Chav is a derogatory term applied to certain young people in the United Kingdom. The stereotypical "chav" is an aggressive teenager or young adult, who is usually, though not always, of working class background, who often engages in anti-social behaviour, and is often assumed to be unemployed or in a low paid job. It first appeared in English dictionaries in 2005. The term Charver is more widely used in Yorkshire and North East England.
Response to the term has ranged from amusement to criticism that it is a new manifestation of classism. One BBC TV documentary suggested that "chav" culture is an evolution of previous working-class youth subcultures associated with particular commercial clothing styles, such as mods, skinheads and casuals. The term has been associated with juvenile delinquency, the ASBO Generation and yob culture.
Burberry is a clothing company whose products became associated with the "chav" stereotype. Burberry's appeal to "chav" fashion sense is a sociological example of prole drift, where an up-market product begins to be consumed en masse by a lower socio-economic group. Burberry has argued that the brand's popular association with "chav" fashion sense is linked to counterfeit versions of the clothing. "They’re yesterday's news", stated Stacey Cartwright, the CEO of Burberry. "It was mostly counterfeit, and Britain accounts for less than 10% of our sales anyway." The company has taken a number of steps to distance itself from the stereotype. It ceased production of its own branded baseball cap in 2004 and has scaled back the use of its trademarked checkered/tartan design to such an extent that it now only appears on the inner linings and other very low-key positions of their clothing. It has also taken legal action against high-profile infringements of the brand. In August 2006, a company introducing tuk-tuk vehicles into the south coast town of Brighton, England named one the "Chavrolet", which had it painted in the distinctive Burberry tartan. However, the company soon had to withdraw this vehicle when Burberry threatened proceedings for breach of copyright.
The word may have its origins in Romani language. One suggested etymology for "chav" is that it derives from the Romani word chavo, meaning boy (cf. "yob" - a reversal of boy). This is similar to the colloquial Spanish word chaval and "Chavo", meaning "Kid" or "guy" which again is usually free from negative connotation. The Romani chavo appears to have transferred to the Nonantum, Massachusetts dialect as "chabby", though without the negative connotations of "chav". The Kentish dialect used to refer to children as "Chaveys". An alternative etymology suggests that pupils at Cheltenham Ladies' College and Cheltenham College used the word to describe the younger men of the town ("Cheltenham Average").
Many folk etymologies have sprung up around the word. These include backronyms such as "Council House And Violent".
The term "chav" has regional variations, such as "charver" in the northeast of England and "chava" in the south.
The chav "culture" has been portrayed in the British media:
* The Welsh rap group, Goldie Lookin' Chain, have been described as both embodying and satirising the chav aesthetic, though the group themselves deny any such agenda, simply making a mockery of the subject. The British car-tuning magazine Max Power once had a beige Mk3 Vauxhall Cavalier stickered to make it look like the Burberry check, named it the "Chavalier" and gave it to the band.
* Footballer Wayne Rooney and his wife Coleen, rapper Lady Sovereign, glamour model Jordan, actress Danniella Westbrook, former Big Brother contestant Jade Goody (RIP) and Kerry Katona have also been labelled "chavs" by British tabloids.
* The character, clothing, attitude and musical interests of Lauren Cooper and her friends Lisa and Ryan in the BBC comedy series The Catherine Tate Show have been associated with the "chav" stereotype. Fellow sketch comedy series Little Britain features a character with some similarities, Vicky Pollard.
* In the 2005 reality TV programme Bad Lads Army: Officer Class, a number of small time thieves and street brawlers underwent 1950s style National Service Army training to see which of them would be worthy of becoming a British Army officer. The motto of the show was to convert "chavs" into "chaps".
The large supermarket chain Asda has attempted to trademark the word "chav" for a new line of confectionery. A spokeswoman said: "With slogans from characters in shows such as Little Britain and The Catherine Tate Show providing us with more and more contemporary slang, our Whatever sweets — now nicknamed chav hearts — have become very popular with kids and grown-ups alike. We thought we needed to give them some respect and have decided to trademark our sweets."
Chavs listen to Hip Hop, Dance athems, R&b, and garage, and are stereotypically portrayed as playing it loudly through a mobile phone on the streets. They will dress in cheap tracksuits, low slung so as to show the top of their underwear, and trainers or skate shoes, with their trouser legs tucked into socks, along with the aformentioned burberry baseball cap. Female Chavs are almost always thought of as slutty, and the fact that they push up their cleavage and show their thongs obviously doesn't help dispell this stereotype.
Image from Deviantart. Info from wikipedia, last paragraph by me.