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.

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