Is your ice cream hip enough to eat? Eleanor Bailey investigates the cult of flava
Ancient Britons thought the call of the first swallow heralded the arrival of summer. These days, it's more likely to be the romantic crack of someone biting into the first Magnum of the season. Yes, the ice-cream van cometh, and now, alongside traditional fears of weight-gain and dribbles on T-shirts, comes a new nightmare - is your ice cream hip enough?

If you can't argue the merits of Ben & Jerry's Wavy Gravy (four different types of chocolate) over new-from- the-States Chubby Hubby (peanut butter and pretzel) you may never be invited again. Ben & Jerry scores points over Haagen-Dazs for being harder to get hold of, ethically sound and mysteriously cultish. But the sexy Swedes still have their supporters. "You can tell a lot about a brand by the way they make their chocolate ice cream," observes Amanda, 28, an ice-cream junkie and graphic designer who only eats Haagen-Dazs. "Ben & Jerry's tries too hard. A real ice-cream lover doesn't need all those fudgy, swirly bits. H-D is more of a beautiful person's ice cream." To make a really haute couture fashion statement, aim for something more upmarket and obscure. Sue Cloke, a buyer at Harvey Nicks, suggests Rocombe Farm ice-cream and Orchard Maid's frozen yoghurt - the AbFab choice of the Patsys and Edinas.

The Mars Bar Ice Cream has fallen from grace. Sheer novelty-factor made it good for a few summers, but that has now worn off. "The market for chocolate-bar ice creams has gone a bit stale," believes a Marketing Week insider. Birds Eye Wall's is attempting to raise the cred of the crooner's favourite, Cornetto, with the Wall's SenseStation, a mobile multimedia activity centre where visitors can find out how a Cornetto is made. But it is still sadly dated in feel.

Magnums are certainly enormously popular, but they're far from cool, according to Bean, a 25-year-old club dancer. "Magnum is the Yorkie of ice cream," he says. "It's admitting you are a gut bucket. Not discerning, just greedy. If I ate one at all, I'd eat it in private." Bean favours the ice pop and clubbers like the fruity, childish image of lollies like Zoom and Fab.

Buying ice cream from a van is ironically fashionable in a Jarvis Cockerish sort of way. Consequently, Lyons Maid has seen a comeback in cool in a similar way to Adidas. "Esquire-man would either buy Ben & Jerry's or the most obscure, retro, Funny Face ice cream that was only available in a van in Sidmouth," says Esquire shopping editor Rebecca Letty. "Haagen- Dazs would seem rather obvious - a bit like carrying a Durex in your pocket." True lads, by contrast, will want to follow men's mag Eat Soup's recipe for chilli ice cream - a dessert a man can eat without risking his vindaloo and 13 pints image. But in the final analysis, there's only one way to decide whether your brand of ice cream is cool. Imagine it in the corner at a party and ask yourself what it would look like and whether you'd want to be seen with it. Well, would you?