Appropriation of the Working Class – Is “Edgy Leeds” Really a Thing?

Leeds is a middle-class university. Most students you will meet at Leeds are from London, or the surrounding counties. Within my first few days of uni here I quickly realised that us working class students are in the minority. But as a green fresher I was so confused as to why students, who were undoubtedly wealthy, were dressing like people from my council estate – that’s when I was introduced to Edgy Leeds

Classism and Edgy Leeds culture are undoubtedly entwined.  The appropriation of the working class by southern, rich, middle class students founds Edgy Leeds culture; and when I say Edgy Leeds we all picture the same stereotype. But to those that aren’t familiar with Edgy Leeds here’s how to be fully Edgy Leeds:

  1. You have to be dressed in Church’s kilo sale’s finest and hit the streets of LS6
  2. Remark that the homeless (who are wearing similar clothes to you) are making the place look ‘scruffy’.
  3. You MUST tell every person you come across that you’re ‘so broke’ because you spent your weekly allowance on coke, before you run back to your house in Hyde Park that you don’t even pay for because ‘the bank of mum and dad pays’. 

Rich kids for some absurd reason like to hide behind a smoke screen of ‘working class’ and being poor. They cover themselves in Adidas tracksuits and ‘wavey garms’ to look cool. But when a visibly poorer student wears branded clothing they’re mocked for punching above their weight and dressing out of their league?

Being poor or acting poor, isn’t cool. But that’s what Edgy Leeds is all about, we have a warped sense of what’s cool or not. Rich Kids dressed in edgy bits and bobs will come into lectures, clasping their chilli’s bottles and MacBooks. Its laughable how extremely privileged people fetishize working class culture and not having enough, when in fact they have it all. It easy for middle-class students at uni to own the odd top from a charity shop, when for worse off students their entire wardrobes are charity shops clothes, not by choice. 

As millennials we pride ourselves on being woke, we wouldn’t black face or dress in culturally insensitive outfits, so why do we think its ok to appropriate the working classes? As a working class student, I’m ridiculed for my accent, my lack of expensive items of clothing and socially isolated when I can’t afford the same nights out as my middle-class peers. 

So yeah, I do think that Edgy Leeds is the appropriation of working class culture and we need to change it. 

 Zahra Iqbal