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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 16:47 GMT

Our Decade: New Lad rules the world

The 1990s. Been there, seen it, done it, bought the T-shirt. But how will the last decade of the millennium be remembered? As we approach 2000, many people are looking back over the past 100, even 1,000 years. E-cyclopedia, the guide to modern living, is staying closer to home with a five-part series on "our decade".

Stroll into your corner shop, and what confronts you? Without even glancing at the top shelf, there's a naked Pamela Anderson, a naked Caprice in diamond-encrusted handcuffs, a smouldering bikini-clad Emma B and a scantily dressed Mariah Carey. If you're a New Lad, lucky you.

Rewind just a few years, and who would you have seen staring at you from the magazine racks? Gerard Depardieu, perhaps. Sean Connery almost certainly. Nick Faldo quite possibly. For these were the days of the New Man.

[ image: Front page nudes]
Front page nudes
New Man, as identified by Sean O'Hagan in Arena, was sensitive, charming, considerate. He hoped one day to own an Audi and an Armani. But he'd do the housework and not be afraid to shed a tear.

But then in 1993 Loaded happened, and nothing was the same again. New Man was dead, long live New Lad. Now it's hard to find magazines or newspapers which haven't been influenced by "him" in some way.

Tim Southwell, one of the founders and now editor of Loaded, wrote in his recently published history of the magazine, Getting Away With It (Ebury Press, 9.99), that there had never been an intention to replace New Man with New Lad.

The magazine's message was simple. It was, he wrote: "[D]on't take us too seriously, we're blokes and we're useless. . .We like football, but that doesn't mean we're hooligans. . .We like looking at pictures of fancy ladies sometimes but that doesn't mean we want to rape them."

Live for the moment

Speaking to BBC News Online, Southwell said he doubted New Lad existed, but said: "If he exists now, then he existed throughout the 20th Century and the entire millennium. If it means anything, I suppose it means someone who wants to live life for the moment and has very little regard for direct responsibility in his life."

[ image: David Baddiel and Frank Skinner revelled in football fantasies]
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner revelled in football fantasies
The main thing that changed was that people weren't ashamed to admit they were into football, and liked to go out drinking. Martin Deeson is quoted in Southwell's book saying: "Loaded clocked on to what we all knew anyway; there was another England but no one had ever championed it. In fact people felt genuinely embarrassed about it."

The importance humour had for New Lad should not be underestimated, and not just in men's magazines. Comedian Frank Skinner signalled the new agenda when, in 1991, he won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival with a decidedly un-PC approach. In the 1980s, "Alternative Comedy" under Ben Elton's stewardship, had stood for many things, in particular being non-sexist. That, however, was the 1980s.

Unhealthy passions

The new trend spread far and wide. The appetite for irreverence and informality which the magazine had whetted seemed to grow by what it was fed on. Magazines, newspapers, television programmes, and radio followed suit. So did books.

[ image: Danny Baker, Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne on the town in 1997]
Danny Baker, Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne on the town in 1997
The success of Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch helped to make an unhealthy passion for football a thoroughly respectable interest to discuss at dinner parties. The flames of national collective emotion which seemed to start with Gazza crying in the 1990 World Cup were fanned by the book. Euro 96 and the 1998 World Cup basked in the heat of the flames. (UK teams still lost, though.)

Gazza, who seemed more lad than new, filled the newspapers for years, memorably with drinking tales involving two fine practitioners of the movement, Chris Evans and Danny Baker. New Laddism was even embraced by sections of the female population. Girls and women were no strangers on the terraces and Girl Power swaggered around the pop charts, inculcating a generation of girls with attitude.

[ image: Martin Clunes behaving himself]
Martin Clunes behaving himself
By the end of last year the movement wielded such power that the hit television comedy Men Behaving Badly filled a Christmas Day special with masturbation jokes. Anyone watching with mother could be excused for shuddering with embarrassment.

As the 90s draw to a close, it's not clear where the New Lad goes from here. Loaded is not as explicit as it once was, perhaps leading the way, while other magazines such as the once ultra-respectable GQ have a nipple count to rival the Daily Sport.

"I've no idea where it's going next," says Southwell. "But then again I'm not really that bothered."

You may like to consider these associated terms and concepts:
Fantasy Football League, Three Lions (1996 and 1998), Statto, Kathy Lloyd, Baywatch, The Girlie Show, TFI Friday and that whole Radio One breakfast show mullarkey, Zoe Ball, Fast Show's nouveau footie fan, stag weekends in Dublin or Prague, Trainspotting, They Think it's All Over, Ben Sherman shirts, hard drinking women, bad-lad music, Pot Noodle adverts, hedonism, trivia obsession, Phil Tufnell, havin' a LARF, ooh ahh, good work fella, sorted, dodgy, large it, Keith Allen, Country House and/or Parklife, Damien Hirst, lager lager lager, Champagne Supernova, Vindaloo, anything being acceptable if its "ironic", over-priced football shirts, bottled beers with complicated tops, Mediaeval Baebes, Ian Wright, Des Lynam, Vic and Bob, Ulrika, All Spice, Melinda Messenger.

E-cyclopedia can be contacted at

The next part in this series, looking at the way pop has eaten itself in the 90s, will be published tomorrow.

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