A chav is a stereotype of certain people in the United Kingdom. Also known as a charver in Yorkshire and North East England, ‘chavs’ are said to be aggressive teenagers, of white working class background, who repeatedly engage in antisocial behaviour such as street drinking, drug abuse and rowdiness, or other forms of juvenile delinquency. The derivative Chavette has been used to refer to females.

Chav probably has its origins in the Romani word ‘chavi,’ meaning ‘child’ (or ‘chavo,’ meaning ‘boy,’ or ‘chavvy,’, meaning ‘youth’). This word may have entered the English language through the Geordie dialect word charva, meaning a rough child. This is similar to the colloquial Spanish word chaval, meaning ‘kid’ or ‘guy.’ In Italy, chavs are termed as coatto, which basically means ‘working class’ and vulgar.

A BBC documentary suggested that ‘chav’ culture is an evolution of previous working-class youth subcultures associated with particular commercial clothing styles, such as mods, skinheads and casuals. The widespread use of the stereotype has been criticized. Some argue that it amounts to simple snobbery and elitism. Critics of the term have argued that its users are ‘neo-snobs,’ and that its increasing popularity raises questions about how British society deals with social mobility and class.

Burberry is a clothing company whose products became associated with the ‘chav’ stereotype. Burberry’s appeal to ‘chav’ fashion sense is a sociological example of prole drift, where an up-market product begins to be consumed en masse by a lower socio-economic group. The company has taken a number of steps to distance itself from the stereotype. It ceased production of its own branded baseball cap in 2004 and has scaled back the use of its trademarked checkered/tartan design to such an extent that it now only appears on the inner linings and other understated positions of their clothing.

It has also taken legal action against high-profile infringements of the brand. In August 2006, a company introducing tuk-tuks (motorized rickshaws) into the south coast city of Brighton, England named one the ‘Chavrolet,’ which had it painted in the distinctive Burberry tartan. They had to withdraw the vehicle when Burberry threatened proceedings for breach of copyright.

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