Monday, 14 October 2013

Red Trousers

It's amazing how quickly comedy clichés get established in (and by) the media.

Before about three week ago, I had never heard of the wearing of "red trousers" as a marker of "posh".  You may have done -- or may now think you had -- but I certainly hadn't.  Most of the posh people I've ever encountered looked positively normal (aside from the top hat, of course). Then someone mentioned on the radio that red trousers were posh because they are worn by the serious yachting crowd around Cowes, where it denotes a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron (whatever that is).  Really?  I had no idea.  You simply can't see that sort of detail from the cheap seats on this side of the Solent.

Then last week on Tuesday the estimable comic turn John Finnemore did a song "Red Trousers" -- about being posh -- on his Radio 4 Souvenir Programme.  I'm pretty sure hardly anyone would have had a clue what he was on about.  Red trousers?  Eh??

But these things have a habit of catching on.  No-one likes to feel out of the loop, comedy-cliché-wise.

By Friday the even more estimable satirical crew at Radio 4's The Now Show had a throwaway line about "red corduroy trousers" as, yes, an indication of poshness.  Red corduroy trousers?  On a yacht?  Are you sure??

Mark my words, by Christmas everyone will be saying it, without ever having (a) seen a proper posh person, or (b) a proper posh person in a pair of red trousers.  But it won't matter, because everyone knows posh people wear red trousers, and it will raise a knowing insider's laugh every time it is said.  And, as someone claimed recently (can't remember who), most people don't actually have a sense of humour, but do love to have a laugh.  So, throw someone a joke-shaped feed, and they'll find it funny.

Ed Milliband has a speech impediment!  Angela Merkel is a bit overweight and a bossy German!  Plus, she's a woman!!  Liverpudlians will steal your car's wheels! Posh people -- they wear red trousers, don't they!!

Thank you and good night.  You've been an audience, and I've been the Idiotic Hat.  I'm here all week.

Lord Snooty
 In my day, the Beano was in black & white


Rob Fuke said...

The only person who I know who wears red trousers, well, jeans actually, also went to Eton. There does therefore seem to be some empirical foundation in the expression.

Will I be hunted down for saying this?

Mike C. said...

You may find yourself being hunted down by the posh person in question -- apparently it's another thing they do.


Anonymous said...

You're well behind the loop, mate - there's been a website devoted to the RT phenomenon since 2011 here. The current flurry of attention to RTs comes from a story in the Torygraph back in August, which got a response from the Guardian here. And the general feeling is that, indeed, they're mostly seen on poshos, although RTs are increasingly being taken up by hipsters. I had a pair of RTs once - back in 1972 or so. Made me feel like a baboon on heat. I believe I wore them twice.


Mike C. said...


As long ago as August, eh? I suppose that's practically last century, in newspaper terms.

I put my hand up to being behind the loop, fashion-wise, though I'm surprised I hadn't noticed this one developing before.

Interestingly, I see that a hardback reissue of Lord Snooty strips has coloured his trousers red on the cover, rather than pinstripe, which is the worst kind of revisionist hindsight!


Struan said...

Out here in Euroland, red jeans have been a sure sign of a German for many a year. Not really class based.

Red trousers and hacking jackets has been an established look among a certain type of well-heeled student (remember Sloan Rangers?) for a number of years. I don't know if they got the idea from Germany, but the look is generic Euro-posh.

The Leander rowing club wears pink trousers and ties. Nobody dares snigger, at least not to their faces.

Mike C. said...


Following my extensive research on the subject (a whole 30 mins last night) I'm also now aware of pink shorts, and the full range of nuances of RTs, as we in the In-Crowd call them.

The fact that Jonathan Ross is a notorious RT wearer, at one extreme, and that the Royal Yacht Battalion are at the other, suggests that this phenomenon has nuances that go way beyond "posh" or "hipster", passing through "vulgar", "ostentatious", and "stupid" on the way...

I can see I need to broaden my social circle.


Zouk Delors said...

My dad wore red trousers as a young man. Posh? I think not. Snazzy* probably.

*The esteemed blogist will interpret for his international readership.

Mike C. said...


I'm surprised you could get red trousers pre-1960, without joining a cavalry regiment. CP issue, maybe...