The British-English colloquial—and frequently depreciative—phrase gin and Jaguar, also used in its abbreviated form gin and Jag, is used attributively in reference to:
– the wealthy English middle-class people characterised as drinking gin and driving luxury cars such as Jaguars;
– the residential areas, especially the Home Counties1, where those people live.
—Cf. also the Volvo set.
1 The Home Counties are the English counties surrounding London, into which London has extended; they comprise chiefly Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire.
The following illustrates the association of the phrase gin and Jaguar with the Home Counties—it is from The Guardian (London and Manchester, England) of Saturday 12th September 1998:
Surrey Stick Theatre of Death
Surrey is better known as the playground of the gin-and-Jaguar set than as a hotbed of alternative theatre. The Stick Theatre of Death may make critics re-evalute [sic] the county’s artistic credentials. Witness raw tragedy as successive stick men make the ultimate sacrifice for their art. You can stick your interactive entertainment: this is raw theatre at its best.
The earliest occurrence that I have found of gin and Jaguar used in collocation to denote wealth is from The refusal: Charles Hodgson, an actor, writes of the Equity-TV dispute, published in The Guardian (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Saturday 17th February 1962—Equity, the actors’ union, had taken industrial action over the basic rate of pay:
There would seem to exist in the public mind two strangely contradictory images of the actor and his life. On the one hand there is the gloomy picture of the seedy existence of the actor-laddie with his astrakhan collar and a bed-sitter in the Earls Court Road who is continually resting like the Bohemian beginner washing up in a coffee bar in Chelsea. Now, however, we have another picture conjured up by the recent dispute of the affluent extra earning pounds per word. Some actors, and by no means only the best, do earn notoriously high salaries, but for the most part actors live four-ale-bar2 suburban lives very unlike the gin, Jaguar, and untidy sex life of popular myth.
2 The noun four-ale denoted ale sold at four-pence a quart; hence, four-ale bar came to designate the public bar, also called the tap room, that is, the most basic room in a pub, as opposed to the saloon bar, which charged higher prices. (In War! (Kilderkin: Amsterdam, 2013), Ronald Pattinson explains that, until the 1960s, pubs had a multi-room layout: the different bars each had their own character, type of customer and pricing structure.)
The earliest occurrences that I have found of the phrase gin and Jaguar and of its abbreviated form gin and Jag are from the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Lancashire, England) of Saturday 9th November 1963:
The lure of the gin and Jag belt
The population is being drawn to within an area of seventy miles of London, sometimes known as the “gin and Jaguar” belt, according to Dr Colin Clark, director of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Oxford.
The geographically uneven growth of the country was one of the factors impeding economic growth, he told a conference of associated industrial consultants in London yesterday.
“The factors hindering our economic growth can be remedied, but it will take time. Our tax system discourages enterprise and economy,” he said.
Not enough good executives
“Our educational system is too good at producing Civil servants and professional men and does not produce nearly enough good executives and technicians,” he said.
“The geographically uneven growth of this country, with labour shortages in London and Birmingham, and with population growth concentrated within an area of seventy miles of London, sometimes known as the ‘gin and Jaguar’ belt, with labour shortages in London and Birmingham, and with a surplus of unemployed in Scotland, Wales and the outlying parts of England, is also impeding economic growth,” he added.
“Government direction of the location of industry is undesirable. But a system of payroll taxes should be devised which rewards those employers who are willing to establish factories in outlying areas and penalise those who decide to remain in congested areas.”
The second-earliest occurrence of the phrase gin and Jaguar that I have found is from A plan well worth stopping, by Patricia Ashdown-Sharp, published in The Birmingham Post (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Thursday 5th January 1967—the plan in question was the proposal by the Ministry of Health to abolish the practice of dispensing by doctors in rural areas; here, the gin and Jaguar belt designates the wealthy rural area around Birmingham:
Warwickshire Federation of Women’s Institutes, the first organisation to campaign against the proposal purely in the patients’ interest, estimates that in the rural areas of Warwick and Stratford alone 20,000 people would be affected.
It would mean that a mother with a sick child in bed would have to make arrangements for neighbours to baby-sit while she took a bus into town. As Mrs. Audrey Dixon, of Hampton-on-the-Hill W.I., who first brought the matter to the Institute’s attention, pointed out: “Bus services in this district are so irregular that often it would mean an absence of four hours, if one was without a car.” Six miles, under those conditions, is a long way.
And not all country women—even in the “gin and Jaguar belt,” as one Warwickshire doctor described it—have cars at their disposal. Nor are the ones who live in the most isolated areas always lucky enough to have neighbours near to hand.
Why then should dispensing by country doctors be dispensed with?
Patricia Ashdown-Sharp used the phrase in the same sense in How to keep the old down on the farm, published in The Birmingham Post (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Tuesday 1st August 1967:
Lapworth Street, the lane which rambles between the Warwickshire villages of Lapworth and Lowsonford, is lined with the sort of large and wealthy houses that one expects from the area often described as Birmingham’s “gin and Jaguar” belt.
Finally, the following letter was published in the Kensington Post (London, England) of Friday 1st December 1967:
Putting profits before human needs
Sir, We write as freeholders and ratepayers in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea to associate ourselves with the protest made by George Clark and others at the meeting of the borough council when the Notting Hill housing project came up for discussion.
We deplore the refusal by the council to purchase the properties, 1-9 Colville Gardens, which would have effectively protected the interests of the people most concerned, the tenants.
By allowing the private development of these houses profits will be placed before human needs. This strikes us as being particularly disgraceful in a borough such as this, a Royal Borough with its palaces and its Millionaires’ Row, a borough of extreme riches and extreme poverty.
In North Kensington are the property-less poor. In South Kensington and East Chelsea live the wealthy gin-and-Jaguar crowd, most of whom possess a country residence as well as their town house. The test of the degree of civilisation of a society is this: How does that society treat its old people, its poor and needy and those that are dispossessed? Judged by this standard, Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council has clearly got a lot to learn. — Yours faithfully,