This is a topic that’s been playing on my mind for a while. I’ve been stuck between writing it, rewriting it and holding it on draft, just because I’ve never been absolutely sure of the right angle to take. However, I’ve never been one to shy away from a sensitive subject and these kind of frank and open conversational posts are my favourite to write, so having just returned from a trip to Paris, the timing and thought processes seemed to align perfectly to ask ‘is blogging only for the middle class’?
When I refer to “middle class”, I’m referring to a certain level of wealth/certain status and background that facilitates blogging. Starting out and developing as a blogger is not cheap. I’m calling bullshit on the ‘you can just use your iPhone to take outfit pictures!’ because whilst it’s a perfect starting point (I used my iPhone for a long while), if you want to progress your blogging into a career, it’s not realistic. Even Instagram content is largely taken on wifi enabled cameras now, allowing high quality imagery and super sharp pics to be sent directly to the editing apps. Blogging comes at a cost, and that’s a real cost that comes from your pocket because ain’t nobody getting paid when they first start out.
In this zero bullshit zone, we also have to be honest about how much we spend on the latest “it” items to populate our feeds. As fashion bloggers we all have our own individual style, but when a cult product comes out, we all want it because we want to be seen in it – we aren’t immune to trends. The puffa jacket, for example. They’re everywhere. I have one. You have one. The next fashion blogger has one. They are wonderful pieces of clothing, and as much as we buy things because we love them, there is also the reminder in the back of our heads that we don’t want to be the last to be seen in them. We want to look like we know what we’re doing. (As a quick note here, I’m obviously not representing all fashion bloggers, I’m just being blunt about my personal experiences in order to give an honest opinion on the topic in hand.)
With all of the expensive tech in mind and the constant cycle of shopping, do bloggers have to come from fairly comfortable families in order to get going?
The answer is no, but it does help.
I come from a one-parent family and grew up in a council house. I got my first job just as I was turning 13, working on a burger van with my mum. I made teas, buttered rolls and took orders from truck drivers and dock workers. It was not glamorous and certainly wasn’t the quintessential way for a 13 year old to spend their Saturdays, but it meant that I could spend the rest of the weekend shopping in Primark with my hard earned £40, grabbing slogan tees that I loved.
Before I started blogging, I had saved up my wages and Christmas/birthday money to buy my first DSLR camera. It was a second hand Canon, and I used it to photograph my friends in a way that I was sure would catch the eyes of Vogue. Years passed and I sold it, saving up again to buy a Canon 40d. At 17 I started blogging, and despite having a good camera, took undeniably crap photos of myself posing in my garden (self-timer was king). At this stage I wasn’t really serious about blogging, so the hard work stopped and going off to uni, I desperately needed the cash. I sold the DSLR – probably spunking the money on getting pissed – and continued to think about what I really wanted to do with my life.
Unsurprisingly, I came back to blogging. I loved photography, I loved fashion and I loved showing those off, so it was natural that I fell back into it. At this point I was so strapped for cash and in such a shitty headspace that I could barely afford train tickets home, let alone a DSLR camera, so my willing ex-boyfriend would take snaps of me on his iPhone and I would add lens glare and funky effects with various apps (if you scroll way down my feed you will see some legendary examples!). When I started blogging again I was trying really hard, and I was frustrated that I was getting no recognition from brands or bloggers because the picture quality simply wasn’t up to scratch. I had no money, but I needed a camera to progress.
So I saved, and I worked, and I sacrificed, and eventually I got there and was able to buy a Canon 700D. Of course then, I needed to buy the 50mm lens, so I saved, and I worked, and I sacrificed. I had credit cards that haunted me (which have now been cleared, thank God) and a lot of overdraft notices, but I got there. At this point I feel it’s important to say that this is not a ‘look how hard I worked’ story, because I would have sacrificed that in an instant to have the advantages that others may have had. Working in Sainsburys did not build my character, it just made me hate retail (and middle managers). This is also not an attempt to demonise those who have had help from their family – who wouldn’t want that?! – it’s just an attempt to step back and be honest about how blogging and background are intertwined.
As I write this, I’m sitting next to my Gucci bag, writing on my MacBook Pro and ruminating on my recent trip to Paris, but let me be real with you – this is by far the set standard. As I’ve said before, I live with my grandparents in a shoebox room that is currently decorated red and lilac with odd brown furniture. It’s far from the Instagram dream. I’m also trying to save a deposit to rent, not buy (can’t afford it), and I don’t own a car or actually, even the laptop I’m typing on – it’s on finance. I come from a decidedly working class background, and my mum worked really hard when I was younger so that we could eat and maybe go to the cinema together. We never went on a foreign holiday – we went to Yorkshire. Travelling to Europe (Paris was paid for by Eurostar – I did pinch myself, it was amazing) and owning a Gucci bag are not indicative of the world I grew up in, and I still feel very strongly that I want to be honest about my background so that other girls growing up in council houses don’t feel less than when they see bloggers in the Maldives and in Range Rovers.
Bloggers work fucking hard to be able to carve out a well-paying career for themselves – I’m trying to do exactly that now, so I’m not disputing this on any level. However, I do feel like the advantages certain class backgrounds can bring are largely ignored and I myself get frustrated because I feel like to some degree, I don’t really see working class girls being represented. Maybe that’s because we aren’t as open about it – let’s be honest, a council house in a shitty area is hardly glamorous – but maybe it’s also because it takes longer for girls and guys who can’t rely on help from their family to climb the ladder.
This is an open thought process – something I’m still thinking about and reflecting on – so I would love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences. Please comment down below or pop me a DM on Twitter or Instagram – @chloeplumstead – even if you think it’s all a load of shit, it’s intended to be a discussion piece, so let’s get talking!