Saltburn 2006 Oxford what was it like

What it was actually like at Oxford during the Saltburn era, according to a former student

2006 was WILD

Saltburn, according to director Emerald Fennell is a period drama— set in 2006 at the University of Oxford with its posh students, cigarette laden nights out, endless balls and barely any studying. The vibes, frankly, look immaculate (as long as you’re part of the in crowd). Who wouldn’t want to stomp around historical buildings in baggy jeans by day and sip champagne in black tie by night?

There have, however, been a whole load of qualms over Saltburn’s accuracy when representing the early ’00s. So, we caught up with a student who was at Oxford in 2006 who had anecdotes and photographic evidence about the real life Saltburn experience (pre murder, obv).

Pretty private school people – like Emerald Fennell – reigned supreme

Much like in Saltburn, people who went to private school formed the social elite at Oxford and often knew each other before arriving at the uni:  “I didn’t really mingle with the it crowd,” says Catherine who studied Studied English and Italian at Oxford, New College, during the Saltburn era.

“There were certain people who went to really famous posh school who were just known by the school they went to: Eton Jeremy, Winchester Ed,” she says. 

“[The it crowd] they’d be conventionally attractive…Lots of like cakey black mascara and husky hungover voices. There was lots of scruffy posh girl dressing. Off duty. Baggy navy blue jogging bottoms – low slung – a school leavers hoody, and a messy blonde ponytail.” 

There absolutely were secret parties and exclusive drinking societies

Saltburn Oxford what was it like

When Oliver arrives at Oxford in Saltburn, he’s immediately ostracised and, when Christmas rolls around, he and his nerdy friend Michael are the only ones who don’t receive invitations to the college formal in their pigeon holes. Catherine says there were absolutely exclusive parties and secret drinking societies at Oxford – but many more people were left out than just one or two:

“You could eat in posh halls every night if you wanted to – and you did have to wear a gown to go there,” she says. “Not being invited to a Christmas party is quite a radical form of exclusion, which isn’t what it was like in my college. But in others, there were drinking societies which were invitation-only. There were definitely initiation stories which came from some of them. I remember one where you had to drink a shoe full of gin.”

“There was also this massive party in Oxford call Piers Gaveston,” she adds. “It was invite-only and barely anybody knew about it. I had a couple of friends who got invited. It had a secret location out of town – kind of like a festival party – you can’t take your phone, you don’t know where you’re going. You just get taken on a minibus and driven there.”

Von Dutch hats, boot cut jeans and private school stash were the go-to wardrobe staples

Saltburn Oxford what was it like

One of Saltburn’s greatest triumphs is how flawlessly they’ve recreated 2006 posh boy style on Jacob Elordi. Crumpled linen, baggy jeans— even the Live Strong charity bracelet. And Catherine says she could see a lot of realism on screen in Saltburn’s wardrobe choices:

“Felix was very on point,” she says. “Low hanging, slightly baggy jeans were in. Plus Von Dutch hats – any trucker hats – everyone wore Miss Sixty or Diesel jeans, and this was pre-skinny jeans era so they were bootcut.”

Everybody was smoking cigs inside all night long – just like Felix

Saltburn Oxford what was it like

If you’ve seen Saltburn you’ll know Felix spends half the film with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. And Catherine admits those were very much the vibes at Oxford at the time – pre the law change which banned cigs inside.

“Marlborough Lights, Camels, Lucky Strikes,” she says. “You could still smoke in pubs and in the college bar. Every night we would smoke in the club. Your hair would stink and you’d have to shower as soon as you were home.” 

R Kelly and Fatman Scoop should have been featured on the Saltburn soundtrack

Saltburn Oxford what was it like

Even critics who didn’t like Saltburn have had a hard time finding anything wrong with the nostalgic soundtrack. But Catherine says there were a few songs everybody at Oxford couldn’t stop singing, which Emerald Fennell definitely missed:

“Oh my God. We all loved R Kelly,” she admits. “He was really big. Obviously, his reputation isn’t great now. But every club night they played Ignition so, I’m actually really surprised that didn’t feature. The other big one was Fatman Scoop – Be Faithful. I love it. That, and Keane.” 

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