Sloane Ranger

sloane ranger handbook

The term Sloane Ranger refers to a stereotype in the UK of young, upper class or upper-middle-class women, or men who share distinctive and common lifestyle traits. The term is a punning combination of ‘Sloane Square,’ a location in Chelsea, London famed for the wealth of residents and frequenters, and the television Westerns character ‘The Lone Ranger.’

Initially the term was used mostly in reference to women, a particular archetype being Lady Diana Spencer before marrying The Prince of Wales, when she was an aristocrat from the Spencer family. However, the term now usually includes men. Male Sloanes have also been referred to as ‘Ra Ra Ruperts’ (or, simply, ‘Rah’ for short) and ‘Hooray Henrys.’ The term Sloane Ranger has similar related terms in other countries: in France they are called ‘BCBG’ (‘bon chic, bon genre’ – ‘good style’ ‘good attitude’). The Preppy of the United States can appear similar to the Sloane Ranger at first glance, but in fact they are different in their ideologies and aspirations.

‘Sloane Ranger,’ a commonplace term in 1980s London, was originally popularized by British writer Peter York and co-writer Ann Barr in ‘The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook’ (1982) and its companion ‘The Official Sloane Ranger Diary.’ The books were published by the British society-watcher magazine ‘Harpers & Queen,’ for whom Peter York was Style Editor and ‘was responsible for identifying the cult phenomena of ‘Sloane Rangers’ and ‘Foodies.’

Lady Diana Spencer was the exemplar Sloanie, however, most Sloanes were not aristocrats as Lady Diana was. Considered typical of SRs was patriotism and traditionalism, and a belief in the values of upper class and upper middle-class culture, confidence in themselves and their given places in the world, a fondness for life in the countryside, country sports in particular, philistinism (undervaluing art, beauty, spirituality, or intellectualism). The title of the Sloane Ranger handbook lists the subheading ‘the problem of Hampstead,’ in reference to the stereotypical Sloane Ranger’s supposed antipathy to the champagne socialist stereotype of the Hampstead liberal.

However, not all 1980s Sloanes liked country sports — Diana herself hated them, and not all were philistine anti-intellectuals. The reason why a proud philistinism is emphasised is twofold: SRs, with their SR-based self-confidence were supposedly unembarrassed to admit disliking ballet, opera, modern art, and James Joyce; most public intellectuals of the 1970s and the 1980s were left-wing, hence aligning with left-wing intelligentsia cultural values would be anathematic to staunchly Tory Sloanes. The typical male Sloane is satirized by the Harry Enfield character, Tim Nice-but-Dim.

Accent noticeably identified and separated the Sloane Ranger from the non-Sloane. Sloanes would share the same general accent traits whether they came from London, the Home Counties, Scotland, other parts of Britain, or even if educated abroad. Sloanes might use the same language as middle-class non-Sloanes, but would speak with a region-neutral accent and received pronunciation.

Traditional values of the English upper class and upper-middle class asserted themselves in the careers chosen, or the careers that were expected to be chosen, by young Sloane Rangers in the 1980s. For women, there was no shame in academic failure and mediocrity and the subsequent employment in secretarial jobs (indeed, expensive secretarial courses in London, Oxford, and Cambridge were popular among SR in the 1980s), since it was expected that even bright FSRs would only hold down a job until meeting a suitable husband. MSRs looked to careers of farming and land management; the Law; as army officers; and in the City of London. By the 1970s / 1980s Sloane Rangers had begun filling the ranks of chartered surveyors, wine merchants, auctioneers and art dealers.

Although Sloanes are nowadays supposedly more widely spread and amorphous than in the past, they are still perceived to socialize in the expensive areas of west London, most notably Kings Road, Fulham Road, Kensington High Street, and other areas of Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham. The pubs and nightclubs in these areas are popular with Sloanes, in particular The White Horse pub, known as the ‘Sloaney Pony,’ in Fulham and the Admiral Codrington, known as ‘The Cod,’ in Chelsea. Sloanes have also traditionally favored certain holiday destinations, in particular European ski resorts such as Val-d’Isère. Popular Summer destinations include the Caribbean, Monaco, the Greek Isles, and Cannes.

Sloanes are associated with being educated at top-tier private schools, known as Public Schools in England. Many Sloanes may aspire to attend the traditional universities of Cambridge and Oxford. In the past these universities were known for their upper-class attendance but now admission to these institutions is based more on perceived academic ability and potential and less on social class. A number of other universities, however, have established reputations as havens for Sloanes who do not go to Oxbridge notably Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, and Durham. Due to stiff academic competition, globalization and social mobility, universities are attracting a wider variety of students of a high caliber, which is leading to the diminution of the ‘social club’ role the more historic universities have played. Indeed, the Pitt Club at Cambridge is the historic center of Sloane social life for the university and has been in long-term decline, with the main part of its building rented out to Pizza Express.

Applied to a younger, school-age generation, the term can also be seen as a generic term for confident, somewhat brash, private-school children. What is perceived as male Sloane fashion has remained relatively constant over the years: the trend amongst the men being for open-necked shirts or polos with the collars turned up, sometimes wear flip-flops in whatever the weather, golfing baseball caps, grow curly locks of hair, sometimes overly built in the rugby physique, and wear traditional brands like Burberry. Female Sloanes are considered to favor a scruffy ponytail or bun, and most commonly blonde hair held in a massive side parting and dangly earrings. They sometimes wear sleeveless puff jackets, and jumpers (particularly those displaying their sport of choice, e.g. netball team, or their school), bangles and pashminas. Tending to be affluent, they dress expensively, but not too neatly and rarely ostentatiously.

The traditional Sloane identity has gradually multiplied and fragmented. This has been bound up with the changing demographics of London in the mid to late 1990s with massive increases in wealth that considerably increased the Sloane population. Sloanes have sought out new areas of London and with that new negotiations of Sloane identity. Notting Hill in particular has been transformed from a poor immigrant community to one of London’s most desirable locations in a relatively short space of time. This has seen the influx of both ‘new money’ and traditional wealth. Notting Hill has become increasingly ‘Sloaney’ as the children of traditional Sloanes move out of Chelsea (and other West London haunts) to what was perceived to be a more artistic, alternative or trendy area. This new, younger generation of Sloanes might be called ‘Boho’ or ‘Notting Hill’ Sloanes, another variation being the ‘Ethnosloane,’ and are represented both in the media industries such as journalism, TV, PR and advertising, as well as London. Managing an art gallery of the right kind might also be an acceptable occupation.

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