What left Alison Hammond, Chanel the lost African gray parrot, Nigella Lawson’s electric oven, a woman on a barn roof who asks “Did someone say beveragino?”, Natalie Cassidy, “OK dot com”, and Kat Slater ? If you’re rereading that question for the 10th time, chances are you haven’t fully immersed yourself in the world of theirs’ leopard print and prosecco, a very British subculture that’s sweeping the internet faster than you can calligraphy “It’s wine o “clock somewhere” on a piece of driftwood. Their culture resonates primarily with women and gay men, celebrating the naff and divine soap actors, reality TV icons and female pop stars, their culture blends nostalgia, camp humor and ironic national pride. As American social media influencers are slicked, puckered and always on sponsored vacations, theirs are sloppy, sarcastic and go on their “holibobs”.
A huge source of lockdown escapism, the biggest exponents of their culture are Instagram accounts such as Loveofhuns (650k followers) and Hunsnet (205k followers), while the famous acolytes range from Joe Lycett to Lily Allen to Katy Perry. Instead of using memes that feel evil, or relying on twisted black humor, their meme is playful, riffing on the yassification of the mundane (celebrating a packet of Prosecco-flavored Pasta’n’Sauce), or a presenting niche celebrity doing something instantly recognizable. As the phenomenon spread, subjects began to enjoy their status, and were warmed by the all-encompassing sense of humor. “It’s laughing with instead of laughing,” explains Hunsnet founder Gareth Howells, who not only diversified his brand with merchandise, brunch events and a podcast, but also wrote a beginner’s guide for them. “It’s a safe space between straight culture and LGBTQ+ culture. When the straights become jest, theirs get this.”
Their culture can be traced back to late 2012 and a parody Twitter account called @uokhun. This handle was playing with the wonderfully insincere expression used by everyone’s aunt on Facebook and usually sealed with an “x”. (Example musing: “I’m not looking for attention? #hatersgonnahate”.) It inspired Howells to start Hunsnet in 2017 (“It was just my humor”), and was a catalyst in the success of one of the first Instagram their accounts, the now-defunct Hunofficial. (Launched in 2014, the account was shut down two years later after a misguided post defending music producer Dr. Luke.)
“I started Hunofficial as a way to promote my queer pop club night Hi Hun,” explains James Kingsley-Scott. He thinks the account’s rapid success was due to timing, with their Twitter account slowly trickling into the mainstream via former Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw, who often used the phrase on his show. The result? “An avalanche of theirs.”
The “primary huns” that Kingsley-Scott reported early on remain popular today: actor Natalie Cassidy, singer Kerry Katona, and broadcasters Vanessa Feltz and Anthea Turner. “You can limit the definition of a hun to a trier,” he says. “She’s going to put on the little black dress and fix it up with all the glitz and glamour. It’s a ‘feel the fear, but look for it’.” Howells agrees, citing his personal stars as musician Lisa Scott-Lee, broadcaster Ruth Langsford and reality TV star Gemma Collins. “We support the underdog,” he says. “If people have made the effort and it hasn’t paid off, we’ll still support you and make it work in a different way.”
All of the women featured on their various accounts have huge gay followings, and most of them have been post-ironically elevated to ‘icon’ status thanks to their mix of glitz, glamour, and grit. “It’s about living courageously,” says Kingsley-Scott. “It’s really like, ‘Fuck you, I’m going to hunt.’ That’s a very gay sensibility – being out loud and being proud.” For Howell, Hunsnet is about putting women on a pedestal and “celebrating them unashamedly”. So while actor and Loose Women panelist Denise Welch, who appears regularly on Loveofhuns and Hunsnet, it’s not entirely clear what makes her a their (although during our interview she mentions a WhatsApp group of friends she uses to host group manicures called Nails and Nibbles). , which peak is theirs), she is sure of one thing. “If I tried to explain their culture, I’d say, ‘Well, the gays love it.’” She laughs. “And they love me. I’ve always been a bit of a gay icon.”
The same goes for Kim Woodburn, whose somewhat irritable appearances on their culture pillars Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, have elevated her to a problematic status. “I’m a total gay icon, honey,” she tells me during a somewhat baffling 10-minute phone call. “I think [gay people] are remarkable. If you feel like having sex with someone of the same sex, there’s nothing you can do about it.” How does she like to be praised as theirs? “If I’m their person, I’m not aware of it. But if it’s me, then it’s me.”
Has she been to any of the sites? “If you ask: do I use social media where I let people know all my business? I do not do that. ‘I’m going to the hairdresser, I got my nails done’ – who cares? They moan when people are mean to them, but no wonder when you put such nonsense on the internet. They must be given a life. Most people these days are a bunch of scum. They are rude and ignorant.”
Woodburn’s candid demeanor mixed with collective nostalgia for her How Clean Is Your House? The TV reality show’s heyday puts her at the heart of their culture. Repurposed and re-contextualized early 00s clips of Big Brother of EastEnders abound on his Instagram accounts, while valuing very niche, very gay-friendly cultural references like Nadine Coyle who lied about her age about Irish Popstars in 2001.
“It’s the stuff we all took to the dawn of social media,” explains their stan Jack Rooke, whose excellent Channel 4 sitcom Big Boys, set in 2013, is full of culture nods, including a pet goldfish named after his favorite host, Alison Hammond. “It focuses on a more innocent time when we were all just tweeting about Alexandra Burke sniffing about Beyoncé [on The X Factor in 2008]† For Rooke, the retro playfulness of their culture contrasts with the seriousness of Twitter, and life, in 2022. “I think a lot of their culture is like, ‘Lol, check this out.’ But we laugh with you. You just don’t have to take it so seriously – it comes from a position of love and companionship. It’s an extension of friendship.” Welch agrees: “I always take my job very seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously. If you do that, you can never be a real hun.”
Welch, 64, is one of a number of older women in the wider huniverse, where experience, durability and well-earned wisdom are the currency. “These feel like women stopped by for a cup of tea,” says Rooke. “They feel accessible. But I actually think [what these sites are doing] is cooler than that because we have had an industry for a long time that ignores women of a certain age. She has literally taken that off television, or removed it from popular culture, in the very strange belief that they are no longer relevant. I like the fact that their culture is like, ‘No, we’re still celebrating these women — they’re not over it, they’re not invisible.’ My mom always said she wasn’t on TV except on Loose Women.”
These are often women, or soap opera characters, who have endured highs and lows. “I think when you’re older and a survivor and still remain relevant in whatever way, that makes you a hun,” says Welch, who first became acquainted with Loveofhuns through her rockstar son, the Matty Healy. from 1975. “Especially those like me who have taken a journey with alcoholism and drugs.” Just as attitudes towards tabloid culture changed in the wake of things like the phone hacking scandal, past treatment of female celebrities is now being seen in a new light. “I support their culture,” Rooke says, “because it’s like, ‘No, we’re going to celebrate these women who 15 years ago would just be constantly thrown out in the press.'”
As their culture grows, so do its parameters. So while it’s still built around what Rooke calls “nice girls,” he also believes there’s room for some straight guys. “I’m convinced Martin Lewis is theirs,” he says. “I sometimes see Ben Shephard as a hun, because that’s what you have to be to host a show like Tipping Point.” Maybe it’s the spray tan, I suggest. “Ben Shephard is a definite hun”, agrees Howells. “David Dickinson is one of them. Pieter Andre. Duncan James of Blue. Me.”
Perhaps the purest thing about the best of them, famous or not, is their lack of awareness of their ability. The danger now, of course, is that if the phenomenon permeates further into the mainstream like a spilled glass of Kylie Minogue’s own brand of rosé on a B&M rug, that purity will be tarnished. It’s a concern that also affects Rooke. “There are degrees of theirs to me, and the real theirs are the ones that don’t know they are,” he says. “If you’re the next level down, you probably know and you’re playing for the fans. But if you really want to be theirs, you fall off the scale, because that’s not chic.”
Rooke, like anyone involved with the world of theirs, is eager to see the culture expand and adapt. Giving his students the space to live, to laugh and to love. But there’s one ubiquitous booze-based element that he says needs to be changed to become that little bit more inclusive. “I think cutting back on their prosecco hunt eliminates a lot of the older generation who are still brandy, voddy, gin girls,” he says gravely. “There are an awful lot of people who don’t use prosecco because it means heartburn and acid reflux for them.” Making sure everyone is okay? That is of the highest level their there x.