hello, In the school I am in, there are a lot of charvers, and a lot of them are not very nice, they drink, smoke, and are willing to start a fight with anyone who looks at them the wrong way! Some maybe nice people but most give an extremely bad reputation and some people feel quite intimidated by them!

charvers rule!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dave Thorne
Hey guys I live in Redcar im 15 going on 16, i was wathing the program about 'Charvers' so i thought i'd share my view. I may live in redcar but whenever i get money (usually saturdays) i tend to go to Middlesbrough because it has a healthy population of friends there, now i am in no way a Chav/Townie/Charver etc. i am what you would hear as a 'Mosher' i'm part of the Rock music culture (Iron Maiden, The Used, Green Day, My Chemical Romance etc etc) i usually attend the gigs at the Town Hall and Crypt no matter what bands, so long as it is rock based or influenced. I wear skate brands such as Animal, NoFear, Kickass, OnFire etc. mainly what i'm identified by is Band t shirt/ hooded tops and very baggy jeans. That is why i attend middlesbrough almost religiously. Now personally i cannot stand Chavs, but to me Chavs and Townies are two different things, i have some good friends who are townies, it is the chavs i have a big problem with. The difference is Townies are those who dress in the 'Charver' style but don't go out looking for fights, begging for money etc. now Chavs are the ones who go round in huge groups to make themselves look intimidating, shot up on heroin, drunk-off-their-heads, threatening any and everyone they see. Now that is one reason i have such a 'dislike' for them (i say dislike because hate is such a strong word, there are exceptions within this group also) but i shall give you two more reasons. First of the two is, a few weeks ago me and 5 of my friends were walking past the McDonalds drive-thru next to the UGC building when we passed a bunch of 'Chavs', me and three of us were up in front and the other two about 2 1/2 metres behind, as the group passed we got the regular whispers of 'oooooh ya mosha merrt wud ya darrre' and 'ah ya F***in freaks' and as they passed i looked behind just in time to see one of the guys behind get punched in the jaw by the end of the group, absolutely out of the blue, he didnt even look at them and they punched him. Reason two is, one night (i wasn't present but knew many who were) there was a gig and after it had finished everyone was leaving, only to be greeted by a large group of chavs, looking for a fight, so abuse was hurled and punches flown because they were leaving the gig, the worst part is that two girls were harassed and followed. So that is why i have a certeain dislike for them, bordering on anger.

Up north
Chavas aren't out to cause trouble hey? You ever tried walking through Sunderland at night? I've had several friends jumped and beaten up by Chava's high on dope and tanked up on cider. They are scum, do you think that a documentry will show the real chav? As if. Even a chav isn't stupid enought to brag about how much they've drunk or how many people they've beaten up or slept with on natiomal TV. The chava culture is all about loyalty to your mates, until they're a lag, until they perhaps get a sense of morals. If the chava culture is all about lower class kids how do they afford all these labels, all that massive chunky gold jewelry and all that drink? Most of them will never attempt to get a job, they are happy to play the system for every penny they can. They turn to crime to fuel their binge drinking and drug addictions.

tony schollar
i think your sumury of a "charv" is total rubbish to be onest. no we dont where fake clothes. and what ever people call us well thats what they think so let them get on with there lifes, and i cant see whats wrong with us yes you might get some spacker who likes chining people for nee need. but we just like dressing the way we like and dont care what any numpty thinks coz if everyone was the same the world would be proper dull and we like new monkey music coz thats what we like.

Ben Robinson
Broadcasts like the one tonight only serve to glamourise this disturbing trend amongst today's youth. At its most latent level, charvers stand for petty misbehaviour and disobedience - traditional teenage rebellious antics. However, ask any right-minded schoolkid and they will tell you that this behaviour readily escalates to intimidation, bullying, and violence. Yesterday evening I had my car windscreen smashed because somebody threw a brick at it. Nothing was stolen from inside the car. I can only presume that this act of mindless vandalism was commited by the same types of idiots that you were championing on tonights programme. The bigwigs who produced this programme have obviously never experienced an incident such as this, and look upon charvers as some quaint expression of teenage freedom and individuality. Let me tell you, there is nothing positive to say about charvers. They are thick, pathetic little toerags, some of whom will go on to become really big toerags. The only consolation for the civil members of society among us is that these little morons are set for a life of misery, either behind bars or unemployed. Charvers - the real dregs of society.

paul burton
that program on charvers had some true facts and some absolute rubbish about charvers.for example i like the music they listen too but im not a charver thats just like saying because i wear a cap im a charver, it might be sunny on that day. also the attitude of charvers is all just an act trying to fit in or be cool infront of there mates. until they finnaly grow up some change and some dont, some are criminals and some have never ever been in trouble and never will. my point is they cant be judged by there appearance but by the way they speak that is the only way i know if he or her is a charver for sure.

callum bell
chavers dont like r(n)b or dance a real chaver like rave and mc s like turbo d and djs like matrix

tracey pedersen
I am a 37 yearold married mum of 2 teenage girls (14-15) who are both 'charvers' they are both doing well at school,have each got there own set of friends.The clothes are expensive but if they did not wear them they would not look popular as they say! Their father and I work very hard, do not get any state benefits own our own home and car and have luxury holidays every year.Some comments about them being 'charvers' are not very nice as they are not trouble makers and their friends are not either, they just want to be adults to soon and think they are adults at their tender ages. But when i think back to that age what were we wearing then, Madness and The Specials were in so it was stay press trousers,granda shirts and brogue shoes and pilot jackets and i remember then we all tried to drink merrydown cider not bella or lambrini as this was the cheap drink then if you done all this you were in the in crowd,so come on give the 'charvers' a break what else have they got to do when they finish school sit in there bedrooms and then get a big shock when the leave school and go into the big wide world without seeing any of it!!!!!

Jay of Peckham & Newcastle
Charva's and Chav's for me is the caucasian equivalent to the rude boyz/girlz of the 90's. I used to live in Peckham, South London and found that in 90's were dominated by rude boy fashion, 'Crazy Mosch' Moschino Jeans, baseball caps, Nike Trainers and baseball caps. I look at the charva's and see the parralels. Charva's have Monkey, the rude boyz various urban sounds from US/UK hip hop, Jungle and Garage. I think I can say that I am backed up as in all the charva/chav publicity there is not one non-caucasian shown. Charva/Chav is a style that could be around for a while to come.

Samantha Swainston
This article is good at describing charvers, but you seem to have missed out the fact that these people do start fights for no reason at all, with people passing by. Charvs tend to pounce on people just for looking in their general direction. They are nuisance thugs, who should have more respect for people around them, people who are not necessarily a 'higher class' than them; just people who want to get on with their lives and not be hassled.

Jenni ?????????
I Hate Charvs, they are horrible. And i hate adults who try and be "cool" and talk about them when they havn't got a clue. 95.99% of charver's clothes are FAKE designer. Adults living in London have next to no idea what charvs are really like, they NOT anything to be proud. They say they have started a "new movement" because that is ALL they have done with they're lives.

lee marks
well I,m sorry really, but charvers complain bitterly that if the were forced to wear a uniform they would go mad, what they fail to realise is dressing like charvers , it is a uniform . It may be a free country but dont they realise everyone pidgeon holes them when they go out. i know for a fact that as a charver dressed person going into any shop, security are watching them .Like wise charvers are considered "pond life" . Even the police watch people dressed like this , well its the way of the world . Cant they twig that why be a lemming, express yourself , not a sad badly dressed thug. So get a life and dress to express yourself .

i think there is nothing wrong with charvers the onlny thing i dont like about them is that they smoke drink and get up 2 no good. but i think sometimes people think charvers are always naughty weer as some are not. a lot of charvers get the blame 4 things othetr people have done like burning bins etc

How dare people say that chavas are all about poverty. I come from Newcastle but not everyone dresses, talks and acts the way they are made out to. Chavism is a personal fassion statment and one which should be respected and admired by others.

u have some charvers who r nice who respect u and respect the things ur into and then u have the rest which DONT, u have the ones that see someone in a top with aband name on it and call u a goth even if ur not. and i lot of charvers dont have respect for any1 its like if they ask for a smoke they wouldnt say please or thnks. i dont like most charver but u do have some which are nice.

Olly T
charvers are the most problematic group of people ever, they bully people who dont wear the same clothes as them and they think that they are better than every1 else around them.

Here like, who cares if were charvaz ya na what a meen, its just what we wear nd that, just cos we wear differant clothes to uva people, it doesnt meen were oot lukin for fightz nd causin bova..

Erm, by Charver, do you mean the more commonly used term-Chav? Also called townies in Lincs and Neds up North!

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