Nick Foulkes: Deck shoes ready, Boden Man is on the march

He is Saturday morning man, in khaki trousers and deck shoes


David Cameron may be the elected member of Parliament for the safe Tory seat of Witney, but his real constituency is the nationwide one of Boden Man. Boden is the smart-casual catalogue outfitter by appointment to the disenfranchised middle-aged, middle classes. He is Saturday morning man, in moleskin trousers and scuffed suede ankle boots, or khaki trousers and knackered deck shoes, a zip-fronted piece of mail-order knitwear flung hastily over a T-shirt. You will see him pushing an expensive, all-terrain pram, furled Saturday paper and cappuccino jammed under his left arm. Recently you may have seen him, harassed, rushing in late to the school carol concert, just in time to brush away a manly tear as one or other of the offspring acquits herself as a soloist in "Away in a Manger".

In today's shiny Blairite Britain, the aspirational totems are holidays in Barbados with millionaire friends, gaudy showbiz parties and a taste for fusion food. Boden Man knows this is the modern world, but can't help thinking that things are, to use a favourite expression of his, "out of whack". He remembers when Elton John was a naff, balding, bespectacled has-been; and fears that this description might now apply to him. He has suddenly woken up to find that he is trapped inside the increasingly corpulent body and thinning hair of a middle-aged wage slave ... living in a world where nobody cares which school he attended.

He does not watch Emmerdale, has no idea who Myleene Kass is, but, as a former public-school punk rocker, he is aware of bands such as Franz Ferdinand. His is a world of gastro-pub lunches, hearty weekends on the beaches of Norfolk, one week's skiing and a fortnight in colonial-length linen shorts and Panama hat, accessorised by yesterday's English newspapers while sharing a villa with an identical Boden family.

The thing is that, while he has a pretty wife (in a velvet-trimmed-cardigan-bought-at-a- Cirencester-boutique sort of way), three adorable children he truly loves, a large, impressive mortgage, and a job (usually finance, maybe law or marketing) at which he is very good, he has the nagging feeling of being left behind. He was at home at the Oxbridge, Durham or Bristol drinks parties of his university days; and he enjoyed drinking too much Chilean "claret" in his Fulham years, but he feels awkward in today's social situations; upstaged by strange-looking Prada-wearing men in their late twenties who have made a couple of million in the "new economy". Boden Men are not necessarily red-faced hoorays. Rather, they are caught between the Charybdis of the affluent world he grew up in but can no longer afford and the Scylla of 21st-century life. Beneath the over-confident "joshing", the cheerily casual chinos, and the jolly, untucked checked shirt, Boden Man cares. He once voted Labour (never again). He is getting concerned about the environment. He worries about the world his children will grow up in. He opposes the war in Iraq (although his father was in the Life Guards). He has mixed feelings about immigration (he can't reconcile media horror stories with his cheery, industrious Romanian cleaner, or the efficient Polish builders who did his side-return kitchen extension).

And then, a little like the Angel of the Lord, David Cameron descended, deus ex machina, at the Tory conference. Cameron is what Boden Man wants to be; he feels as if he knows him. Funnily enough, last Christmas he bought his wife a Smythson handbag designed by Cameron's wife. At last. Boden Man has a stake in political life, a man who talks his language.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London