When I moved to the glorious country of England about one and a half years ago, I was terrified of this one mental image that persistently haunted my naive expatriate minds' eye. That image was the glittering, geometric logo of The Only Way is Essex and a troupe of leggy women strutting menacingly behind it.
In Belgium I went clubbing in jeans and hoodies, the concept of eyebrow-grooming was entirely foreign to me, and I had only just come around to shaving my calves, let alone bejeweling my lady parts. I hate to break it to you, English women, but on the continent you are seen as sartorial pariahs. And you have one county to thank for it: Essex.
Because 'Heat' magazine was seen as a guilty typically English pleasure (bought for about three quid from the overpriced shop geared towards furnishing EU official's wives with Jaffa Cakes) it was the majority of our exposure to fashion & celebrity culture across the channel. We soon thought we understood that the 'essexification' of fashion was entirely unavoidable and well under way - body-con bandage dresses were the norm for university nights out, and according to statistics, TOWIE prompted a growth of the UK economy in beauty products by £1.4billion.
Although I am always reassured by how fashion conscious London is, it's impossible to mistake the influence the show is having on our style and body image. At nightclubs, gaggles of girls don 'booty shorts' (because bum cleavage is the new boobs, didn't you know?) and bandeau tops, that ride dangerously low down during the energetically executed dance routines. During the day, velour is the material of choice (and you thought that died away with Katie Price long ago). Rollers in the hair has become an accessory in it's own right, displaying itself as a symbolic precursor to WAG level curls later that evening.
This style has become synonymous with a celebrity culture that puts down other women, constantly critiques the size and shape of others bodies and circles armpit hair in a condemnatory manner. This style puts breasts first, and while I believe women should be able to dress exactly as they want, the prominence of these celebrities and their countless plastic surgeries being thrust in our faces contributes to a general malaise with regards to bodies that are short of pornographic.
Women of England, I humbly ask you to pair your tan with a fantastically well made pair of leather sandals, not JustFab.co.uk stilettos. Do not contribute to the bleached, tanned, and downright predictable stereotype. We Europeans are exposed to it for too long before we move to the country for good and discover that, like many stereotypes, it is based mainly on a media that embraces these insecure and narcissistic characters because they make for fantastical journalistic revelations of juicing diets and 'maybe baby bumps.'
Whilst I welcome some elements of Essexification (everyone loves a good monster heel), I do fear a future where before entering clubs the bouncer will hold up a Pantone style colour palette to my face and refuse me entry on grounds of excessive pastiness. Put down those diamantes and let's diversify this country's fashion cred!
Image source: http://yepwecan.co.uk/uploads/2013/01/essex-gurl-web-spt.jpg