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Grooming men: culture and constitution of masculine identities

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Consumer culture expanded considerably throughout the twentieth-century. Consumer commodities, goods and services became ever more significant in the everyday lives of those living in the Western world. Consumer and marketing industries have invested considerable resources into sites of information that have cultivated a relationship between consumer commodities and identity with consumer brands and products positioned as signifiers of owners’ identities, used to reflect individuals’ tastes, preferences, sexual orientation, class, income, ethnicity and gender. Drawing on Zygmunt Bauman’s extensive body of work as a framework for analysis this thesis examines how a shift from a production-led to a consumer-driven culture has impacted on the identity of modern men, an identity that was until the late twentieth-century more closely associated with employment and production than consumption.
By focusing on men’s relationship with and involvement in consumer markets, particularly the male grooming product market, this thesis makes an empirical contribution to the men and masculinity academic field, examining new ways of understanding male identity, masculinity and the male gender role. This focus is achieved through a modified grounded-theory approach which draws data from document analysis, a focus group, an online questionnaire and an online discussion forum.
The findings show an increasing fluidity in the ways in which male identity, masculinity and the male gender role are represented in media content. These representations have stimulated and reflected modern men’s greater identification with and embodiment of a growing number of liquid identities and a blurring of gender roles. I argue that whilst male identity is still shaped by men’s involvement in production consumer commodities are increasingly significant, with men’s interest and engagement in consumer markets, particularly the male grooming product market, facilitating the cultivation of short lived identities which constitute new ways of understanding and being a man in the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award dateMay 2017

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