TOWIE returns soon, and with it, comes the onslaught of new Essex fans who will be falling over themselves to book a TOWIE tour, peer in the window of Charlies Deli and not actually buy anything and stay in the shit Premier Inn in Brentwood. As much as true Essex-ers moan about the connotations the show brings to us natives, one thing that we can’t argue with is the boost to tourism. But what is Essex really like to outsiders? If you are planning on coming or even pitching up in Essex for an extended period of time or life, I’ve put together this handy survival guide to all things Essex to help, all taken from a book I am currently working on which is a tongue in cheek look at Essex (if you wish to publish it please feel free to contact me).
It’s incredibly hard for us Essex girls to wade through the stereotypes with those high white stilettos on. Especially as we are quite busy dancing round our handbags. I don’t know where this stereotype actually came from, because our handbags are far too expensive to put on the floor in Kosho and wait for some div to spill a glass of prosecco on. Somewhere along the lines between the Anglo-Saxon period and the last series of X Factor, Essex has got a reputation for gaudy, tacky, over the top fashion. Wherever this came from, you can’t help but argue it’s a little bit accurate. You can’t turn around in Essex for ‘customized’ pumps with added sparkle, and hair bands that look like something from a dodgy Christmas film. If Dynasty had the monopoly on shoulder pads in the 80’s, Essex has got the monopoly on diamanté’s and glitter being glued to everything in sight, even ones growler if you fancy a vajazzle.
No, not real fur. You can tell from the amount of Pet’s at Home stores and doggy clothing boutiques that Essex are a county of animal lovers. We don’t support killing animals for fashion (although we will happily slap a spider with our Primark slippers just for being in the way). No one in their right mind would been seen in Essex sporting a fresh kill, so it’s faux all the way. There are many items you can get in fur. In fact, there are things you can get in fur that you probably in your right mind wouldn’t of even known ever existed. As well as the standard fur hats and jackets, you can even get fur underwear. There’s probably some sort of fur sunglasses about that I haven’t been made aware of yet, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone in Essex starts manufacturing fur toilet seats.
If you are from Essex, you will remember the right of passage of getting a fake mink hair band when you were about 12, and then full on progressing to your pride of joy from when you were 16 – 19, a fur gilet. Many women of Essex will probably not remember where they were or what they were doing when they started their periods, but you can guarantee we all remember where we were when we got that first ever fake mink hair band, what colour it was, and what market stall it came from. Progressing from a mink hair to a fur gilet is basically like going from a crop top to a full on bra with cups and everything after being felt up by the Marks and Spencers sales assistant.
Oh we do love to spruce things up. I’m sure you would of noticed lately on Facebook if you are from Essex, the emergence of many online shops called ‘personalized by so and so’. To put it basically, what happens with these shops is that they take an ordinary product, like a Converse shoe or a top, and stick glitter and diamanté all over it to make it ‘glamorous’. You would think that with so many shops and Facebook pages, you wouldn’t be able to move for glitter in Essex, but funnily enough, you don’t actually see them in real life that often. Maybe people receive the products, and in actuality realize, ‘hmmm, this might be a bit tacky’.
Sequins and Diamantes are also a lovely thing that people in Essex like to use to ‘Customize’ (Ruin) an outfit. Unfortunately, we have no chance, as it is embeded into us from an early age. I remember being about 5 and having a top with a sequin bee on it that said ‘Buzz Off’ and trust me I insisted on wearing it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter how much of that bee ended up on the living room floor, I wore it with pride.
In the normal world, people might chuck on a tracksuit to go to the gym, or to lounge around the house. In Essex, wearing a tracksuit out in public is not only acceptable but it’s something of a fashion statement. All the more acceptable if you can find one with ‘Juicy’ emblazoned on the arse, or if you cannot afford such designer haute couture, one with a funny caption like ‘hands off’ or ‘not for sale’. You can even get personalized ones, with your name on them, in, yes, you’ve guessed it GLITTER.
Most women have a love/hate relationship with heels. My thoughts on heels go down a sliding scale throughout the evening from ‘God I look fabulous’ to ‘Oh my God I hate life, I hate my feet, and I hate Esther the toilet woman for trying to charge me £7.50 for a pair of poundshop flip flops’. The truth is, and this is a little known secret: NO ONE is comfortable in heels. It’s just not in a humans genetics to put something on that is over an inch high at one end and flat at the other and be comfortable. Not only do our feet suffer, but they are pretty bad on our backs as well. Don’t get me started on how bad they are for your bank balance, even a cheap pair will set you back £40 to £50.
Animal print and people from Essex go hand in hand like a cup of tea and a Mars bar. There’s just something about sporting what looks like dead animal that people from Essex can’t seem to get enough of. Fur, Animal print, snakeskin, you name it, we love it.
Fortunately, there are some tasteful way’s to do leopard print, but you wont see these in Essex. The choice of kill can range from a subtle scarf to a full on leopard print coat that wouldn’t make you look out of place in Colchester zoo. Even Tesco are doing Florence and Fred leopard print numbers, so you can keep warm and look like an endangered species all in one hit. You could go the whole hog like Delboy and even get a leopard print bed cover, to really show off your style. In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that some people cannot get phone signal in their own homes but civilization has progressed so much that now if you pop into QD for some cheap Diet Coke you can pick yourself up a leopard print dressing gown while in there.
By big, I mean BIG. In Essex, wearing anything other than an earring that looks like it should have a parrot perching on it is completely unacceptable. Unless you spend the evening fishing your hair out of your big silver earrings that look like the Olympics logo, you haven’t made it in life. The way the average Essex girl measures earrings is that if the hoop fits around your wrist they are just big enough. Gold hoop earrings will also do the rounds on girls from Pitsea who are about 14, but when they get old enough to go over to Bas Vegas they will graduate to a less tacky silver. In school, everyone had gold hoop earring with a little glittery ball in the middle. I am not actually joking you here. The gold earring not being gaudy enough, we needed to add glittery balls.
Beauty in Essex is taken very seriously, and it means big business for those lucky enough to have done a BTEC eyelash or nail course. To go out without the aid of false lashes, false nails, and having popped down to the electric beach is completely and utterly unthinkable in Essex. It is basically the same as walking out completely naked, minge flapping in the wind and orange peel for all to see. The motto seems to be ‘the more fake the better’. So you also need to include teeth whitening and a non-invasive brow lift to the list of things you do to get ready. If you are lucky enough to be famous, you can get your teeth whitened for free as long as you tweet a picture of yourself holding up a sign. If you are not lucky enough to be famous, you can have your gnashers bleached for about £50. This will make absolutely no different because the people in all of the photo’s advertising ‘teeth whitening’ have actually had ‘veneers’.
The Beauty Routine
Any woman will probably have some experience of having ‘cleanse, tone, moisturise’ drummed into them from a very early age. Be it some ‘Simple’ products from the pound shop, or a set of Clarins products for your face, your beauty routine is essential for looking great when you wake up. After all, if you are going to post realistic #nofilter selfies, you are going to have to take care of your skin after you have slapped all that make up on during a trial contouring session where you just can’t get one side to match the other. I took some of my mates liquids on a recent holiday because she mistakenly presumed you could take 157 bottles in your hand luggage, and even though I am a ‘beauty blogger’ I genuinely thought her toner was mouthwash and nearly drunk £10 worth of product.
Finding a Salon
I don’t know what it is the Thai woman in my local nail shop has against me, but if she has her wax any hotter when she does my eyebrows I could probably get her charged with GBH. I always vow that I will never go there again, and have always been too lazy to find somewhere else to just walk in off the street and have my eyebrows done. My best friend is actually a beautician but we are usually in too much of an inhebriated state for me to let her anywhere near anything but my tash with her wax pot, because lets face it with that area it’s kind of ‘the more the merrier’.
Must have products:
Fake tan is absolutely essential to get that orange shade of tan that everyone in Essex wears like a badge of honour. No matter how expensive or supposedly good the tan is, you will near enough always leave your bathroom looking like someone has massacred a gingerbread man. The only thing more important than the tan itself, if the tanning mitt. Not only will this help you to tan evenly, but it will keep you from looking like you have pressed your hands onto one of those Thorntons chocolate square things that have personalized icing that you used to buy your Nan for Christmas when you were ten. If you are using cream, be really vigilant about rubbing it in all over. Cream fake tan has the lovely characteristic of not showing a thing when you rub it on and developing over night so you wake up looking like a patchwork quilt. If you are using mousse, try and remember how far one squirt goes if you are using a mitt. You want to be orange, not dark brown, you are from Essex remember? If you are using tanning gel, you are an absolute nutter and I don’t even know how to talk to you. Gel is for hair. Hair only.
Lashes are another must. If you think for one second your natural eye lashes are adequate, you are as deluded as Arg from TOWIE when he claims his ‘diet starts Monday’. You can get false lashes absolutely everywhere in Essex, and I don’t think it will be too long before Nando’s start selling them. You can either go for a really thick, long set, and make it totally obvious these are not your actual lashes, or you can go a bit more subtle and have people wondering if you are just epic at mascara or if you have falsies on. The only thing you need to ensure, is that you use really good glue. There’s nothing worse than having a good old drink, rubbing your eye while being a bit tipsy and ending up with your eyelash on your eyebrow and looking like something Picasso painted.
Can you see the pattern emerging here? Yes, people in Essex are a little bit fake. Don’t tell anyone though, it’s a massive trade secret. Having your nails done is an absolute must for any occasion. Even if you just have them sorted and painted because you don’t like the way false ones ruin your natural nails, you still have to actually go to a salon or a beautician and get them done. Doing your own nails in Essex is about on the same level as someone on Made In Chelsea giving the maid a day off and doing their own washing. It’s never going to happen. In Essex, there is absolutely no reason for you to have understated nails. The more glittery and sparkly the nail varnish, the better, and Christmas is an excuse to go really out there and have all sorts done to your talons.
Eyebrow pencil, or gel
Having the perfect eyebrows is like an unattainable dream for most Essex girls. I don’t understand why, every morning, or before a night out, one eyebrow goes absolutely perfect and looks like something from a magazine, and the other eyebrow ends up smudgy and uneven and looking like the other ones ugly mate. Having a good eyebrow pencil, or gel, or powder, can at least alleviate some of the drama. Obviously, it depends on the shape and how neat they are. When your beautician tells you not to pluck the top, she means it. I know it can be challenging to stop yourself but if you want horrendous eyebrows carry on.
So you have been through the vigorous routine of making yourself look beautiful, and now you need to find someone to make that painful minge wax worthwhile. The average mating call for an Essex man is ‘Ere babe, dya want a glass of Prosecco?’ and the average mating call for an Essex woman is ‘Shall we go get Nandos?’.
Places to meet a potential suitor:
Luckily in Essex, we are not short of pretentious, over priced clubs where you can get cheap Pinot Grigio in a block colour glass and hang about around the VIP area, in hope one of the lads in there that have saved up 3 months wages to look flash will invite you in and make all of your dreams come true. Places like Sugar Hut, 195 and Villa are all out fur and glitter Essex ‘Glamour’ and now you are dressed to kill you can start shopping for your future husband. Clubs like Circuit and Kosho in Romford are actually a tad credible, so you might meet someone poor but decent in them.
Of course, in Essex, there is no reason what so ever to go to the gym other than to meet a husband. If you actually want to exercise, you would naturally just join a Zumba or Pilates class, or obtain a cross-trainer which will be used more as a coat hook than an actual mode of exercise. The gym is where the most eligible Essex bachelors hang around and talk about how much they can lift and what protein shakes they are using. If you are lucky, during this act of bravado a good looking male will meet your eye over the rowing machine, and find your faux breathlessness attractive, because you are not really exercising and are just biding time until you can reward yourself with a sauna.
The Job Centre
Yes, there is a less glamorous side to Essex, and the job centre is sometimes a prime place to meet your spouse. Have you ever watched the toothless, benefit claiming population on Jeremy Kyle? Well, where do you think they meet their significant others? Let’s face it you can get out much on £56.45 a week, so if you are one of the unlucky ones struggling to find work then this may be your only option. My advice is to ignore the guy drinking White Lightening out the front and glam up a bit for the occasion.
“How to survive in Essex” is currently being written by Essex Blogger Kelly Jackson. To find out more, to register interest in publishing, or to ask about advertising, please email email@example.com.