"Women are realising that lads are good enough for flirting and drinking with, but an environmental warrior like Swampy is so much more sexy," says Mandi Norwood, editor of Cosmopolitan. "You might have to clean under his fingernails, but he's brave and courageous and wants to change the world. You'd have a far better sex life with someone like him than someone with the snotty arrogance of Chris Evans."
The rise of Swampyism signals a cultural change. Its Messiah possesses neither a Brit-pop haircut, nor a Pamela Anderson fridge-magnet, nor a season ticket to Highbury, and is more likely to be found sweating over a shovel than a vindaloo. "I was brought up with manners," he said in a recent interview. "If I burp I say 'Excuse me'. I don't put my elbows on the table. I want to be remembered as the person who succeeded in stopping the madness."
T.he evidence of a waning fad for lads is all around. Recently Newcastle Brown Ale, fluid symbol of male virility and all things Gazza, was caught sneakily repositioning itself away from testosterone-loaded slogans such as "Size Is Important". Pressed to explain how come the Broon was going soft, the brand director admitted that laddism had "peaked". This month saw the launch of a new ad for McEwans lager featuring six blokes on their way to the pub for a night out. One is late - not because he got laid on the way home from work or because the match went into extra time, but because he was helping an old lady off the bus. One small step for men, a giant leap for mankind.
"The type of man we're depicting here knows who he is, is loyal to his friends and will stand up for what he believes in," says a spokeswoman for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. Someone a bit like Swampy? "Ooh, yes," she says. The new McEwans slogan is "It's what we stand for". Standing for something more noble than the right to fart in public is suddenly all right again.
"Swampy's building a motorway through our ideas of masculinity," Phil Hilton, editor of Men's Health magazine, says. He salutes the end of laddism. "Male and female roles are breaking down a little and that can only be a good thing. Men might be able to have some feelings or a healthy relationship. Women might feel more able to be sexually aggressive. Men might even start going to Jane Campion films ... anything's possible."
A "symposium" on 22 April featuring editors of the men's magazines which are to laddism what such texts as The Female Eunuch are to feminism may be evidence that the market is running scared. Glossy breasts-and- soccer mags such as Loaded and Maxim, after all, have a vested interest in laddism, their senior staff the graduate lager louts who dreamed the whole thing up in the first place.
After several attempts at communication with the various lad titles have been deflected by voice mail, answerphones and soft-voiced girl receptionists, one young woman eventually picks up the phone at Loaded. "Laddism may well be dead elsewhere but it's certainly alive and well in our office," she says. "It's Friday afternoon. All the blokes are down the pub."
A million miles away at Runway Two, Manchester Airport, Swampy's not available for comment either. Perhaps the new man for the millennium is down his local enjoying a pint of McEwans, the lager that helps old ladies? No, the eco-warrior's out there battling against the forces of darkness before another night in the tree-tops with his Finnish girlfriend, Merry.Reuse content