The Art of Ladding
Arrived at the scene. Lads from football, The Ravers. A house for pre-drinks. It’s just the boys. In and out like a hurricane. Dark Fruits everywhere. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink. Top dogs, runts of the litter. Talk about the girls. Isn’t it all just numbers? Toothbrush down the pants. Defile someone’s bedroom. Everything’s a joke. Let’s all hit the town. Kissing girls at the cherry’s. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink. Move onto the next. Making a fool of myself. It’s all just a laugh. A stranger’s bike in a bush. Piss in the alleyway. Wheeeey, bump into mates. Tell them about the exploits. Frog through a window. Compare the numbers. One has been with ten. One claims he’s been with a ten. Branded with a marker. All of us swap phones. Prank call the uni. “Fuck off Mum, you silly cunt”. Everybody laughs. Get to the night club. Try to find the freshers. Get the snakebites in. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink. Find one that you like. The lads will hear about this. Pulling the fresher. The story told at breakfast.
All in a night’s work.
The pursuit of Joy. Creating memories. Strength and courage. Self-improvement. Seizing the day.
Less the philosophies of Confucius and Aristotle, and more embodied by Stephen Bear and that kid in your halls who always ends up with a traffic cone on his head after a heavy session. These five principles, powerful, profound, are captured in the very essence of Lad Culture. But are they principles that justify its existence?
Writing about Lad Culture is less of an intellectual inquisition, and more like taking a tac to a raw nerve. It, or at least some aspects – some red flags, or implications – are of deep importance, both personally, and socio-politically; with misogynistic and anti-social behaviour dominating their reputation. So, when I talked about my idea for this article, it was of no surprise that brows either raised or furrowed. I was going to be defending Lad Culture. You can be as neutral and objective as you like, of course, but the dye needs to be cast eventually. To support or to defy. To demonise or defend. You are either a humble anthropologist purporting life amongst the primates, or a gorilla taught to tell his story in sign language. Obviously, my side has been revealed. I was on the defence. Not quite devil’s advocate, not quite John Terry belly sliding across South African turf at the World Cup ready to take a full kick of a football to the noggin for his country. I am, merely, someone who believes there is method to the madness of Lad Culture.
People’s association of Lad Culture concerns its more objectionable aspects. Whether it be the mere obnoxious, or the down-right criminal, there is an evident toxicity to the Art of Ladding. The quantification of everything; everything being a number, a means to score points, people and behaviour become delineated to numeracy. Excessive alcohol consumption, and sometimes drugs. A materialism surrounding clothes, image and aesthetics, where the signifiers that tether someone to their in-group become more important than the substance of the man – to the extent where the personality leaks out and the residues are the darker aspects of the human condition. Narcissism, a lack of concern for welfare, a manipulation of others for acclaim or hierarchy. In sum, a vindication of destructive or anti-social behaviour – always just for a laugh.
After all this, I still seek to defend Lad Culture. There is an art behind it – a beauty, an essence: one that captures five truly profound aspects of life. Just like a painting of a few thousand strokes, under the surface, there is meaning.
One marker of Lad Culture, perhaps standing out amongst all the rest, is hedonism. Whether to a reckless or repugnant extent, there is always enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. Sometimes we find the content of the pursuit obnoxious, but the pursuit of joy, perpetually, relentlessly, is something we could all aspire to. It might just be what makes life great.
There is merit in the quantity of experience as well as the quality, and wisdom in advocating the happiness of pursuit over the pursuit of happiness.
Pushing boundaries in the pursuit of joy – without causing genuine harm to another – leads to resonating experiences, an intensity of sensation not achieved in every day life, and the creation of memories. Memories, in how they are formed and how we hold onto them, are a direct measure of our life’s very aesthetic. We can break down the notion of our self to distinct and fleeting sensory experiences, bodily parts, and emotions, leaving only memory to connect and unify us as an entity. Creating resonating experiences weaves the fabric of who we are and has a powerful effect in moulding the narrative of our lives.
Courage is another principle embedded within Lad Culture. In the rites of initiation, into whatever version of the sub culture one seeks to be a part of, one must, necessarily, push boundaries. Of self, overcoming inhibition - and of society, casting aside the judgement of the populous; the eyes and ears of conformity. This doesn’t merely consist of having the steel to do what it takes to be part of the in-group, but also what is necessary to embody an ideal: the tale, enjoyment for others, enjoyment itself, communion. Even in the most trivial components of Lad Culture we find the guts and guile that stand in opposition to inhibition and timidity: to dress flamboyantly, to pursue the opposite sex, to resign worry and seek joy in settings of uncertainty and volatility.
Next, care and consideration are put on the aesthetic. Particularly among the Cheeky Lads – the Stephen Bear’s, the Scotty T’s, the Joey Essex’s. The Lad is an object in this sense. Not a static entity, but dynamic, always improving upon each component of himself. If one could take a single boson from their attire, dust it off and put it back into place, the Lad would. Self-improvement is an almighty aspect. Everything must be refined, made better, and primed for effectiveness. The attire, the hair, the body, the patter. Better means, better ends. It could seem shallow, taking yourself apart as if just a concoction of material properties, but perhaps that is all we are. Joey Essex may not be an enlightened Buddhist scholar purporting phenomenal entities, perpetually transforming, but there is a wisdom in breaking yourself down from a supposed whole into definable entities, each of which tweakable. One’s problems and shortcomings bare less heartache when one has a great sense of momentum. Onwards. Upwards.
Grabbing life by the horns, and doing it fervently, and doing it with people that will push you, the Lad aims to seize the day. This is something that has merit in and of itself. With the decline of religion, people become disenfranchised with the sentiments that once guided life, so the notion that all we have before us are the days left in the old ticker is a valid foundation to work from. Filling each circadian cycle with as many exciting experiences as possible becomes a wholly rational decision. Tragedy will befall us, and we’ll grow up to hate our bosses (and maybe even our spouse and kids),
but at least if we worship time – or our lack thereof – we might just open our eyes to what truly matters: Joy, memories, strength and courage, self-improvement, carpe diem.
One thing I must say, as the piece draws to an end, is that this article is not a complete vindication of Lad Culture. I’m not saying let it be, or boys will be boys, or making light of any of the dangerous aspects of it. These 5 aspects that Lad Culture captures are perhaps the purest that any group, person, or entity can look to pursue. Ends do not always justify the means though. Simply: we mustn’t look to Lad Culture as an essential whole that is to be judged with a simplistic swipe right or left, but as a morphing unit made up of people, their thoughts and actions. We must deal with the specific problems of Lad Culture, case by case, but inculcate the purer principles it encompasses. At the very least, give Lad Culture some Lad points for its merits.
by Matthew Rodger