Lad culture

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Lad culture (also laddish culture and laddism) is a subculture initially associated with Britpop music of the 1990s. "The image of the 'lad' or 'new lad' arose in the early 1990s as a generally middle-class figure espousing attitudes conventionally (though not necessarily correctly) attributed to the working classes".[1]


The term "new lad" was coined by journalist Sean O'Hagan in a 1993 article about a young, brash and boisterous economist called David "Lad Lad Lad" Sturrock in Arena.[2][3][4]

Part of "the postmodern transformation of masculinity...the 1990s 'new lad' was a clear reaction to the 'new man'...most clearly embodied in current men's magazines, such as Maxim, FHM and Loaded, and marked by a return to hegemonic masculine values of sexism [&] male homosociality".[5] At a time when "men saw themselves as battered by feminism",[6] one could also consider that "laddishness is a response to humiliation and indignity...the girl-power! girl-power! female triumphalism which echoes through the land".[7]

Lad culture grew beyond men's magazines to movies such as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and to the TV sitcoms, Men Behaving Badly and Game On.[8][9] The Bottom, Al Murray's Happy Hour and They Think It's All Over television programmes present images of Laddishness that are dominated by the male pastimes of drinking, watching football, and sex. These are presented as being ironic and "knowing". (The masthead of Loaded is "for men who should know better".)

The American equivalent has been termed "'Frat Boy Nation'...a backlash against the sensitive, pro-feminist male"[10] of a very similar order.


The rise of the new lad coincided with a backlash against feminism by both men and women, and in particular against the figure of the new man as "one who has subjugated his masculinity in order to fulfill the needs of women...this passive and insipid image".[11] At a time when "the stereotypes for men attentive to feminism were two: Eunuch, or Beast",[12] – and when women were increasingly feeling that "new men are fine in the kitchen, but who wants them in the bedroom?"[13] – the "new lad" image offered "a space of fun, consumption and sexual freedom for men", as well as "a refuge from the constraints and demands of marriage and nuclear family".[14]

Contrasting the two gender constructs, Tim Edwards, a sociologist at the University of Leicester, describes the new man as pro-feminist, albeit narcissistic, and the new lad as pre-feminist, and a reaction to second-wave feminism.[8][15] The new man image failed to appeal to a wide readership whereas the more adolescent Lad culture appeals more to the ordinary man, says Edwards.[8] Social constraints also meant that "it is easier to be a lad rather than a new man in most workplaces".[16]

However, Edwards also points out that lad culture men's magazines of the 21st century contain little that is actually new. Noting a study of the history of Esquire, he observes that there is little substantially different between the new man Arena and GQ and the new lad Loaded et al. Both address assumed men's interests of cars, alcohol, sport, and women, and differ largely in that the latter have a more visual style. From this he infers that "the New Man and the New Lad are niches in the market more than anything else, often defined according to an array of lifestyle accessories", and concludes that the new lad image dominates the new man image simply because of its greater success at garnering advertising revenue for men's magazines.


Lad culture has attracted criticism from feminist circles. For example, Germaine Greer critiques it in her 2000 book The Whole Woman;[8][15][17] while Kira Cochrane asserts that "it's a dark world that Loaded and the lad culture has bequeathed us".[18]

A study by Gabrielle Ivinson of Cardiff University and Patricia Murphy of the Open University identified lad culture as a source of behavioural confusion,[19] and an investigation by Adrienne Katz linked it to suicide and depression.[9] A study of the architecture profession found that lad culture had a negative impact on women completing their professional education.[20] Commentator Helen Wilkinson believes that lad culture has affected politics and decreased the ability of women to participate.[21]

One writer summed up the subculture by arguing that, in an ironic, self-conscious fashion, "lads took up an anti-intellectual position, scorning sensitivity and caring in favour of drinking, violence, and a pre-feminist and racist attitude to women as both sex objects and creatures from another species".[1]

The UK's largest student union warned in a 2015 study that universities are failing to address the issue of lad culture, with almost half (49%) of all universities having no policy against discrimination due to sexuality, or anti-sexual harassment policies.[22]


The word "ladette" has been coined to describe young women who take part in laddish behaviour. It is defined by the Concise Oxford Dictionary as: "Young women who behave in a boisterously assertive or crude manner and engage in heavy drinking sessions."[23]


The term "lad" is also used in Australian youth culture, however it is used to refer to an underclass criminal subculture that is more similar to the chav or football casual subcultures, rather than the middle class student subculture the term refers to in the United Kingdom. Australian lads wear a distinctive dress code, consisting of running caps and shoes combined with polo shirts and sports jumpers. They frequently use pig latin phrases in conversation, [24] for example "Ad-lay" to refer to a fellow "Lad". Lad-rap is a growing underground hip hop scene in Australia.[25]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Knowles, in Kristina Nelson, Narcissism in High Fidelity (2004) p. 19 ISBN 0595318045
  2. Tim Adams (23 January 2005). "New kid on the newsstand". The Observer. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 20 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Michael Bracewell (June–August 1996). "A Boy's Own Story". Frieze (magazine). Frieze. Retrieved 20 November 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gill, Rosalind (2003), "Power and the production of subjects: a genealogy of the New Man and the New Lad", in Benwell, Bethan, Masculinity and men's lifestyle magazines, Oxford, UK Malden, MA, USA: Blackwell Publisher/Sociological Review, pp. 34–56, ISBN 9781405114639<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> pdf version Gender Institute, London School of Economics.
  5. Nylund, p. 9
  6. Faludi, Susan (2000). Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. HarperCollins. p. 594. ISBN 978-0-380-72045-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Weldon, p. 61
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Tim Edwards (2006). Cultures of Masculinity. Routledge. pp. 39–42. ISBN 0-415-28480-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Health: Lad culture blamed for suicides". BBC News. BBC. 1999-10-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Nylund, pp. 10–11
  11. Knowles, Joanne Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (2002) pp. 16, 39 ISBN 0826453252
  12. Wolf, Naomi (1998). Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle For Womanhood. Random House of Canada. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-679-30942-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Weldon, p. 69
  14. Genz, p. 142
  15. 15.0 15.1 Pamela Abbott, Claire Wallace, and Melissa Tyler (2005). An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives. Routledge. p. 354. ISBN 0-415-31258-2. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Samantha Holland, Alternative Femininities (2004) p. 29 ISBN 1859738087
  17. Jackson, C. (2006). Lads and Ladettes in School: Gender and a Fear of Failure. Maidenhead: Open University Press. ISBN 0335225918.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. Kira Cochrane, "The dark world of lads' mags". Retrieved on 2012-12-16.
  19. "Lad Culture and Boys' Confusion about Behaviour" (Press release). Leicester, England: The British Psychological Society. 2001-06-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Gates, Charlie (2003-07-11). "Lad culture forces women to quit: RIBA-funded study looks at reasons behind profession's high female drop-out rate". Building Design. 1587. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Wilkinson, Helen (1998-08-07). "The day I fell out of love with Blair". New Statesman. 127. pp. 9–10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Joe Williams (27 July 2015). "British universities failing to tackle homophobic "lad culture"". PinkNews. Retrieved 27 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Ladettes enter dictionary". BBC News. 12 July 2001.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>