El Pais Chronicles Brideshead TV Generation

A feature article in the Spanish language newspaper El Pais chronicles the generation of party goers inspired by the 1981 Granada TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited:

In his first scene, Sebastian appears vomiting through an open window. Margaret Thatcher had been living in Downing Street for two years and it was becoming clear she would be more than a head of government. It would be more like a climate or a way of life. Earning money or, better yet, having it accumulated from yesteryear, like Brideshead’s Flyte, was something worth celebrating in public. The series caught on with a disparate audience, but especially among those who understood the codes of that world, who knew, without the script to explain, that Michaelmas is what they call in Oxford the term that runs from October to December.

This is mainly the story of Dafydd Jones who made a photographic record of the phenomenon beginning in 1980s Oxford. This was shortly after Jones, an Old Wykehamist, had graduated from art school:

“Living in Oxford was in the right place,” recalls Jones. “I was not part of the high society, not even the University. I came from much further down the social ladder, but I started investigating.” He bought black-and-white reels, because they were cheaper, and he set about sneaking in on the New Sebastians’ parties , of people like today’s media chef Nigella Lawson, whose father had become Thatcher’s minister; or Hugh Grant, whom he photographed dressed as a pixie at a party of the secret society Piers Gaveston…

Jones entered his photographs a contest set by the Sunday Times relating to the revived Bright Young Things and, although he lost the contest, the ST published his photos and this led to a job with Tina Brown’s Tatler magazine:

During the next decade, the debutantes and the children of the lords met with him at every wedding, every charity evening and every dance at Annabel’s, the eternal nightclub of the aristocracy. He portrayed them in all their glory, with disjointed faces and nipples outside… 

But, as explained by writer Peter York (The Sloane Ranger Handbook), it couldn’t last forever:

When was the party over? York dates it to the early nineties, “when it started another more international style, more sophisticated and more politically correct. In addition, the culture of celebrity was installed … The most important thing was to lose the accent if one wanted to be taken seriously. If they went to the City to work for companies with Japanese or German owners, they needed to look like modern, responsible and global people. ” 

The story is illustrated with examples of Jones’ photographs in high quality digital reproductions. The translation is by Google with some editing.

UPDATE (25 February 2017): In a story in the New York Times “T-Magazine” dated 24 February 2017  by Alexander Fury entitled “In London, the Rise of Old-Fashioned Fashion”, the revival of the movement described above seems to have started:

The phrase …  “Young Fogies,” [was] arguably first coined in its contemporary form by Alan Watkins in The Spectator in 1984, though it is both ideologically and aesthetically related to Peter York’s “Sloane Ranger” of a decade earlier. Both terms designate a lifestyle — as well as a look — describing a set of political and social beliefs, as well as a hairstyle or a type of glasses (wire-rimmed, of course). For both Sloane Rangers and Young Fogies, that world outlook involves conservatism (with a small ‘c’) and lots of tradition, alongside tweeds and crêpe-de-chine blouses. The original Young Fogies, though, were obsessed with the past, rather than class: they read Evelyn Waugh, and despised modern architecture. In short, they were classicists whose sartorial tastes veered towards the old-fashioned — just like the characters created by these Young Fogey designers today.

Share
This entry was posted in Adaptations, Art, Photography & Sculpture, Brideshead Revisited, Newspapers, Oxford, Photographs, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.