The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Britain turns into nation of slobs

London, Aug. 29: According to the stereotype the British have of Indians, we are scrupulous about our personal cleanliness but remarkably tolerant about being surrounded by filth. Anyone who is familiar with Calcutta, especially the vegetable markets in Shyambazar, will acknowledge there is quite a lot of truth in this stereotype.

And while the two nations are trading insults, there is one the Indians have always flung at the British — when they bathe, they like to wallow in their own dirty water (no matter many now shower).

Today, in a surprise survey, the British are handing over a huge amount of ammunition to their detractors.

Almost one in five men dig out dirty underwear from the washing basket if there is nothing clean to put on. In brief, the UK has become “a nation of slobs” who think nothing of going out wearing dirty clothes, especially unclean underwear, the survey suggests.

This overturns the notion that a woman invariably insists on wearing clean underwear “in case I am knocked over by a bus and have to be examined by a doctor”. Lingerie manufacturers also capitalise on the philosophy that a woman feels better about herself if she is wearing pretty underwear.

The survey of 1,000 people was commissioned by the washing powder brand Persil which clearly wants to sell more of its product but cannot fudge the figures.

The survey shows 60 per cent of men and 54 per cent of women think the UK is becoming a nation of “slobs”. While 48 per cent of those aged between 18 and 24 hold the view, the figure rises to 77 per cent among over 55s.

Almost two-thirds of men and 60 per cent of women believe people care less about clean clothes than a generation ago. This is certainly curious because another survey would certainly confirm that the British are more fashion conscious than a generation ago, helped by icons such as the footballer David Beckham.

Andrew Watson, spokesman for Persil, emphasised this point when he said: “Even though many young adults think it is no big deal to occasionally walk out of the house in a white shirt that isn’t pristine, that doesn’t mean that they don’t care about how they look.”

But this disturbing survey reveals that that the one thing that is not next to Britishness is cleanliness. Many people are apparently happy to put on grubby garments because they “cannot be bothered” to do any washing. While the poll has found that men are generally the least hygienic, the standards of cleanliness of many women have also slipped.

In the new and more relaxed Britain, where it is “dress down Friday” every day in many offices, men are no longer expected to stick to white or blue shirts — not even in conservative banks. Nor are they expected to wear dark pinstripe suits.

In today’s Britain, three out of 10 men think nothing of going to work with a stain on their shirt if there are no meetings planned. The figures rise to almost half if it is a family occasion.

Women have higher standards, though 17 per cent said they would be happy to wear a stained blouse to work or go out with friends. Nearly half believe it is acceptable to wear a dirty blouse if they are meeting up with family. And 8 per cent of women admit wearing soiled underwear.

The British cannot afford the equivalent of dhobis since a shirt would cost £2 to launder but the majority of homes have washing machines and most areas launderettes.

Email This Page