Blue Collar or White? A guest post by JL Merrow and Josephine Myles

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A crisp, white cotton shirt, and a finely woven silk tie in a classic Windsor knot—or a tank top, stretched over sweat-sheened muscles? Both have their appeal. One is a symbol of fiscal, perhaps even political clout; the other showcases raw physical power. And power, in whatever form, attracts. Evolution has made us that way, whether we like it or not.

Bluntly, the more powerful your mate, the better it was likely to be, historically, for your children. Physically strong genes would give them a better chance of surviving into adulthood before the advent of modern medicine, and wealth meant they’d be better fed.

But in this day and age, it’s whatever floats your boat.

JL Merrow (Jamie): Personally, I’d have to admit I have a certain fascination with a bit of rough. There’s just something about a man who’s *ahem* good with his hands! Someone you know can take care of himself in a potentially dangerous situation and in the event of a nuclear winter, wouldn’t starve to death the minute Waitrose ran out of food stocks.

Then again, a man in a sharp suit gives off definite vibes of being astute and in charge. He’d be smart enough to avoid the danger in the first place, and would probably be the guy supervising the post-apocalyptic food rationing.

What do you think, Jo?

Josephine Myles: Oh, it’s a bit of rough for me every time. I’m not terribly interested in learning how to do all that DIY type stuff, so I always admire men who are good with their hands. And who have the brawn to do the heavy lifting, too.

Although I must admit, I do love fine tailoring so the sight of a man in a beautifully fitted suit, perhaps with a sumptuous coloured lining, is very appealing.

In Pressure Head you contrast your rough and ready plumber, Tom, with a man who’s usually found in cashmere. What made you want to pair up a blue and a white collar worker?

Jamie: Perhaps it’s my Cambridge education (the state school I went to wasn’t exactly renowned for sending pupils to top universities), but I’ve always loved playing with the idea of social class. Unless you’re actual aristocracy, there’s a certain amount of social mobility between classes. Phil wears cashmere because he can – and because he couldn’t afford to when he was growing up. Tom, on the other hand, was better off in childhood but has for more than one reason become a tradesman rather than something more traditionally middle-class–his sister and brother are a barrister and an oncologist.

But more generally, I just like to play with a pairing who are from different sides of the divide. Particularly when I get to show the varying reactions of their friends!

Jo: Agreed. The British class system gives us a huge amount to work with, but I wonder how easy it is for readers in the rest of the world to pick up on all those little class giveaways a born and bred Brit would notice? While we might get a good idea of someone’s class from their speech patterns, shopping habits and which TV channels they watch, the meaning of these sorts of cultural references doesn’t necessarily pass intact across the Atlantic. While we might instantly know the difference between shopping for food at Waitrose or M&S, versus Asda or Lidl, it isn’t going to be so obvious to those from other countries.

That’s why I find the type of job a character has to be so telling. While I love to play with characters who have moved between classes like Tom and Phil, for The Hot Floor I ended up giving my three MCs jobs that very much fit their class. Middle class Rai is an academic, whereas his salt of the earth boyfriend is a humble plumber. Josh is somewhere in the middle as his job as a glassblower makes him an artisan, which these days tends to be the preserve of the arty middle classes, but it also means he comes home hot, sweaty and smeared in ash. Rawr.

What do you reckon, Jamie: should men smell of fresh sweat or fancy aftershave?

Jamie: Good point re subtleties being lost in translation, Jo. Although I like to think we’re giving our non-Brit fans a bit of an education in these important matters (whether they want it or not!). 😉

And I think perfume’s great—on girls! I’m not a fan of men smelling of anything other than, well, man. Sexist of me? Maybe, but I know what I like!

So readers, who gets you hot under the collar? Rufty-tufty manual workers—or slick, smooth men in suits?

Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.

About the books:

Pressure Head

Some secrets are better left hidden.

When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.

Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.

Pressure Head on Amazon.com

The Hot Floor coverThe Hot Floor

Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.

Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.

The Hot Floor on Amazon.com

About the authors:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com

Worker images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

36 Comments

  1. Mmm~~ I love a man in a suit!
    Though, I really appreciate a military man. In Dress Blues. heh… but I like the thought of a man, in any king of job that I know can take care of himself.

    …hmm… that’s still so vague… but my favorite uniform on a man is one with military history. 😉

    Judi
    arella3173_loveless(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  2. Blue collar is fun, but I have a weakness for characters who make a transition from white collar to blue. I like stories about former accountants and the like, who end up working in bike shops. I enjoy the tension and humor of these kinds of transitions.

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  3. So, I kind of like both? It depends for me. I married a military man so I definitely have a thing for uniforms – which I guess is something completely different because some days he wears the equivalent of a suit and others, it’s a t-shirt with camis. Best of both worlds maybe? LOL.

    And as for ~perfume, I do love when he wears cologne, in fact there’s a Buffy The Vampire Slayer quote we use when he does, from when Buffy was turned into a cavegirl “Boys smell nice”. But that sleepy warm smell, first thing in the morning? That’s a good one too.

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  4. I have to confess that blue collar works for me. Is this because I grew up on a farm with working men around me? Or because I work with men in suits and familiarity breeds contempt? Or do I just not want to look dowdy next to a sophisticated guy? I can admire a man in a suit, but jeans and a t-shirt do it for me. Sneakers and casual I suppose make me think he’s got more on his mind than clothes and what he looks like on the surface, and hopefully he feels the same about others.

    Sweat? Not so much. I guess I want my guy to be a tech nerd (I love conferences I can wear jeans to) or something along those lines rather than physically demanding. Not that I can afford to be fussy. 😉

    Great post guys.

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  5. Arty middle class sounds good, and so does a man who’s good with his hands. Power’s not a huge aphrodisiac for me, though I admit I enjoy seeing hockey players arrive to the rink in suits–it’s seeing that unexpected other side to the person, I guess. I prefer a lingering hint of soap to aftershave, since I get a little sneezy…

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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  6. I worked as a lawyer for several years and I have to admit that constant exposure to men in suits sort of killed the fantasy for me. A good looking man in a suit is a thing of beauty, but it’s the hunky smoke jumper or bearded raft guide I find more appealing now. (I now live somewhere where both those types are WAY more common than lawyers.)

    I think you’re right that a lot of the signs of class distinction you both use don’t necessarily translate for non-British audiences. But for this Anglophile, the fact that you both include them is one of the things I really enjoy in your books. I was just reading Hard Tail and there were so many mentions of different grocery stores, and they seemed kind of symbolic, so I actually looked them up. Have either of you read Watching the English? It’s a fascinating (and fun) book on the hidden rules of English behavior. You probably don’t need a book like that, but I never would have known what Adam’s Ford Mondeo signified to Tim without it!

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    • “Watching the English” sounds fascinating! I’ll be able to check whether I’ve been doing it right all these years… ;D
      Getting the right car for my characters is not something that comes naturally to me, I have to admit – I have a sort of “car blindness” that means I’ve always found it easier to memorise registration plates than remember what friends’ cars look like! I’d be lost without the input of friends and, at a pinch, the Top Gear website. 🙂

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  7. I’m married to a suit wearer ( but no high labels!) so the manual workers tend to have a certain appeal. One of our scaffolding firms has a red uniform and in summer they are in shorts – yum!, and tool belts!!!
    I like a bit of cologne though, so long as its subtle

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  8. Pingback: Hot Pressure Blog Tour Day 2 | JL Merrow

  9. I’m an odd beast in that I really don’t like shirt buttons – for whatever reason they make my skin crawl…so whilst I’ll admire a suit from a distance I much prefer jeans & t-shirts/leggings & tops – I’m bi so male & female options 🙂 for up close & personal 🙂
    As to perfume & aftershave…they’re ok, as long as they’ve had a few hours to settle in – the spray on ones are much too strong when they’re first applied – I just get a sore nose & eyes. Yuck!

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    • Hi Sarah! That shirt button thing is odd, but understandable, I think. They are fiddly and add extra hard points to a garment. I can’t stand ironing shirts which is the main reason I don’t own all that many.

      I’m totally agreed on the spray on perfumes. Can’t stand being near people who’ve just drenched themselves in the stuff–especially in confined spaces like lifts or on public transport. I’d rather have them smelling of sweat. Fresh sweat, though. BO is BO, no matter how hot the person.

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    • Interesting that you don’t like shirt buttons, Sarah. I’m fine with them – unless an author has a scene with them pinging off in the throes of passion! That just makes me cringe!
      And I’m totally with you on strong perfume. Someone walked past me in the GYM this morning reeking of perfume, and that was just so, so wrong. Really not the sort of place you go to smell pretty! 😉

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