Subtitle: POSH, as a mark of style, was born in days long gone, which is sufficient to give the term a specific dynamic. Every age assigned it a meaning in line with its values, which makes its original meaning even more interesting.
Today linked mostly to a style of dress, of the highest rank, the term POSH has a far broader meaning and an interesting history. Behind these four letters is a world of beauty and luxury, but in a sophisticated, spiritual form. This is why the word is linked to some days long gone, to ages when the world of the select few commanded attention with their ideas and their aesthetics, whether it concerned long, shiny limousines, grandiose ocean liners, villas hidden from the view of passers-by in their perfect beauty.
If we stick to these days long gone, POSH also meant certain rules. In dressing, behaviour, manners. High-class couples were easy to recognize because the social ladder and aesthetics that came with it were so clearly delineated. This is why there is such harmony in the photos from the time that, not without reason, is now referred to as the “golden age”. The word itself was coined in high British society, among the nobility and old families. POSH is an acronym of Port Out, Starboard Home.
P/Port – left side of the ship
O/Out – leave
S/Starboard – right side of the ship
H/Home – return home
This originally referred to ocean liners sailing between Great Britain and America. Members of the high class picked the port side when leaving and the starboard when they would return to the Old Continent. And this held sufficient meaning. In those locations were the cabins decorated to the highest standards of comfort available at the time. It was not just their appearance and the comfort they offered that mattered, it was also their position, compared to the position of the Sun. Namely, the gentlefolk had to be accommodated in the shade, as literally every detail was considered. What could be seen as whim nowadays, was actually a way of life. Both men and women had their rituals that set them apart from the people who didn’t belong to their class. And this was a matter of everyday life. Male and female parties, clubs for gentlemen and tea parties for ladies. And this, too, strictly confined to one’s own circle, amongst their peers. It was known who sat where at the Opera, who played cards in a club and who went shopping, chaperoned, at Piccadilly. Class divisions were not the only divisions. Gender line was equally dividing. Not strictly, like in the 19th century novels, but not too liberal either – women and men had separate domains of social life and entertainment. They mixed, just like in the 19th century, at gala ceremonies and prestigious social events.
Prestige was at the very core of POSH. And it was visible in every detail. In the chambers furnished with mahogany and ebony, in the type of tobacco, in the trunks that held their clothes during the long voyages, which were very important; in the type of tea served, seats at public events of the highest importance. POSH of the day was characterized in a sharp interest in the exotic, new and unexplored. Snobbism, as an inevitable element in the entire construction, was based in a lifestyle adopted at birth, passed down generations, which, as such, was more than a banal chase of the expensive items and habits – which is more a mark of the contemporary times.
Members of the elite back then did not need something that was out of reach for a majority of the people to be who they were, to set themselves apart. The privilege awaited them at the very beginning of their lives. As did obligations, since there is no privilege without duty. Education was a must, mastery of different arts and foreign languages and a deep knowledge of other cultures. Class was truly class, as it was built on the foundations of true sophistication.
Already from the second half of the 20th century, the term itself had to change meaning, as the world had also changed. At a time of equality, privilege no longer meant the same thing. At a time of media democracy and show-biz culture, POSH remained a mark of luxury, but not the vulgar, shallow kind – the sophisticated kind, closely linked to a certain lifestyle concept.