Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Multifaceted Appearance Management as Cultural Practice

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Multifaceted Appearance Management as Cultural Practice

Article excerpt


Appearance management is a self-identification process that extends beyond mere appearance enhancement activities. In this study, we conceptualized multifaceted appearance management as a cultural practice imbued with a variety of meanings and goals. We employed mixed methods. The quantitative study was to objectify and explain a macro trend by analyzing large-scale data collected from a representative sample and revealed that multifaceted appearance management is a function of cultural capital. The qualitative study was to gain a better understanding of how individual actions and meanings that occur during appearance management create social distinction by analyzing in-depth interviews and demonstrated how the complexity and diversity of meanings reflect the self-identification process in appearance consumption. Our findings revealed that a tendency toward multifaceted appearance management is related to contextual self-presentation drawing upon cultural capital and that cultural capital is manifested by the process in which consumption becomes integrated into self-identification.

Keywords: appearance management, cultural capital, self-identification, consumption

1. Introduction

A good understanding of the sociocultural meanings of appearance-related consumption is important because consumers' efforts to maintain and enhance their physical appearance are visible in continuing increases in sales of beauty and personal care products, the emergence of new product categories (e.g., adult-acne care, micro-dermabrasion), and increasing interest in plastic surgeries and appearance-enhancing treatments (IBISWorld, 2008). The consumption of appearance-related products and services (e.g., clothing, grooming, and exercise-related services) occurs in two phases: spending and management. Spending refers to the dispersal of money to acquire products and services. Appearance management refers to consumers' use of these products. In other words, the term appearance management is used to describe the process consumers engage in when they use purchased products and services to maintain and control their appearance.

A number of previous studies have applied appearance management as a generic term to describe personal grooming activities (e.g., hairstyling, makeup application, or an individual's self-examination in the mirror) and body shaping and modification (e.g., diet, exercise, cosmetic surgery, and tattoos) (Rudd & Lennon, 2000). Other studies consider appearance management activities as consequences of sociopsychological attributes such as body cathexis, body satisfaction, or clothing interest (Rudd & Lennon, 2000; Yoo & Kim, 2012). These studies based their theses on the premise that individuals engage in appearance management simply to enhance their physical attractiveness. These studies failed to view appearance management from a holistic perspective: that appearance management is a self-identification process that involves more than mere appearance enhancement (Kaiser, 1997). Appearance management encompasses thought processes as well as activities related to appearance (Kaiser, 1997). Scholars have identified a variety of motives for and benefits of appearance-related consumption. These include hedonic, functional, instrumental, and aesthetic values (see Kaiser, 1997).

Goffman's (1959) dramaturgy illustrates how appearance management engages individuals in a variety of thought processes. Goffman (1959) presented an analogy that compared the everyday presentation of self to theatrical stage performance. In everyday life, appearance (referred to as costume in Goffman's dramaturgy) plays a role in defining contexts, performance of roles, and communication of self. An individual performs multiple roles in everyday life and develops his or her self-concept in accordance with those roles. Thus, appearance management activities may well involve a variety of goals in addition to the achievement of an attractive appearance in order to express, accomplish, and communicate self identified in various contexts. …

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