Essex Man is a political term used in the United Kingdom to describe a person of a working class background, with aspirations to own property and shares. Usually used as an insult, the term implied a stereotypical white lower middle-class Tory supporter who drove a Ford, lived in a council house (subsidized housing), resented foreigners and avoided tax wherever possible.
The term Essex Man refers to a group of people who live in the southeast of England (not always in the county of Essex), but the true Essex Man lived at the London end of Essex - his parents were genuine eastenders who had moved out of London after the Second World War destroyed much of London's East End.
In normal times most of these people would probably have voted for the Labour Party but not in the '80s. Essex men and women were the bedrock of support for Margaret Thatcher in her three election victories, and their unofficial spokesman was Norman Tebbit, a local Member of Parliament and a loyal supporter of Mrs. Thatcher.
The OED lists the earliest reference to the Essex man as one from 1990 in The Sunday Telegraph although it is believed to have been in use from the mid-1980s. Harold Wilson coined the phrase Selsdon man in the 1970s to describe a person with comparable characteristics and this helped influence the creation of the term. Owing to the similarities in the politics of Thatcher's Britain and Reagan's America the contemporary term Reagan Democrat is roughly analogous to Essex man.
Essex man's wife was naturally Essex Girl. She is typified as being brash, vulgar, promiscuous, wearing short skirts and white stiletto-heels. She less of a political stereotype than Essex man and more of a focus for blonde jokes although she is never portrayed as a natural blonde.
An example of an Essex girl joke:
- How does an Essex girl turn on the light after sex?
- She kicks open the car door.
Portraits of Essex man include Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney and Ian Dury's Billericay Dickie. The character Pauline Calf by Steve Coogan is a prime example of Essex girl.
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