Isn’t it funny how in the UK we view a lot of American culture as being innately cool, somehow having a style and edge that us awkward Brits could never manage? The cars, the movies, the big dreams and bigger skies, the whole Americana-vibe is all so enticing…so seductive…so…
Aren’t we forgetting something? If there was a stand-up fistfight between British pop culture and US pop culture, there’s no doubting who the winner would be. We may be small in comparison but we can certainly punch above our weight. British pop culture is revered and respected around the globe – often copied but never equalled. We can do pop culture like nowhere else in the world – which is the secret to our appeal.
The familiar roll call of bands and icons laying claim to the Britpop label includes Oasis, Blur, Suede, Pulp, The Smiths and many more. Britpop is generally considered to have died out around the late 1990s when tastes moved on from gritty guitar rock to more electronic moods, but traces of this potent cultural waypoint in popular music still proliferate in our culture. In addition, it’s not just music that has a long reach. The same influences touch fashion, interior trends, films and TV.
The sheer number of T-shirts, dresses, even shoes and tailored suits featuring Britain’s “logo”, the Union Jack, just goes to show its currency as a “cool” marker. Despite its widespread use in all areas of fashion, from haute couture to cheapo tat, it promotes a strong sense of Britishness that is quirky, arrogant and cheeky all in one. The classic film Quadrophenia was a celebration of British pop culture back in the 60s and the fashion cues from that era still hold sway. Parkas, scooters, sharp suits and hairstyles sported by stars such as Sir Bradley Wiggins and Paul Weller remind us of the power and continuing relevance of the distinctly British Mod look.
We are so good at packaging and selling our unique Brit-brand that our iconic imagery ends up in the strangest of places. Many homes are accessorised with Union Jack scatter cushions, Routemaster mugs and telephone box quilt covers – you’ll even find vintage shutters, toilet seats and wallpaper that get the treatment.
Films and TV
Whether you like your acting heroes wizard-like and bespectacled or carrying a six-pack and a sidearm, Britain gives generously of her iconic film characters. From Shakespearian adaptations and period dramas to gritty heist movies and Carry On kitsch, we have all angles covered on the silver screen.
On television, too, our talents are enjoyed by world audiences. Quintessentially British TV exports such as Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Downton Abbey are rampant across global entertainment channels, spreading the message that Britain is a land of tea-drinking time travellers who speak like the Queen whilst solving impossible crimes.
Whether you live your life fast, furious and feisty in the manner of a Britpop bad boy, or take a more measured Sherlockian approach to life, there’s no denying that our cultural influences press in on us constantly. We are lucky to live in such rich creative times and should be justly proud of the legacy of movements such as Britpop, and their impact on the wider cultural landscape.