Living east of Boganville?

We love the word bogan. We use it to describe those uncouth people that live next door. No longer are we restricted by geography to call the uneducated, unrefined people, westies (if you live in Sydney, for instance)—our vulgar neighbours can now come from the east, the north or the south.

The word bogan has given us—the usually egalitarian Australians—a word to help us gain social superiority over other Australians without being accused of snobbery. It has also given marketers the cashed-up-bogan market segment to which they can sell beer, hair loss cures, new utes, holidays to Bali and silly sporting memorabilia.

Bogans have been described as “hyper-Australian” a concept that suggests they are the exaggerated versions of us all. There are two sub-species of bogan: the plain bogan, and the cashed-up-bogan. It is equivalent to the English chav although they have very different ideas of fashion.

Word origins

The origin of bogan is not known but its mainstream use really began with Kylie Mole in the late 1980s TV series the Comedy Club. It was used before that in parts of Australia.

Some suggest that bogan is related to the Irish/Dubliner term bogger equivalent to the westie for someone from the bog areas west of Dublin.

Bogan has displaced many regional Australian words for the vulgar underclass. These words usually refer to places where members of the lowest socio-economic, cultural group are thought to breed.

In the ACT the preferred word was booner or boonie being a shortening of someone from the boondocks, the far-distant, uncivilized regions of the outer suburbs. Queensland had the bevan and the bev-chick; Western Australia has bogs; Tasmania has the chigger (someone from the suburb of Chigwell); the Riverina has the gullie; Victoria has the Scozzer and Melbourne the mocca.

Plain bogans

Plain male bogans wear singlets, flannelette shirts, thongs or Ugg boots and ill-fitting track-suit pants or shorts.

They have skinhead haircuts, mullets or frullets (front-mullets). The mullet, the hairstyle that is short at the front and long at the back, has its own regional names and varieties, boon curls, or bogan rolls (short all over except for a curling fringe at the back). Bogans are very vain about their hair and certain celebrity bogans supplement their income appearing in commercials to help prevent hair loss (or more correctly mullet loss).

Favourite things are beer (VB, veebs, or XXXX because they are easy to spell), bourbon (Jack Daniels or Jim Beam because they have people names), rugby league or Aussie rules football (the simpler the rules the better) and particular types of motor vehicle, or “wheels”, the Holden Commodore, Holden Kingswood or the Ford Falcon. Utes are de rigour.

Plain female bogans shop at Target and Best and Less. They have tramp stamps, use cheap cosmetics and fragrances, wear short, tight skirts that show too much of their physique, particularly their muffin tops. They have children (sprogs) with unique, unconventional names with eccentric spellings, such as, Anakin, Deezel, Harlee, Brock, or Sharaz.


The cashed up bogan or CUB, first appeared as a marketing term for a consumer segment. It is characterized as blue-collar nouveaux riche with well paid jobs and high disposable incomes that they spend on flash items to fulfil their aspirations of higher social status. Many work hard making their money in Western Australia mines and they want to spend their income on new utes, boats and motorbikes, luxury clothing, booze, food, holidays to Bali, investment properties, sports memorabilia and flat screen televisions.

Some CUBs are giving up their utes and muscle cars for prestige cars. BMW, Audi and Lexus are advertising in the tabloid press to appeal to this market. However many CUBs don’t want to attract the attention of the tax office by driving too flash a car.

CUBs are less popular than plain bogans because they go against the idea that some people deserve to be poor and instead are buying things that the rest of us can’t afford.

Living in Boganville

Australian Prime Ministers always try to connect with the battlers and workers. Julia Gillard succeeded better than them all when she was voted Biggest Bogan of the Year last year, 2010, (pushing Russell Crowe into second). A lot of people find her exaggerated, or hyper-Australian accent irritating and some think it is deliberately put on to appeal to the bogan masses.

It is understood in Canberra that Bogan-ville was Kevin Rudd’s name for The Lodge after Julia Gillard, and her boyfriend, Tim Mathieson, moved in, after he was replaced as Prime Minister.

Rudd’s insult is typical of our use of bogan. The more bogan-ness we see in someone else the better we feel about ourselves. When I drive my children to school in the 4WD unshaven and wearing my tracksuit pants and ugg boots, listening to the Best of Cold Chisel, I think of myself as a relaxed and casual suburbanite a long way from being a bogan. But really, most of us live only a little to the east of Boganville.