'My uncle likes Tazos, but his collection's crap'

Howard Byrom gets patronised by the ultra-cool nine to 11-year- olds of Clapham and W11
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The current cool hang-out for London's Ultra-Youth is a new skate park beneath the Westway in fashion ground zero, London W11. Eleven-year-old Dan is sporting a T-shirt menacingly emblazoned with the word "Puberty". What does he think of all the attention being directed at his peers by adults?

"Well, I'd kill my dad if he started dressing like me," he says with a grimace. "I don't mind him watching my programmes, as long as I can watch some of his. He's got Fantasy channel." Louis, also 11, wearing a camouflage helmet, reckons he's got adults sussed. "My Uncle Matt swaps Tazos with me," he says. "I've got the don collection, but his is crap, man. He just says after all those crisps he's putting on a lot of weight. He's pretty good at Streetfighter though."

The kids in the skatepark are aged 11 to 15. They're dressed uniformly in outrageously baggy pants, further emphasised by the knee-pads worn beneath. They've mastered the in-line skates, and now they're trying their hand at intimidation. "When I was young, I watched stuff like Pingu. Now I listen to Jungle on Bassline FM. Hanson suck big time," says Wayne, 12. He adjusts his sneer. "Do you have a Rizla?"

All of them are clued into the sophisticated gameplays of N64 and PlayStation and the satirical subtexts of The Simpsons. Sez, a smart kid in his final year at a south London junior school, outlines what we all wanted to know but were too afraid to ask - just what exactly is a gameplay? "There's four types - Racing, Beat-em-ups, Platforms, and Shoot-em-ups. Okay?" It's a strange feeling to be patronised by a 11-year-old. What about real toys? Does he have an Action Man? "Don't make me cry, man," he laughs, "I don't play with toys any more." What about Tamagotchi, all the rage among "Big Kids"? His friend Natasha joins in. "They're no good, if they die you have to throw them away. They're just disposable, really."

These kids are well aware that adults are biting their style and they're onto us. "Now my mum likes my trainers. She's starting to wear my shoes," says Hayley, 11. She laughs at the irony. Aren't the girls these days into the big-soled sisterhood, girl power and all that? "Have you seen that Spice Girls advertisement?" Rowena asks with disdain. "They show all their knickers in the posters. If I had enough money I'd buy them all a long skirt."

Joshua and Isaac, age nine, are at Clapham Manor Primary School in London and they're discussing the pros and cons of Pentium and Macintosh. Joshua's hair is in braids and he's wearing sweats and skate shoes. Isaac has a denim shirt and Nikes on. They're better dressed than most people twice their age.

There used to be a simple solution for kids who were too smart for their own good, but these days you can't beat them: the only alternative is to indulge them. "We've got our own band, called Atomica. He plays drums and I play guitar," claims Joshua. Isaac goes bananas: "I named it after a superhero I made up. I'm also the merchandise manager." Sorry? "I manage the merchandise," Isaac reiterates. "Yeah, he is," adds Joshua, "but I'm the graphic artist."

Hanson have opened the baby-boy-band floodgates. "That one out of Hanson's only two years older than us," says Joshua. Do they realise then that in two years they'll be past it? "No, man, cos we're gonna be the youngest. I've got loads of connections," boasts Isaac. "I know this old woman from an American record company." Who said youth was wasted on the young?

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