Last week I found myself chatting between sets, as you do, to a young, buff, absurdly attractive straight lad in a gym in the North East of England. He told me wanted to move to Miami. Why Miami? I asked. ‘I wanna be in Jersey Shore!’ he said, (which, confusingly, is now set in Miami). ‘It’s fookin’ great!!’
But now the lad — who would give Mikey ‘Situation’ Sorrentino more than a run for his protein shakes — doesn’t need to move at all. Because Jersey Shore is coming to him. MTV’s most popular ever series is being shot in the North East – as ‘Geordie Shore’.
Some years back I was asked by a British newspaper which city in Europe was the most metrosexual. ‘Newcastle’, I replied, without any hesitation. I suspect they thought I was pulling their leg. They were probably expecting Stockholm or Milan, or some such. But I was quite serious. Lads in Newcastle are the tartiest you could ever hope to find, spending more on their appearance than men in any other part of Europe. Not because they are wealthy, but because they live with their mam or in relatively inexpensive accommodation and hence have a high disposable income – which they tend to blow on looking good, being noticed and having a good time.
In Newcastle lads will check one another out (just as David Bowie said they would) and comment: ‘That’s a mint shirt/trousers/shoes man, where did you get them, like?’ But probably they know already. Newcastle is also home you see to the largest shopping centre in Europe – helpfully called the Metrocentre. Just in case any Geordie metros didn’t know where they should be spending their Saturdays. And Sundays.
The North East, once a workshop to the world, with a famously macho, hard-drinking, buttoned-down, cloth-cap culture was de-industrialised – no vaseline – by Thatcherism in the 1980s (and looks set to be hard hit by Maggie Cameron’s new wave Tory cuts). And it was around the same time the old order was being deliberately demolished that the Metrocentre was built. The North East learned that hard taught lesson about the victory of consumption over production very well indeed.
Now lads work on their bodies instead of ships or the coal face. And, if they have a job, tend to work in ‘service’ industries. Like gyms. Or call centres. And tanning salons. Tanning salons are very, very important in the sunless North East. GTL is already a way of life here. Perhaps because the loss of male semi-skilled jobs for life has rendered them less appealing to women as life-long partners, young men have tended to become decorative and fun-promising instead. Certainly their bodies have.
Geordie Shore won’t be the first time that Newcastle has made it to reality TV of course. After all, C4’s Big Brother depended on a steady supply of Geordies shunted down the East Coast Main Line – particularly Geordie metrosexuals – for most of its ten year run. It remains to be seen though whether the rest of the UK will be quite as keen on undiluted Geordies in their natural habitat.
Or understand what the fook they’re talking about. Man, pet.