@BoakandBailey have you read pub watching by Desmond Morris?
— Sláinte Claus (@iamreddave) January 4, 2015
When Dave Tweeted the above at us last week, even before responding, we had ordered a copy of the 1993 book in question from Amazon for £2.81, delivered.
Pubwatching with Desmond Morris, despite his name and face on the cover, was actually written by anthropologist Kate Fox, based on research commissioned by the Brewer’s Society. It packs a lot of observations into its 64 pages: there are notes on types of pubgoer, games, typical pub conversations and etiquette, among other subjects. Of greatest interest to us, however, was an attempt to categorise pubs as they were at the turn of the 1990s.
Even if no such attempt can ever be definitive, every time someone tries, it is illuminating in some way. If nothing else, such exercises provide a snapshot of a particular point in time, and a particular perspective, as with the academic paper on pubs and bars in British cities c.2001 we stumbled upon last year.
The Morris/Fox categories from 1993 were:
1. The Serious-traditional pub, where ‘greater importance is attached to the authenticity of the ales’, customers are ‘middle class, and in the 25-50 age group’ and include ‘students… social workers, teachers, university lecturers and other dedicated non-profit-making professionals’, some of them ‘members of CAMRA… who are drinking for a cause, as well as for the taste’.
2. The Circuit pub, ‘Also known as “Trendy” pubs “Fun” pubs “Venue” pubs or “Disco-bars”’, where ‘bright lights are an essential feature’, along with ‘posing platforms’. Customers are 18-25, ‘spend the evening parading from pub to pub within a well-defined area, often staying long enough only for one drink’, and ‘will be in their very best “gear”’.
3. The Family pub, ‘a fairly recent phenomenon’, some of which ‘will be very easy to spot, even from a moving car full of frustrated kids’, and a good example of which will be ‘a real pub that welcome children, not a McDonald’s with horse-brasses’.
4. The Estate pub, ‘perhaps the most interesting of pub types, and… probably the most genuinely traditional’. They ‘cater to a particular local population rather than a “customer type” desired by the publican’. They have a ‘comfortable shabbiness’ and a ‘lived-in feel’, and service is ‘Friendly, but never ingratiating… there will be no… attempts to make you feel important’.
5. The Student pub: ‘Students do not so much visit a pub as occupy it. Their bags and coats will be strewn around over tables and chairs. When no seats are available, they will sit in circles on the floor’. The furniture is ‘robust and well-used’, the walls covered with both typical pub nick-knacks and ‘ill-printed posters’. (‘Poly students look like normal people’!)
6. The Yuppie pub (our favourite) is ‘to be found in most city centres, in the smarter areas of town’; customers will be ‘dressed in the latest upmarket fashions, some complete with mobile phones and slimline portable computers’. They drink wine and ‘the latest designer lager’. ‘You will find none of the ubiquitous “job-lot” Victoriana here’, says Fox, but you may well see ‘scrambled eggs with smoked salmon served in miniature frying pans’; ‘The decor… may appear to have few home-like features, but then many yuppie homes give the same impression.’
We’ve already given ourselves a headache trying to map those categories over today’s landscape: Serious-traditional still exists, of course, but where do BrewDog bars fit in? Part Yuppie pub, part Student pub, but with some well-hidden Serious-traditional tendencies?