The 'fun' queue

Queu­ing, a new trend in the United King­dom!

Vocable (All English) - - Édito | Sommaire - MORWENNA FER­RIER

If queu­ing is a nec­es­sary evil in most of our daily lives, our Bri­tish cousins have made it an art form. It all started dur­ing WWII when they were en­cour­aged by the min­istry of In­for­ma­tion to queue in an or­derly man­ner when mak­ing their pur­chases. To­day, a new and fun ver­sion of queu­ing has be­come a trend in the UK.

From John McEn­roe’s views on the gen­der pay gap to who’s who in the royal box and how they have done their hair, the vari­ables at Wim­ble­don are end­less. But at one of the few sport­ing events that sells tick­ets to spec­ta­tors on the day, there will al­ways be one cer­tainty: the Wim­ble­don queues.

2. Men­tion the word queue and most peo­ple balk. Be­cause queues are bor­ing – or, worse, punch­lines, syn­ony­mous with eti­quette and Bri­tish­ness. They are sur­rounded by rules (don’t push in, one in one out, and so on) and some­times more rig­or­ous sys­tems – some skatewear brands have em­braced tick­et­ing. One in­volves head­ing to a lo­ca­tion on a Mon­day and putting your name down sim­ply to get a queue spot sev­eral days in ad­vance of an item go­ing on sale. If, as Har­vard aca­demic Leo Mann ex­plained in his 1962 es­say Queue Cul­ture, queues work best when they mimic a nor­mal so­cial sys­tem, im­pos­ing “cul­tural val­ues of egal­i­tar­i­an­ism and or­der- li­ness”, then this so­cial sys­tem feels bor­der­line Gilead.

3. And yet, through choice or oth­er­wise, we spend around 52 days of our life in line. These queues range from pro­saic ones at the bank, in the su­per­mar­ket or at air­port se­cu­rity to sex­ier it­er­a­tions for gig tick­ets, book sign­ings, PlayS­ta­tions, a new Warham­mer piece,

the lat­est iPhone re­lease or, in­deed, grass­court ten­nis’s ul­ti­mate cham­pi­onship. In the last decade, an­other sort of queue has emerged; one that is less about the end re­sult and more about the act it­self. Queues to make friends in, and queues to be seen in.


4. The “fun” queue has long had a place in pop­u­lar cul­ture. Ac­cord­ing to Sex and the City, it’s where girls meet guys. In The Full Monty you can dance in them, even if you’re sign­ing on. Fash­ion has co-opted this sort of line par­tic­u­larly well. At Gucci on Bond Street, there is of­ten a six-deep queue out­side their flag­ship store dur­ing busy times (the idea is to cre­ate a more one-on-one ser­vice, although in­sid­ers say hav­ing peo­ple out­side has helped cul­ti­vate the brand’s cult sta­tus).

5. Just as a logo on a T-shirt sem­a­phores your al­le­giance with a par­tic­u­lar brand or move­ment, join­ing the right queue sig­nals you know that, say, Thurs­day is drop day (the day some la­bels choose to re­lease new stock) or that Vir­gil Abloh is go­ing to be in town. It’s a tac­tic bor­rowed from the world of streetwear. Long be­fore the much-doc­u­ment- ed drops at Supreme and Palace, skate shops dou­bled up as so­cial spa­ces for young peo­ple. “The queue be­comes an off­line com­mu­nal ex­pe­ri­ence shared with fel­low fans,” says Laura Saunter, in­sights edi­tor with trend fore­cast­ers WGSN. “The process of ac­quir­ing the item re­quires a cer­tain amount of emo­tional in­vest­ment, so wait­ing in lines all day can be a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – even if they don’t buy any­thing.”


6. A New Yorker short story from 1974 en­ti­tled “Come Down to Queue” sums up the so­cial as­pect neatly, fol­low­ing two friends who bump into each other in a queue wait­ing to see The Ex­or­cist. “Why do peo­ple do it?” asks one, re­fer­ring to the act of watch­ing such a film. Mis­un­der­stand­ing the ques­tion, the other replies with a quote from US so­ci­ol­o­gist David Ries­man: “Peo­ple stand­ing around all day to­gether get to meet each other and that way com­mu­ni­cate.” Some queues will for­ever be dull. But oth­ers have the po­ten­tial to be so­cial, fun, quixotic, ripe with en­ergy and at­mos­phere – and in 2018 to be doc­u­mented on so­cial me­dia.

7. Ev­ery­one has queued for some­thing for a laugh­ably large amount of time. Among my so­cial cir­cle, there’s the guy who queued for 12 hours for a Nin­tendo 64, a friend who queued for eight hours to see Du­ran Du­ran at Wem­b­ley Arena in 2004, an­other who queued for a burger at a new open­ing for four hours in the rain, and an­other who has queued for ev­ery sin­gle Harry Pot­ter book. One friend in Ja­pan ad­mit­ted to queue­ing for two hours for ice- cream, adding: “I some­times think the queue it­self is the main event.”


8. Much of the modern queue’s re­brand­ing can be cred­ited to the restau­rant scene, its de­rided “no-book­ings” pol­icy and the en­su­ing lines out­side. For over eight years, says Rus­sell Nor­man, the restau­ra­teur be­hind queue-friendly res­tau­rants Polpo and Spuntino, “I have taken the flak for res­tau­rants and queues.” Ini­tially they took reser­va­tions but it got busy quickly, “and peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions were sky high”. So they got rid of evening book­ings, at­tract­ing lo­cals and passersby who came know­ing full well they would have to wait but were catered for as they did so.

9. “I un­der­stand why peo­ple as­so­ciate it with me, but wait­ing for a ta­ble is not new,” he says, cit­ing the ar­rival of Bar­ra­fina in Soho in early 2007 and Waga­mama in 1992. Trat­to­ria Da Nen­nella, a pop­u­lar lo­cal/tourist haunt in the back al­leys of Naples, has be­come world fa­mous for its so­cial queue­ing sys­tem. The maitre’d takes your name, you wait in the street with the other pun­ters mak­ing small talk per­haps with a spritz from the bar two doors down, and he shouts your name when the ta­ble is ready. In the cater­ing world, drink­ing in queues is en­cour­aged. Queues may be a new so­cial cur­rency, but how healthy any of this is re­mains open to ques­tion.

Ev­ery­one has queued for some­thing for a laugh­ably large amount of time.

(Jane Min­gay/SIPA)

Fans of the Harry Pot­ter se­ries queu­ing out­side Water­stone's book­shop in Lon­don's Ox­ford Street for the re­lease of the book Harry Pot­ter and The Half Blood Prince, July 2005.

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