Hunsnet founder Gareth Howells on the light-hearted joy of being a hun
Do you love British pop culture and humour? Laugh out loud at memes gently ribbing the celebrity scene of the Nineties and Noughties, have a passion for slightly silly but always fabulous nostalgia?
If so, you may be a hun.
The hun movement – which prides itself on taking the mickey without being mean, has even built up support from hun icons, including Faye Tozer, Ruth Langsford and Lisa Scott-Lee – and it’s having a moment.
Former Pontins Bluecoat Gareth Howells, flamboyant founder of the website Hunsnet in 2017, has built up a following of over 200,000 on Instagram alone, tapping into the growing appreciation of hun culture.
Off the back of the website, Howells, 40, launched his Hunsnet podcast in 2020, welcoming guests such as Rylan Clark, Joe McElderry, Cheryl Fergison (ex-EastEnders), Diana Vickers (2008 X Factor semi-finalist) and Zoe Lucker and Susie Amy (aka Tanya and Chardonnay from Footballers’ Wives).
Season three is coming later this year, and he would love to see Alexandra Burke, Katie Piper and Nadine Coyle on the line-up.
“My favourite random celebrity follower, who is a total hun and shares loads of my stuff and comments on everything, is Lucrezia Millarini from ITV News. Katie Piper, Rylan, Jade from Little Mix and Claire Sweeney – who is also a big part of hun culture with 60 Minute Makeover and Brookside – are also followers,” says Howells.
Now, he has written a book, The Hundamental Guide To Life, a light-hearted look at hun culture and all it entails.
“If lads have lad culture, women and the LGBTQ+ community can have access to hun culture,” Howells states, explaining what it’s all about. “It’s using references from the late-Nineties and Noughties up to the present day, quintessentially British TV shows, situations and things that have gone viral on social media and using those to satirise the day-to-day life of living in the UK right now.
“Being a hun is almost like living vicariously through other people’s faux pas and celebrating your own, but it’s a really inclusive community where everybody’s welcome. And you can be anywhere on the hun scale, from a literal hun with a ‘Live, Love, Laugh’ décor palette at home, or one of the girlies who’s ‘badass boss bitch babe’ go-getting, or you can live vicariously through these characters.
“When Facebook started up in the Noughties, we lived our lives so overtly on this platform, that any time there was a problem underneath your post there would be an, ‘You ok, hun?’ That’s where the origins came from. Hun culture was spawned from that phrase.”
Hun followers, he adds, are generally aged between 25-45, and 80% women, 20% LGBTQ+. And Hun culture is always positive and funny, without cruel underlying messages.
“We are just looking for the lighter side of life. We’ve been through a lot with the Panny D (pandemic). People need that escapism. A lot of it is about nostalgia. You might be posting something from The X Factor 2008 and can remember your group of friends watching the final that year, and will tag them in the comments and go, ‘Remember when we watched Alexandra Burke win and then went out and got wrecked at All Bar One and you vomited over your cheesy chips?’ It’s got to remain silly and light-hearted.”
Here, we grill Howells on all things hun…
Who are your hun icons?
“My absolute two favourites are Lisa Scott-Lee from Steps, because she’s part of the music I was listening to when I was growing up as a gay guy. It was so naff to like Steps at that time, and then Lisa went solo and had a TV show, Totally Scott-Lee, but with the press she received, her single was almost set up to fail. So me and my friends really celebrate that time of Lisa. We love the songs she was banging out.
“I’m obsessed with Ruth Langsford. I tune in on a Sunday night when she’s meal-prepping for the week and she has her salads and eggs, or making a chilli con carne or walking the dog. It’s about celebrating the mundane in these celebrities’ lives.”
How can someone tell if they’re a hun?
“If you’re a little bit celebrity pop culture obsessed, have a good group of girlies (the collective name for a group of friends, whatever their gender), if you like a cheeky Prosexy (Prosecco) on a Saturday night or a Cocky T (cocktail), if you have a lot of heart, a bit of sass, and don’t take yourself too seriously and can have a laugh with your friends and don’t mind having the mickey taken out of you, wearing past faux pas as a badge of honour, you could be a hun.”
What about hun fashion?
“’What you wearin’ out tonight, hun? Jeans and a nice top.’ That’s typical hun fashion. And maybe a strappy kitten heel.”
Favourite hun phrases?
“My personal favourite is, ‘Oh my god, I’m so Clammy Wynette right now!’ It’s because Tammy Wynette had the hit Stand By Your Man and when you are Clammy Wynette you need to stand by your fan!”
Phonetic phrases are also popular, he notes, like ‘A cutla drinks, a cutla bottles of wine’. Huns talk about going to Beefa (Ibiza) and Marbs (Marbella).
Holibobs means holidays, dallyn is a term of endearment, while gorgina is another word for gorgeous.
Do huns prefer a particular home style?
“If you’ve got a crushed velvet grey sofa, with jewelled embellishments or a glittery wallpaper and, more often than not, if you’re a Love Island contestant who’s just come out of the villa, you’ll keep people engaged with content on how your house transformation is going and normally it just fades into this grey, bejewelled theme.
“It can be anything from a Yankee candle and a ‘Live, Love, Laugh’ sign to rose gold cutlery. If there’s any unnecessary embellishment, it is celebrated.”
How do you balance making fun of someone without being mean?
“When I first started, hun culture was in its infancy and it took me a while to really understand who my audience was. It’s 80% female and I now make sure my posts reflect the audience. There are a lot more filters I use now than I did at the beginning.
“We’ve been through a lot – the pandemic, movements, learning – and it’s about that awareness. Very rarely is the content about the person who’s in it. For example, we would use something that Ruth (Langsford) said on QVC and it’s just that soundbite to convey something that’s going on in our own mundane lives.”
What keeps hun culture going?
“Reality TV. A massive part of hun culture is quotes from the reality shows of the last 20 years. Some of the stuff which was said on The X Factor in 2008 is a massive part of my friends’ group chats. And it’s nostalgia. People quote the year that Gemma Collins and Kim Woodburn were in Celebrity Big Brother. The very essence of reality shows is to create these ridiculous soundbites.”
Where does hun culture go from here?
“I want to try to take it beyond social media and into different spaces. The next thing is TV – what does a hun TV show look like? Let’s get more huns on reality shows. It’s about unashamedly celebrating it.”
The Hundamental Guide To Life: Learn To Live, Love & Laugh Like A True Hun is published by Welbeck on August 18, priced £9.99.