Corbyn side eye
Jeremy Corbyn in PMQs on Wednesday BBC

It's a shame that a lot of our best dirty looks are unintentional. We often forget the impact of eye expression and what we might think is an impassive or even friendly gaze can be read by the victim as a look of disapproval or dislike.

As we get older the features can get set into a bit of a Botox-resistant frown that only increases the chances of being misinterpreted, which is possibly why Corbyn's facial default setting seems to be registering the kind of withering disapproval that Maggie Smith has made her trademark in Downton Abbey.

It might be that he can't help it, that inside he's thinking a smile. He's probably heard the 'You should have seen the look on your face' line a thousand times but the point is he can't, he's on the wrong side of his eyeballs and if it gets Cameron's back up then why not go with the facial flow?

For the under-sixties though perfecting a signature dirty look is well worth the effort. It's the ideal put-down that takes the minimum effort, making it a must-have for anyone who is not exactly Oscar Wilde in terms of delivering pithy verbal one-liners. The extraordinary amount of muscles around the eye area makes is possible to produce a wide variety of dirty looks too, meaning with time and practise you can tailor yours to suit almost any scenario. Like:

Downton Abbey
Maggie Smith giving a dirty look on TV show Downton Abbey Carnival Films


This is the dirty look that reeks of class and high status while registering utter disapproval for what is usually a breach of etiquette or good manners.

How to do it: The key thing is the angle of the head. The chin should be raised enough to imply you are looking down your nose at the victim and therefore superior to them. Once it is raised you pull the chin back into the neck slightly while raising both brows as though registering surprise that the victim didn't know better than to do what it is you disapprove of.


This dirty look is one that passes between a couple (usually a long-term couple), when one is acting in a way to embarrass or annoy the other in a social or public scenario. It is part warning, part open threat but always clearly understood by the victim no matter how drunk he or she is at the time.

How to do it: While all around are laughing or mocking your partner you perform the face and eye freeze where your expression becomes as static as a poker players and your eyes perform a cold, hard, clinical stare. The victim will then try to get you to laugh but when your unblinking stare remains in place he or she will realise sex is off the menu for that night or the foreseeable future.


Alan Sugar
Sugar said English's case was representative of the 'claim culture' in the UK today (Reuters)

This is a look of withering disapproval that is usually used on strangers is a public scenario. It is part paternal, part school head and lets the victim know that they are making an idiot of themselves.

How to do it: You stare from the side of your eyes with a small head tilt in the same direction and one eyebrow raised to ridicule them. When you are sure the victim has seen you, begin to shake your head slowly from side to side.


This is one for the boardroom when you want to imply that a colleague's idea is a load of old manure.

How to do it: Having feigned interest while listening to their idea you remain leaning forward with your arms crossed at chest height and you keep staring wide-eyed once they have finished talking. Then you let out a long but almost silent sigh, retaining the eye-stare throughout.


This dirty look is usually shared with friends, letting the victim know that they have somehow breached the unspoken rules of friendship.

How to do it: You pull your chin into your neck before creating a wide, round eye shape and raising both brows in a look of mock surprise and disapproval.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell
Jeremy Corbyn with shadow chancellor John McDonnell at the Labour Party conference in Brighton Getty


First you tell everyone that you are only going to partake in fair politics rather than the rough and tumble of PMQs Then instead of shouting or insulting or accusing you unveil the killer 'Dirty Look' instead, knowing that your opponent has little to offer in reply, having spent his entire career honing an expression of genial, beaming charm.