Thesis Title: Am I Masculine Enough? : Exploring the Effects of the Portrayed Idealized Masculine Man in Gendered Fashion Advertisements and Subjective Well-Being on Brand Engagement among Homosexual Men
MASTER THESIS 2021-2022
Name: D.J. (Dylan) Munnich
Student number: 13526677 Date of submission: 28January 2022
Programme: MSc Business Administration - Consumer Marketing Track Faculty: Universiteit van Amsterdam - Economics and Business Contact details student: firstname.lastname@example.org
EBEC approval number: 20211021111048
Supervisor name: M.R.H. (Marco) Mossinkoff
Word count: 17.119
Statement of originality
This document is written by student Dylan Munnich (student number: 13526677) who declares to take full responsibility for the contents of this document.
I declare that the text and the work presented in this document is original and that no sources other than those mentioned in the text and its references have been used in creating it.
The Faculty of Economics and Business is responsible solely for the supervision of completion of the work, not for the contents.
Verklaring eigen werk
Hierbij verklaar ik, Dylan Munnich (student nummer: 13526677), dat ik deze scriptie zelf geschreven heb en dat ik de volledige verantwoordelijkheid op me neem voor de inhoud ervan.
Ik bevestig dat de tekst en het werk dat in deze scriptie gepresenteerd wordt origineel is en dat ik geen gebruik heb gemaakt van andere bronnen dan die welke in de tekst en in de referenties worden genoemd.
De Faculteit Economie en Bedrijfskunde is alleen verantwoordelijk voor de begeleiding tot het inleveren van de scriptie, niet voor de inhoud.
Table of Contents
1 Introduction ... 1
1.1 General introduction ... 1
1.2 Problem statement and research question ... 3
1.3 Research aim & scientific and practical relevance ... 5
1.4 Methodological approach ... 6
1.5 Structure of the thesis ... 6
2 Theoretical Background ... 8
2.1 Brand engagement ... 8
2.1.1 Motivations for brand engagement ... 9
2.1.2 Brand identification ... 10
2.2 Gendered advertisements ... 11
2.2.1 Gender perception: from binary gender to gender as a social construct ... 11
2.2.2 Gendered advertisements towards men ... 12
2.2.3 Hegemonic masculinity in gendered advertisements towards men ... 13
2.2.4 Homosexual men and gendered advertisements ... 15
2.3 Subjective well-being ... 16
2.3.1 Subjective well-being of homosexual men ... 17
2.4 Research variables ... 18
3 Methodology ... 20
3.1 Appropriateness of qualitative research method ... 20
3.2 Research design: strategy and data collection ... 21
3.2.1 Research strategy ... 21
3.2.2 Data collection method: interviews ... 22
3.2.3 Data collection sampling: selection of respondents ... 25
3.3 Ethical considerations ... 26
3.4 Data analysis ... 26
3.5 Reliability and validity quality of the research ... 28
4 Findings ... 29
4.1 Brand engagement ... 29
4.1.1 Functional and hedonic motivations for brand engagement ... 29
4.1.2 Brand identity ... 30
4.2 Gendered advertisements ... 32
4.2.1 Masculine elements in gendered advertisements ... 32
4.2.2 Non-masculine elements in gendered advertisements ... 34
4.2.3 Other elements in gendered advertisements ... 37
4.3 Subjective well-being ... 37
4.3.1 Strengthening effects of subjective well-being ... 37
4.3.2 Weakening effects of subjective well-being ... 39
4.4 Contextual factors ... 40
4.5 Revised conceptual model ... 43
5 Discussion ... 45
5.1 Brand engagement ... 45
5.2 Gendered advertisements ... 46
5.3 Subjective well-being ... 49
5.4 Contextual factors ... 51
6 Conclusion, Limitations and Recommendations ... 54
6.1 Conclusion ... 54
6.2 Limitations ... 56
6.3 Future research recommendations ... 57
6.4 Industry specific recommendations ... 58
List of references ... 60
Appendices ... 68
Appendix 1 ... 68
Appendix 2 ... 73
Appendix 3 ... 74
Appendix 4 ... 76
Appendix 5 ... 83
List of Figures and Tables
1 Figure 1.1: 2018 Suitsupply advertisement……….. 3
2 Figure 1.2: 90s Diesel advertisement……… 3
3 Figure 2: Proposed relationships of the variables included in this study... 19
4 Figure 3.1: Advertisement with masculine traits……... 24
5 Figure 3.2: Advertisement with non-masculine traits……….. 24
6 Table 1: Overview of the conducted interviews………... 26
7 Table 2: Template data structure as according to Gioia et al. (2013)……….. 27
8 Figure 4: Revised conceptual model based on findings …………... 44
This qualitative study based on interviews explorers how the idealized masculine image of men in gendered fashion advertising influences the brand engagement among homosexual men. This article fills a scientific gap by including both the effects of the variable of subjective well-being and by exploring and presenting contextual factors that play a role in how homosexual men feel engaged towards fashion brands. Through interviews conducted with 8 homosexual men in The Netherlands, findings reveal that men do consider the presented images of models with both masculine and non-masculine traits as a part of their brand engagement towards fashion brands.
Findings suggest that the variable of subjective well-being affects the effects of gendered advertisements on brand engagement, which does have both strengthening and weakening effects. Contextual factors are also present in the findings and are presented. In line with the qualitative research method of grounded theory, a revised conceptual model is presented, which is based on the findings which originate from the conducted interviews. The discussion does include both findings which are in line with prior studies, where also contradictions and new findings are critically discussed. This study concludes that, in order to increase the brand engagement among homosexual men, fashion brands should incorporate a broader definition of the term of masculinity in their advertising, where a higher degree of diversity and inclusivity is preferred. Limitations and recommendations are presented, where this research could function as a starting point for future research in the domain of marketing towards the homosexual male consumer.
Key words: gendered advertising, brand engagement, subjective well-being, homosexual men, masculinity, fashion consumer marketing
I would briefly like to take a moment to thank those who supported me throughout the thesis process for my master’s degree in Business Administration, Consumer Marketing track. Last year was quite different than everyone hoped for. Starting my master’s degree in February 2021, the night curfew was in place and we were in the middle of a new wave of infections related to COVID-19. The summer gave us some kind of hope and I personally hoped that it all would go back to normal once everyone would be vaccinated against a severe infection caused by the coronavirus. However, this turned out differently, where education mostly took place online and the thesis process was mostly done from home. It was quite hard for me personally to stay focussed on education throughout these weird times, where the support of those involved really helped me to deliver a high-quality thesis. Firstly, my thesis supervisor (Marco Mossinkoff) and lecturer of qualitative data courses (Elisabeth Koning) supported me whenever needed.
They were involved in the process, both content related and for personal matters. My dearest friends and parents supported me in every way possible and reminded me that I am doing my utmost best considering the circumstances we all are currently dealing with. I would like to say thanks to the respondents who participated in this study for their willingness to participate and their openness during the interviews. Their opinions and answers are valuable, which made it possible to conduct this research after all. Lastly, I would like to thank the proof-readers for their valuable insights and critical remarks on the conducted research and the content of this study.
Kind regards and enjoy reading, Dylan Munnich
28th January 2022
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1 Introduction 1.1 General introduction
What do Kate Moss, Doutzen Kroes, and Naomi Campbell have in common? They are all three famous fashion models, but more importantly, they are all three ultra-thin. Within the fashion industry, it is the norm for female models to be very thin, where for males it is the standard to be very muscular. The standard of being very thin is still mainly used as the ideal within branding for females in the fashion industry worldwide (Clayton, Ridgway, & Hendrickse, 2017). This current image is allegedly harmful for consumers, since they compare themselves with unrealistic standards, where for instance low self-esteem, anxiety (Burnette, Kwitowski,
& Mazzeo, 2017), eating disorders and mental health problems are created (Polivy & Herman, 2002). Related to these negative mental effects is the theoretical concept of subjective well- being, which incorporates feelings regarding positive or negative emotions and state of mental well-being, such as anxiety, stress and low self-esteem (Thomaes et al., 2017; McNeill, Best,
& Davis, 2017; Lai & Perminiene, 2020).
There has been a shift in fashion branding for women, where consumers demand an acceptance of more diverse body types by posting and sharing their body positivity content online (Cohen et al., 2019). The fashion industry tries to incorporate a more diverse set of models in their branding activities towards women, where plus size models and less feminine women became more common in fashion branding campaigns towards females (Clayton et al., 2017). On the other hand, this is different for the male industry, where this shift in diversity in advertising is absent (Elliott & Elliott, 2005; Ricciardelli, Clow, & White, 2010).
There is mainly one image of the idealized masculine man present in the vast majority of branding and marketing campaigns towards men. Men are portrayed and objectified in male magazines as someone with muscles, big shoulders, a broad chest, and a washboard stomach (Elliott & Elliott, 2005). Besides, in magazines especially dedicated to men, the main message that comes across is that men should engage in certain masculine activities, should work out to stay fit and gain muscles, and dress in certain ways to align with the values of the cultural norm of one dominant form of hegemonic masculinity (Ricciardelli et al., 2010). These traits of hegemonic masculinity are used in gendered advertisements for men, where businesses in various industries tend to sell and educate the male consumer by dictating to them what is appropriate for ‘real men’. This happens by telling the consumer that they should buy certain products or do certain physical activities in order to possess these so described masculine traits (Alexander, 2003).
Adding to the above, men are mainly portrayed as someone who is heterosexual, with typical masculine traits such as being tough, powerful and, in some way, interacts with a woman with implied heteronormative romanticism, where this is based on heterosexual assumptions (Schroeder & Swick, 2004). On the contrary, the advertisement of Suitsupply from 2018 was seen as ground-breaking, where two men dressed in suits were positioned in a homoerotic setting and were kissing each other (Figure 1.1 on page 3). However, a backlash followed, where many billboards containing this homoerotic advertisement were vandalised all over The Netherlands (Maher & Gayo, 2020). Such an impactful advertisement containing homoerotic elements has been done before. For instance, back in the 90s of the twentieth century, fashion brand Diesel was known for capturing and tackling controversial topics within their advertisements, where for instance two male sailors were portrayed in a homoerotic way, by kissing each other prominently within the fashion campaign (Figure 1.2 on page 3).
Figure 1.1: Fashion advertisement: Figure 1.2: Fashion advertisement 2:
2018 Suitsupply advertisement 90s Diesel advertisement
(Green, 2018) (Hope Allwood, 2016)
1.2 Problem statement and research question
Studies have been conducted on how gendered fashion advertisements influences woman’s brand engagement negatively, by including the variable of subjective well-being (Burnette el al., 2017; Polivy & Herman, 2002; Thomaes et al., 2017; Lai & Perminiene, 2020). In addition, the prior examples of the studies including men show that advertising is still based on gender traits related to a specific gender, where men for instance should possess masculine traits (Elliott & Elliott, 2005; Ricciardelli et al., 2010; Alexander, 2003).
The findings of current studies which look at the idealized men in advertising are mainly based on results from men who identify themselves as heterosexual. For instance, Alexander (2003) reported findings that respondents in the study made homophobic remarks, where the interviewees would not like to comment on the bodies of the presented male models in the advertisements, since this might come across as being interested in the male body, thus being interested in men in a sexual way. Barry (2014) notes that future research should investigate further the effects of masculine traits within fashion advertising and their effects on brand engagement for men who take part in minorities with different sexual preferences, such as men
who do not define themselves as heterosexual. Furthermore, Schroeder and Swick (2004) indicate that branding towards men is mainly based on heterosexual and stereotypical assumptions, where the advertisements talk directly to straight men featuring activities and looks that spark the lifestyle of heterosexual men directly. Maher and Gayo (2020) acknowledge that specific gendered fashion advertisement containing homoerotic elements has led towards negative responses, where these negative remarks contained homophobic tones.
However, there is little scientific knowledge considering homosexual men and how gendered fashion advertisements affects their brand engagement, where these studies lack to incorporate the variable of subjective well-being at all.
Since the already limited research of men in this topic is mainly dominated by results of men who define themselves as heterosexual, there is the opportunity to look further into how the brand engagement of homosexual men is influenced by gendered advertisements in the context of fashion. Including the construct of gender, which has multiple interpretations and is not only based on the binary sex of male or female, enables this research to uncover how gendered fashion advertisements affects brand engagement.
Exploring the underlying motivations and insights originating from the variable of subjective well-being is interesting in this context and scientifically relevant, since there is a lack of current studies incorporating this variable and measuring its effects in the context of gendered advertisements and brand engagement among homosexual men. Furthermore, the researcher aims to find also contextual factors that could play a role in how homosexual men experience gendered advertisements, and how this affects their brand engagement.
The following research question will be answered in this study:
‘’How do gendered advertisements affect brand engagement of men in minorities with different sexual orientations, and how does subjective well-being play a role in this relationship?’’
1.3 Research aim & scientific and practical relevance
This research aims to fill a gap in scientific literature by investigating the effects of subjective well-being in the context of gendered advertisements and brand engagement, especially for men who take part in minorities with different sexual orientations, which for this research focusses on men who define themselves homosexual. Looking into how the variable of subjective well- being plays a role makes this study scientifically relevant, since current studies lack including this variable in their results.
Prior research shows that incorporating the variable of subjective well-being is mainly done for women. Focussing on the minority of homosexual men enables this research to tap an untapped domain within the research field of men and capture the effects of subjective well-being in relation to the gendered advertisements and brand engagement. This research is also in line with the recommendation of Barry (2014), where he stated that future research in minorities with different sexual preferences within the male domain and fashion should be conducted to close a gap in the literature.
The practical relevance of this study is that the outcomes of this study are beneficial for marketers within all types of industries, but for this study it will focus on the fashion industry in particular, where this has advantages for marketers in this field especially. The outcomes of this study could give brands inspiration to create advertisements and marketing campaigns that
allow homosexual men to feel more engaged with the brand. Subsequently, brands could create advertisements that not only speak to heterosexual men, but also towards those who identify themselves sexually different. It is important for brands to critically assess how they deal with the present stereotype image of the masculine male in their advertising, since this reflects on how their brand is perceived by consumers who could not identify with this stereotype masculine image. Incorporating the findings from this study in their marketing campaigns could lead to a higher degree of brand engagement and could lead to better financial results gained from consumers other than the heterosexual consumer.
1.4 Methodological approach
This research aims to add a framework using an explorative research approach, which is based on the qualitative research method of grounded theory. In the end, an attempt for adding to existing theory will be made, originating from the collected data from conducted interviews.
Results are beneficial for the debate regarding how the idealized portrayed masculine man in gendered advertisements influences the brand engagement of homosexual men. Using an inductive approach, the researcher aims to explore the effects of the variables of subjective well-being, gendered advertisements and brand engagement. The researcher aims to discover and include also contextual factors that might play a role but are not present in current studies yet, regarding homosexual men and how they interact with gendered fashion advertisements in their daily life.
1.5 Structure of the thesis
This thesis consists in total of five chapters. At first, the included variables of this study will be explained more in detail in the theoretical background chapter. This chapter is constructed in the form of a literature review. Here, insights from current academic work regarding the
included variables are explained, where at the end a first version of a conceptual model will be presented alongside some propositions. Secondly, the methodology chapter will go in more depth in how the research has been conducted, by explaining the qualitative research method of grounded theory and the data collection method of interviews. Thirdly, the findings chapter will present the findings from the data. At the end of the findings chapter, a revised conceptual model based on the findings of this study will be presented. In the fourth chapter, the findings of this study are critically discussed by comparing the results with the current findings of academic work from the literature review in the theoretical background chapter. As closure, the conclusion will present an overview of the thesis. The conclusion will also include the limitations and recommendations based on the conducted research of this thesis and the outcomes.
2 Theoretical Background
In order to come up with results to compare, some sub-questions regarding the variables of brand engagement, gendered advertisements, and subjective well-being will be answered in the theoretical background chapter in the form of a literature review. This is done to come up with a clear view of current academic literature regarding the variables included in this study. This also functions to compare the outcomes of the data analysis of the collected data with the current knowledge available in academic literature. Afterwards, a first conceptual framework will be presented alongside the propositions for this study.
The following sub questions will be answered after reading the following chapter:
Sub question (1): What is brand engagement, what motivations drive brand engagement, and how does brand identification play a role in this?
Sub question (2): What are gendered advertisements and how does the social construct of gender present in advertisements (especially the presence of masculinity) affect the way how homosexual men perceive these advertisements?
Sub question (3): What is seen as subjective well-being and how is the subjective well-being of homosexual men different than that of heterosexual men?
2.1 Brand engagement
Brand engagement is the two-way interactive way of seeking a connection, where brands seek to engage with their audience, and on the other hand, consumers have an active role with engaging with a brand (Huggard & Cope, 2020). To establish a connection between the consumer and the brand, the brand must establish a relationship with its audience, where this relationship must be satisfactory for the consumer and creates an emotional connection and a
degree of trust (Samala & Katkam, 2019). In return, the consumer invests in this relationship by participating in activities that go beyond just the transaction of goods, for example through brand engagement activities such as word-of-mouth publicity and content co-creation (Van Doorn et al., 2010).
According to Verhoef, Reinartz and Krafft (2010), the engagement between the consumer and the brand would increase if both the brand and consumer are engaged in their established relationship, where they both have active roles to create a deeper understanding and align their values. Furthermore, brand engagement is defined as a ‘’consumer’s positively valanced brand- related cognitive, emotional and behavioural activity during or related to focal consumer and brand interaction’’ (Hollebeek, Glynn, & Brodie, 2014, p. 149). Brands which invest in brand engagement towards consumers leads to a significant higher retention rate and more loyal consumers (Verhoef et al., 2010).
2.1.1 Motivations for brand engagement
Underlaying motivations of the consumer to invest in brand engagement are based on either utilitarian or hedonic motivations (Carpenter & Fairhurst, 2005; Arnold & Reynolds, 2003).
Carpenter and Fairhurst (2005) describe utilitarian motivations as a functional motivation, where ‘’the utilitarian shopping benefits are derived from the consumer’s belief that specific goals for a shopping trip were satisfied in terms of finding the item they were looking for’’ (p.
257-258). Furthermore, the utilitarian motivation is mainly driven by task-related and rational behaviour, where efficiency and functionality are a priority (Carpenter & Fairhurst, 2005).
On the contrary, hedonic motivations are based on seeking for enjoyment both during and after the purchase of goods. The consumer seeks an experience, where this enables them to connect
with the brand and its identity as a whole (Arnold & Reynolds, 2003). Connecting the consumer emotionally could be done through providing events done by the brand, where this generates pleasure or a learning experience (Kim and Kim, 2008).
We could assume that brand advertising is essential for consumers with both types of motivations, since this could facilitate functional aspects (e.g. price information and promotion of new products) for those with utilitarian motivations, where for hedonic motivated consumers, advertisements function as a way to emotionally connect with the brand and fulfil their desire of experiencing pleasure derived from the advertisement.
2.1.2 Brand identification
As said before, brands seek consumers to engage with and to build a relationship with, where this results in the consumer becoming loyal towards the brand over time. To accomplish this, a brand should have an identity with corresponding values, which the consumer could identify with (Kapferer, 2008). This brand identity consists of both intangible and tangible artifacts, where brand advertisements function as the visualized way of showing the identity of the brand towards the consumer (Kapferer, 2008). Important here is that the consumer must be able to recognise and identify itself with the narrative told in the advertising, as this leads to a higher level of brand engagement (Kim, Lloyd, & Cervellon, 2016), where the alignment of both the values of the brand and the consumer helps to construct a higher degree of brand engagement through brand identification (Wood & Pierson, 2006). Furthermore, the study by Strubel and Petrie (2018) found that homosexual consumers use brands and their products to create a form of identity that suits their own desires best. Advertising is used to engage with the brand, where the consumer uses the products of the brands that suit their idealized self-image, where consuming these products helps them to build their own desired self (Strubel & Petrie, 2018).
2.2 Gendered advertisements
Within brand advertising across all categories, gender holds a prominent role to sell certain goods to a specific gender. According to Saad (2013), evolutionary consumption plays a role in how consumers buy certain goods in relation to their gender: ‘’little boys and little girls learn about their expected gender-specific roles in part via the sex-specific toys that their parents encourage them to play with (e.g., fire truck versus doll). Furthermore, boys are presumably taught to “play rough” while girls are socialized to be gentle and nurturing in their play styles’’
(p. 353). Subsequently, the degree of a certain gender identity present in an advertisement thus determines if a product is meant for either the male or female consumer (Patterson & Hogg, 2004). By using gender stereotypes of either masculine or feminine traits in marketing, brands focus on selling products and services to either men, by including masculine traits in their advertising, or women, using feminine traits in their advertising (Ostberg, 2010). However, there has been a shift to a situation where gender must not be seen as a binary phenomenon of being either masculine or feminine based on someone’s biological sex, but must be seen as more a social construct, where gender becomes interchangeable (Ostberg, 2010). Scholars argued that biological sex and gender identity must be seen as two different entities (Arvanitidou & Gasouka, 2013).
2.2.1 Gender perception: from binary gender to gender as a social construct
Gender is a concept which consists of multiple angles. In the core, gender is seen from a binary biological perspective, where this is based on the sex at birth, which is a distinction between either the male or female sex (Kimmel & Aronson, 2008). However, academic scholars widely discuss that gender should also be seen as a social construct, where gender should not be only based on the binary biological sex (Rogers, 2008). The social construct of gender consists of multiple interpretations, where masculinity and femininity are fluid, and upcoming unisex and
non-binary styles became more present over time in the fashion industry (Arvanitidou &
Gasouka, 2013). For example, a radical change in clothing for women started by wearing trousers in the twentieth century, where trousers were considered as a piece of clothing that belongs to men, thus being something masculine (Kimmel & Aronson, 2008).
Someone’s gender perception within the social construct can be different than their biological defined gender. For instance, someone biologically defined as ‘male’, could feel socially constructed as more feminine (Kimmel & Aronson, 2008). Over time, many subcultures have experienced challenging the gender norms (Arvanitidou & Gasouka, 2013). For instance, many in the gay community started to feel more comfortable by also dressing in a more feminine way (Clarke & Smith, 2015). Besides, the gay community is known for embracing the drag scene, where men engage with feminine traits in the way of how they dress and how they behave (Kates, 2002).
2.2.2 Gendered advertisements towards men
There used to be a time where the fashion market was dominated by women, and fashion was generally regarded as something feminine (Crane, 2012). However, a shift in men’s interest for fashion began at the end of the twentieth century (Faiyaz, D’Souza, & Syed, 2006). Nowadays, men do have a dominant role with fashion, where interest in the domain of fashion is not only limited to women anymore. Men do consider fashion as a part of their identity and incorporate this in the way of how they come across to others (McNeill & McKay, 2016). These findings suggest that it is important for brands to incorporate the needs and wants of the male consumer, since there is the opportunity to serve this consumer in order to create a higher level of brand engagement between the brand and the male consumer.
As discussed above, the social construct of gender is interchangeable (Kimmel & Aronson, 2008). Ricciardelli et al. (2010) argue that men are not born masculine, but they adjusted to masculine norms over time. Rules of masculinity are present in advertising towards men, where masculine traits such as being powerful, dominant and a masculine appearance of models featured in advertising are presented in advertising towards men (Crane, 2012). Men do express to experience negative associations after being presented the image of the idealized masculine man (Elliott & Elliott, 2005), where men do experience conflict between the presented masculine man in the gendered advertisement, including the hegemonic masculine traits, in relation to the construction of their self-identity (McNeill & Douglas, 2011). Moreover, aversion towards this idealized image of the masculine man in fashion is expressed, where studies note that a more diverse set of models in fashion branding campaigns for men would be beneficial (Barry, 2014). Culture is an important factor concerning how certain images in advertising are perceived. Lass and Hart (2004) found in their cross-cultural study that it is cultural dependent whether certain type of images, in their study in an erotic setting, in advertisements are preferred. We could conclude that the degree of acceptance of the portrayed masculine image in advertising is also cultural dependent, and that culture could influence whether this image is perceived positively by the consumer.
2.2.3 Hegemonic masculinity in gendered advertisements towards men
The dominant and ideal form of masculinity is called hegemonic masculinity, where this is the ideal and cultural standard of possessing masculine traits (Ricciardelli et al., 2010).
Furthermore, Ricciardelli et al. (2010) argue that men tend to copy these norms and values that belong to this ideal form of masculinity, where this is for instance being dominant, powerful, and having the muscular, sculpted body associated with gym training. Alexander (2003) argues that in advertising, branded masculinity is used, where ‘’branded masculinity is rooted in
consumer capitalism wherein profit can be produced by generating insecurity about one’s body and one’s consumer choices and then providing consumer with the correct answer or product in articles and advertisements’’ (p. 551).
In recent years, fashion and grooming became more of interest for men. Originally, this domain was not considered as a masculine trait, however, it became more normal for men since there has been a shift in media coverage (Ricciardelli et al., 2010). Media outlets, such as mainstream magazines, dedicated more attention and importance to the fact that men should also engage in these domains, where the importance of men engaging with fashion became more the norm (Ricciardelli et al., 2010). Brands adopted this, where advertising towards men and fashion became more common. Hegemonic masculinity became present in these advertisements, where the models featuring in these advertisements possessed mainly masculine traits (Ricciardelli et al., 2010).
Nevertheless, other scholars argue that these ideals could differ and have a degree of fluidity (Beynon, 2002). Elements such as sexuality, race, culture, and identity could influence what is seen as the appropriate form of masculinity for each individual (Beynon, 2002). Bridges and Pascoe (2014) argue that also some degree of a hybrid form of masculinity is present while engaging with clothing, where men do pick their ideal form of masculinity by incorporating both masculine and feminine elements that suits their identity best. This hybrid form of masculinity has also been present in fashion advertising, where for instance in the early twenty- first century, male models with a skinny posture became more present in fashion advertising (Rees-Roberts, 2013). Overall, the portrayed male in fashion advertising is still mainly based on the assumptions of the hegemonic masculine men possessing masculine traits such as a body with a muscular posture (Rees-Roberts, 2013).
2.2.4 Homosexual men and gendered advertisements
It is argued that in the gay scene, men should dress and act in line with the notions of being masculine and tend to copy the ideals of hegemonic masculinity, where for instance the leather scene originates from (Drummond & Filiault, 2007). Besides, even homophobic remarks are made within the gay scene against those who are not in line with the idealized standard (Drummond & Filiault, 2007). Over time, there have been changes within the gay scene, where many homosexual men express that they are not in line with these rules and express that they value their own identity more than being part of this idealize hegemonic masculine image (Draper & McDonnell, 2018). Furthermore, Draper and McDonnell (2018) argue that homosexual men do want to challenge the hegemonic, or heteronormative, image presented in the media and want to challenge this within the gay community. Whitesel (2010) found that homosexual men do not have just one ideal image of how someone should look or dress, but also incorporate multiple interpretations of the ideal man, which would be beneficial if these were also present in fashion advertising. Having a more inclusive image of men, with for instance a variance of body sizes and a more present role of feminine traits for men would be beneficial to engage better with the presented advertisement and brand (Whitesel, 2010). Barry (2014) notes that there is an aversion among homosexual men towards the idealized hegemonic masculine men in fashion advertising, which would be beneficial for brands to incorporate more than just one image in their advertising. Using advertisements that include homosexual elements, such as a homosexual couple and homoerotic elements presented in the advertisement, showed a higher level of cognitive and affective engagement among a homosexual audience, where mainly the assumption of inclusivity in fashion advertising is preferred (Chae, Kim, & Johnson, 2016). We could conclude that a lower degree of an idealized image of the masculine man present in gendered fashion advertisements increases brand engagement among homosexual men. This aversion towards the idealized masculine image
could originate from one’s own perception and state of mental well-being, for example one’s degree of insecurity or lower levels of self-esteem, where this is classified as one’s subjective well-being.
2.3 Subjective well-being
Besides the physical well-being of one’s body, the term of subjective well-being encompasses the affective, cognitive and emotional processes of one’s mental health (Diener, 2000).
Subjective well-being consists of factors such as stress, anxiety, insecurity, depression, a level of lower self-esteem, and being (dis)satisfied with some aspects originating from factors such as success in life or body (dis)satisfaction (Uhrig, 2015). Subjective well-being is part of one’s personal well-being, which is a multifaceted construct including satisfying life, self-esteem, and positive functioning (Michaelson et al., 2009). As said earlier regarding advertising within fashion, scholars found that the idealized portrayed image is present in advertising within fashion. It is argued that a lower subjective well-being could change the way how someone engages with an advertisement (Burnette et al., 2017). The portrayed image does influence the way people see the world around them and themselves, thus it does also show the consumer that they should improve their own life in some way by showing this idealized image, where this in turn does affect their self-esteem negatively (Burnette et al., 2017). Dissatisfaction is debated in how this plays a role in how someone perceives a fashion advertisement. Rieke et al. (2016) said that consumers tend to compare with role models present in the media, where this mainly does lead to a higher level of dissatisfaction. The mostly unrealistic image presented do strengthen the levels of lower self-esteem, dissatisfaction and insecurity (Saltzberger &
Chrisler, 2006). The absence of imperfection and the presence of the idealized masculine image are the major reasons why people encounter these negative feelings, where this leads to anxiety and even negative feelings related to depression (Dittmar & Halliwell, 2007).
2.3.1 Subjective well-being of homosexual men
Thompson and Cafri (2007) note that there are associations between the portrayed idealized masculine man in the media and eating disorders among men. Prior research has shown that minorities with other sexual orientations than being heterosexual suffer from higher levels of negative subjective well-being, where this is mainly caused by minority stress theory (Herek &
Garnets, 2007). Homosexual men do have a higher degree of muscularity concerns, where this results into a higher desire to increase their level of masculinity than heterosexual men do (Eik- Nes et al., 2018). This higher level of desire for masculinity among homosexual men results in higher levels of body dissatisfaction, uncertainty, and even eating disorders (Eik-Nes et al., 2018). Calzo et al. (2015) found that sexual orientation is a strong driver in developing and expressing body image concerns, since men with other sexual preferences do not fit in the idealized male image. From prior research, it seems that homosexual men do have poorer levels of subjective well-being, since they want to conform with the idealized, heteronormative, and masculine image that rises in the media, where they feel that they do not fit in that image properly (Herek & Garnets, 2007). When comparing heterosexual men with homosexual men, the latter seem to be more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders, experience higher levels of body dissatisfaction, experience lower levels of self-esteem, and suffer from depressions originating from the desire to pursue the presented idealized image of males (Austin et al., 2004; Calzo et al., 2015; Herek & Garnets, 2007).
2.4 Research variables
The literature shows the consumer holds two types of motivations in order to increase brand engagement (Carpenter & Fairhurst, 2005; Arnold & Reynolds, 2003). Furthermore, there must be some degree of brand identification present in the advertising of the brand to increase brand engagement (Kim et al., 2016; Kapferer, 2008). The idealized masculine man present in advertisements also plays a role in how homosexual men interact with the advertisement, where men could not identify with the masculine man presented in the advertisement (Draper &
McDonnell, 2018). This could influence both the attractiveness of the advertisement and the engagement with the brand. Subjective well-being among homosexual men is found to be poorer compared to heterosexual men (Austin et al., 2004; Calzo et al., 2015; Herek & Garnets, 2007), where it is proposed that subjective well-being could strengthen or weaken the relationship between gendered advertisements and brand engagement towards fashion brands.
Thus, these claims are made based on the limited literature available, and it is still not clear in the context of homosexual men in the area of fashion advertising. The gap in the literature concerning the effects of subjective well-being on the proposed relationship between gendered advertisements and brand engagement is not found in the prior literature, where this study aims to fill this gap. The variables of (1) brand engagement, (2) gendered advertisements and (3) subjective well-being will be investigated and will be studied in this research, where the proposed relationships will be measured and explained in detail.
Figure 2 on page 19 illustrates how the variables of this study are thought to be related, where using the research method of grounded theory and through collected interview data a more elaborated and more detailed theory will be constructed.
Figure 2: Proposed relationships of the variables included in this study
Based on the academic literature related to the variables, the following propositions were made:
Proposition (1): In general, we would expect that the image of the idealized masculine man present in gendered advertisements affects the brand engagement among homosexual men.
Proposition (2): In general, we would expect that subjective well-being could strengthen or weaken the effects of gendered advertisements on brand engagement among homosexual men.
Since this research is explorative in nature, it aims to discover, next to (dis)confirming these relationships, also contextual factors that could play a role in how homosexual men engage with gendered advertisements in relation to brand engagement, thus:
Proposition (3): In general, we would expect that there are also contextual factors present that could influence how gendered advertisements affect brand engagement among homosexual men.
Brand engagement Gendered
3.1 Appropriateness of qualitative research method
This study made use of an interpretative approach, where this offered the opportunity to study a topic in depth, and where the outcomes of the study formed the initial theory that serves as a starting point for other studies in the future (Hackley, 2003). Furthermore, this approach allows for insightful and detailed information about a phenomenon rather than generalizing findings and is said to be the best approach to use when studying consumer research (Hackley, 2003, pp.
8-9). An explorative inductive qualitative study, using grounded theory and the data collection method of interviews, was conducted to understand the underlying mechanisms of the variable of subjective well-being in relation to gendered advertisements and brand engagement, in the context of homosexual men. Mossinkoff (2012) mentions that: ‘’grounded theory as a methodological standpoint allows the researcher to challenge the rules as it were, and in doing so he is not aiming at falsifying theories (in the terminology of Karl Popper) but aiming at refining, adjusting, and enriching previous findings by confuting the theoretical premises and assumptions (i.e. the ideology) on which these findings are based’’ (p. 80).
This is appropriate for the context of this specific study because there is a lack of literature in the researched field, where this study aims to fill this gap regarding how the variable of subjective well-being and contextual variables are related to the variables of gendered advertisements and brand engagement. By using grounded theory, the researcher hopes to create more clarity and insight into how the studied phenomenon works and which factors play a role. Identification of possible variables that occur in this process is beneficial, since this has not been done before in the context of homosexual men and their subjective well-being in relation to the variables of gendered fashion advertisements and brand engagement.
Studying the variable subjective well-being of a respondent could be seen as sensitive, where the method choice for in-depth interviews is most suitable in such case (Crotty, 1998). This is since the interviewee can talk freely about the topic in confidence with the interviewer, where there is some degree of trust between interviewee and interviewer, and where this allows a safe space to allow exploration of the topic (Scott, 1994). Choosing the research method of interviews enabled the researcher to study the topic from a wider perspective, instead of only testing a hypothesis, as would be done within a quantitative research method (Elliott & Elliott, 2005). Using the qualitative data collection method of one-on-one interviews created the opportunity to explore the subject in depth, where at the end, a theory and conceptual model was built upon the findings from the data.
Since the academic literature in this area is scarce and that the subgroup of homosexual men and their relation towards gendered advertisements and brand engagement in the context of fashion is being investigated, the outcomes of this qualitative study contribute to the field of marketers within fashion marketing. Inductive reasoning combined with the theoretical background literature review was used to come to conclusions and construct a theory after data analysis, in line with the research strategy of grounded theory (Mitchell, 2014). This is also in line with the reasoning of Johnson (1996) that inductive reasoning requires a need for rich and complex explorative data that was gathered from interviews, which is then used to come up with a theory.
3.2 Research design: strategy and data collection 3.2.1 Research strategy
The research design for this study consists of the qualitative research strategy of grounded theory and a mono-method data collection design based on information originating from
interviews. According to Mitchell (2014), Glaser and Strauss (1967) who firstly introduced the research strategy of grounded theory, where they propose that grounded theory should be purely inductive in nature, without any other background information given in the theoretical background of the study. However, Mitchell (2014) argues that doing research purely based on inductive reasoning from new data does not exist, and that some background information about the topic is beneficial to research the phenomenon in a more concrete way. By this way, the study is still inductive, which also builds upon existing literature and could fill the gap in the literature by creating a theory from the data obtained in the data collection phase. According to Charmaz and Belgrave (2012), the research strategy of grounded theory is a systematic method to propose a theory from the analysis of the collected data, where it is an explorative, inductive and iterative research strategy. Furthermore, the aim of grounded theory is to discover and generate a theory from the obtained data (Mfinanga, Mrosso, & Bishibura, 2019). This strategy is most suitable in the context of this research, since the researcher aims to come up with a new theory from the gathered data and tries to explore the underlaying mechanisms related to the field of this study specific, by adding to the existing literature available. Mfinanga et al. (2019) also suggests that grounded theory is the ideal research strategy when exploring relationships and behaviour concerning a phenomenon.
3.2.2 Data collection method: interviews
The data collection method of interviews was used in this study. According to Khan (2014), the use of semi-structured in-depth interviews is the most suitable method to collect data when using the research strategy of grounded theory. This method is most suitable to uncover latent thoughts and beliefs, that will not be captured in other research methods (Crotty, 1998).
Enabling the interviewee a degree of flexibility within the semi-structured interview leads to findings that were not expected beforehand. This happens because this gives the respondent as
much space to talk freely, without being forced in a direction. Interviews enable the researcher to understand the underlying mechanisms that are present in a specific context, which creates a better understanding of the how and why reasoning that influences the independent variable (Rich & Ginsburg, 1999). According to Hollebeek (2011), this explorative approach with the use of inductive reasoning is most suitable for the creation of a specific theory or concept, which is in line with the use of grounded theory as research strategy (Charmaz & Belgrave, 2012).
Scott (1994) described that using in-depth interviews enables the researcher to study sensitive topics that otherwise would not be studied or measured when using for instance surveys or questionnaires. This is the exact reason why using this data collection method is most suitable in the given context. Through inductive reasoning and the creation of a theory from the gathered data from the interviews, the researcher made a first attempt to create a holistic overview and a first version of a representation of present ongoing mechanisms, based on intrinsic feelings and thoughts from the respondent, which is in line with the qualitative research strategy of grounded theory (Hollebeek, 2011; Charmaz & Belgrave, 2012).
The researcher made an interview protocol (Appendix 1) containing both (1) a topic list containing the aims of each part of the interview, and (2) a question list containing a list of potential questions to be asked during the interview. The researcher wanted to make sure that the respondent got as much freedom as possible, where as much as possible open-ended questions were asked. Furthermore, the researcher made a distinction between different topics, where some questions could be asked when this fits the information given by the respondent.
Initial open-ended questions regarding fashion in general were used to spark the attention of the interviewee.
Afterwards, two different types of fashion advertisements (Figure 3.1 and Figure 3.2) which both had male models present were presented. This was done to spark the attention to the topic of gendered fashion advertisements and masculinity present in fashion advertising, which the respondents were asked to describe in depth what they felt after seeing both advertisements in relation to their brand engagement.
Figure 3.1: Fashion advertisement 1: Figure 3.2: Fashion advertisement 2:
Advertisement with masculine traits Advertisement with non-masculine traits
(Horbelt, 2021) (Ludovic de Saint Sernin, 2021)
From here, the interviewer could ask further for the how and why reasoning of the respondent, relating to the idealized masculine image of men, the degree of masculinity present in the advertisements, and how the variable of subjective well-being plays a role in their reasoning.
This was done because variable specific questions dive deeper into the understanding of the interviewee regarding a specific topic (Rich & Ginsburg, 1999). The interviews were recorded, so that the recordings could be transcribed for the analysis procedure.
3.2.3 Data collection sampling: selection of respondents
For the selection of respondents, purposive sampling technique was used. This method is most suitable when doing a qualitative study which aims to capture a specific target group who shares a set of shared characteristics (Etikan, Musa, & Alkassim, 2016). The target group of this study consists of male participants, who identify themselves as homosexual. This is a minimum requirement because this research will be looking into the effects of the subjective well-being of homosexual men in relation to gendered advertisements and brand engagement. The biggest advantage of this sampling method is that this enables the researcher to look for the respondents who meet the requirements, instead of using for instance convenience sampling (Etikan et al., 2016). Firstly, the researcher looked in his own surroundings (e.g., friends, acquaintances) and contacted potential respondents himself. Forward snowballing technique was applied, where prior respondents were asked to refer the researcher towards other potential respondents who also are in line with the minimum requirements. This is necessary, since this enriches the data, since the data becomes more specific into the targeted population for the research (Draucker et al., 2007). Between 2nd of November and 15th of November 2021, 8 respondents were interviewed. Each interview was between 23 and 55 minutes long, where most of these were conducted online, through a Zoom call. This number of respondents enabled the researcher to capture patterns or discrepancies in the data set, where this enabled the researcher to discover and generate a theory from the obtained data (Mfinanga et al., 2019). A full overview of the conducted interviews can be found in Table 1 on page 26.
Table 1: Overview of the conducted interviews
3.3 Ethical considerations
This study was granted ethical clearance by the University of Amsterdam with EBEC request number: 20211021111048 (Appendix 2). Prior to the interviews, the respondent received all the ethical, privacy, and confidentiality related information in the form of an informed consent which was discussed verbally (Appendix 3). Before the interview started, the interviewee was asked to give permission verbally on the recording.
3.4 Data analysis
The analysis of the obtained data from the interviews is in line with the main assumptions of grounded theory, where the data will be analysed systematically (Charmaz & Belgrave, 2012), where a theory will be discovered and generated from the generated data (Mfinanga et al., 2019). The interviews were recorded, which enabled the researcher to transcribe the data afterwards. In line with the data analysis structure of Gioia, Corley and Hamilton (2013), the obtained data was analysed in different phases. The data analysis was done in the computerized program NVivo, where the licence key was granted by the University of Amsterdam. At first,
Respondent nr. Age Date of interview Location Duration of interview Respondent 1 29 2nd of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 24 minutes
Respondent 2 24 3rd of November 2021 Utrecht 36 minutes Respondent 3 25 8th of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 23 minutes Respondent 4 27 9th of November 2021 Amsterdam 41 minutes Respondent 5 29 9th of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 35 minutes Respondent 6 28 10th of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 35 minutes Respondent 7 27 12th of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 44 minutes Respondent 8 66 15th of November 2021 Online (Zoom) 55 minutes
in line with Gioia et al. (2013) the data was labelled through the use of open coding within the transcripts of the interviews. Open coding is assigning codes to information that contains important information in relation to the research, where these were classified as 1st Order Concepts (Gioia et al., 2013). Afterwards, Axial coding was done, where the 1st Order Concepts were merged into 2nd Order Themes (Gioia et al., 2013). This was done on the assumption that this research is explorative in nature, where patterns in the data were merged under labels that include the findings that are overlapping. Axial coding through the creation of 2nd Order Themes enables the researcher to create linkages and create deeper meaning to the interviews that were conducted. Lastly, the 2nd Order Themes were merged into Aggerate Dimensions, where these outcomes of the present variables serve as a first attempt of making a theory (Gioia et al., 2013). The used template table of the coding book containing 1st Order Concepts, 2nd Order Themes, and the Aggerate Dimensions adapted from Gioia et al. (2013) can be found in Table 2. The final completed coding book containing all the 1st Order Concepts, 2nd Order Themes and the Aggerate Dimensions from the data of this study can be found in Appendix 4. Upon request, the anonymised transcripts of the interviews, the NVivo data file, and the recording files can be shared with the thesis grader.
Table 2: Template data structure as according to Gioia et al. (2013)
1st Order Concepts 2nd Order Concepts Aggerate Dimensions
Code X Concept X Dimension X
3.5 Reliability and validity quality of the research
Some measurements were taken to secure the reliability and validity of this study. These are to increase reliability, the researcher should record and transcribe all the conducted interviews, where the data from the interviews should be presented in the results section (Gibbert &
Ruigrok, 2010). The goal of doing this is the creation of transparency and to enable replication (Gibbert & Ruigrok, 2010). In line with the conclusions from Gibbert and Ruigrok (2010), the researcher made sure to apply these measurements to increase the reliability of the research.
Concerning the validity of the research, the researcher must not project his own experiences when conducting interviews, where the role of the interviewer is to gather data purely and directly from the respondent (Gibbert & Ruigrok, 2010). According to Hackley (2003), interpretative research draws on hermeneutics, which is the study of interpretation. This is the study of transcribing the data of the conducted interviews, where from this transcribed text, meanings and interpretations are made: ‘’… a depth interview can be transcribed into a text of a dialogic exchange between researcher and interviewee. The text that results is a representation of what took place (the depth interview)’’ (p. 11).
The key criteria to ensure the validity and quality of the research is to capture the experience of the interviewee, without interfering own experiences or thoughts (Pillow, 2003). The researcher made sure to take these recommendations into account while conducting the research, where it aims to increase the validity and quality of the research.
The structure of the findings is in the same order as the theoretical background chapter. Firstly, the findings related to brand engagement will be shown. Secondly, results regarding the variable of gendered advertisements will be presented. Thirdly, the effects of subjective well-being are shown and lastly, the findings of contextual factors present in the data will be presented. These concepts were analysed with the Gioia et al. (2013) method, where at first, 1st Order Concepts were made using open coding in the transcripts of the interviews. Afterwards, these codes were merged into 2nd Order Concepts and finally into Aggerate Dimensions. The used quotations are translated from Dutch, where both the Dutch quotes and English translation can be found in Appendix 5.
4.1 Brand engagement
As explained in the theoretical background chapter of this thesis, brand engagement consists of (1) shopping motivations and (2) the presence of a brand identity. Both were investigated in the conducted interviews.
4.1.1 Functional and hedonic motivations for brand engagement
Findings suggest that functional motivations were preferred over hedonic motivations as driver for brand engagement, where factors such as (1) comfort and practicability, (2) no hassle during the shopping activity, and (3) efficiency were preferred. For example, Respondent 1 (Age 29) mentions: ‘’Respondent: I mostly go for efficiency and functionality. I don’t prefer a clothing store where there is rack with only four T-shirts and a coffee corner, I don’t like that at all. I prefer just all the T-shirts efficiently hanging on a clothing rack.
Interviewer: Why is it that you don’t like that?
Respondent: I think it is hassle. I must communicate with the staff in such a situation and that is a hassle for me. I just want a certain type of T-shirt in size L and that’s it. I prefer it when I can just take what I need without asking the staff for help or need to listen to a sales pitch. If I want something, I already know that myself’’.
Regarding the functional aspect of advertisements of brands, Respondent 4 (Age 27) mentions that advertisements remind him of buying new stuff and informs him about the available articles: ‘’Advertisements are sometimes a trigger to buy new stuff, for instance an underwear advertisement. I have a lot of boxershorts, but they all have holes in them. After seeing an advertisement, it reminds me to buy new ones’’.
Some interviewees mention that they like to have both functional and hedonic motivations while shopping, but this is situational dependent. For instance, Respondent 2 (Age 24) mentions the following: ‘’I really like a shopping experience where I can experience something, but I also value the functional aspect. Shopping without a goal is something that I really like, without the importance of the functional side. Shopping without buying, so really the experience itself is fun, but I am also someone who is goal oriented when I am searching for a product in particular. In such a situation, I am more goal oriented while shopping. So, I can recognize myself in both type of motivations’’. Furthermore, the data also shows that it is context dependent, whether it is preferred to have a hedonic experience. Findings show that when buying a special and/or more expensive product or when going out for a shopping experience, a hedonic experience is preferred.
4.1.2 Brand identity
The data shows that the role of brand identity in advertising is in general seen as an important driver of brand engagement. Results suggest that the brand identity is a way to tell the core values of a brand to the consumer, which helps the consumer to navigate for the right fit between
the values of the brand and the consumer. In the case of Respondent 7 (Age 27), the role of brand identity in advertisements is that the brand must tell their core values in order to engage properly with their audience: ‘’I think that it is very important to distinguish yourself [as a brand in advertisements]. … What you convey, where you stand for. I think that is very important nowadays, because brands are not just brands anymore. They are not solely there for selling clothes, but brands must also be socially committed. They must commit with ‘’women rights’’, must be more inclusive, both inside and outside of the organization. So as a brand, you must have a certain set of core values and characteristics in order to engage people with your brand’’. Other factors mentioned by interviewees regarding brand identity is that a brand must make political statements, must be socially responsible, and must value sustainability.
On the other hand, Respondent 6 (Age 28) prefers brands which are more on the surface and don’t have an extreme stance, where it shows that it is also consumer type dependent:
‘'Interviewer: Regarding fashion advertisements, do you think that fashion advertisements are a good means to tell the identity of the brand?
Respondent: Yes, I don’t know, it depends on the type of consumer. The one is absolutely looking for exposure, where the brand is taking a stance and clearly shows what kind of brand it is and how they want to represent that. That type of consumer also represents this and can identify with the image of the brand. I personally prefer brands that are more on the surface and less out in the open and a bit more exclusive to wear instead of a brand that has an extreme stance. … I personally prefer brands which are more on the background’’. Findings suggest that a brand identity must be present in brand advertising, which enables the consumer to align their own values to the values of the brand. Brands must be aware that not all consumers favour an extreme stance of the brand concerning for example political statements and do prefer a brand which is more on the surface. However, this is consumer dependent, and brands must be aware of what their consumer desires concerning the image and stance of the brand.
4.2 Gendered advertisements
In the conducted interviews, data concerning both masculine and non-masculine elements in gendered advertisements were found regarding brand engagement of the respondent. Other factors in gendered advertisements were also found and are presented in this section. As explained in the methodology chapter, the respondents were presented two advertisements with either masculine and non-masculine traits of the model present in the fashion advertisements.
4.2.1 Masculine elements in gendered advertisements
The data shows that the included respondents mainly experience just one image of the masculine men in advertising. This masculine man is seen as the role model by society, where respondents cannot relate with this presented image. Respondent 5 (Age 29) describes that he does not like this idealized image of the masculine male as the following: ‘’Interviewer: Could you describe what you think of fashion advertisements that only have masculine men in it?
Respondent: Yes, there are for example brands like PME Legend, they produce clothing for really masculine men. I think that is terrible, they pose in advertisements for instance in a pilot suit with an aircraft. That is totally not my thing. Personally, I like it more when it is more in the middle, so not just that stereotype male image’’. The presented image of a masculine male model is also seen as boring by the interviewees, the image of a masculine male with muscles is attractive to look at but is also very simple and has been done before. Findings also suggest that consumers feel a form of pressure after looking at the idealized image, where they must be in line with the presented image in order to belong to the targeted consumer of the brand. When asked to make remarks on the first presented advertisement containing a male model with masculine traits, Respondent 3 (Age 25) said: ‘’I see [an advertisement of] Calvin Klein, a beautiful image of the portrayed male. I do wear underwear of Calvin Klein myself; it is a well- known brand. What it does for me personally if I see this image, I immediately think that
everyone must have such a muscular body in order to wear it. That is the unfortunate aspect of brands, that they often present perfect bodies with the perfect image. They never show girls or boys who are thicker. That’s where it falls short. Such a type of advertisements gives me the idea that apparently, I must look also that perfect’’. Others reject the presented image and express that they do not recognize themselves in the presented image, where they even do not want to look like the ideal image. For instance, Respondent 1 (Age 29) mentions: ‘’Interviewer:
Could you tell me what you feel after seeing this advertisement [including a model with masculine traits]?
Respondent: This does not appeal to me because I cannot recognize myself in this image.
Interviewer: Could you describe why you cannot recognize yourself in this image?
Respondent: Because I don’t think that I look like that, and besides, I don’t want to look like that. Also, the boxer brim is too high.
Interviewer: You just mentioned that you cannot recognize yourself in the model featured in the advertisement, why is that the case?
Respondent: Because he is toned, and I don’t look like that, and I don’t want to look like that’’.
The findings also show that homosexual men do demand a change in regard how masculinity is seen and defined, where Respondent 4 (Age 27) mentions: ‘’I think that it would be good to broaden the definition of masculinity for men. For women, femineity is way broader defined already, where it is normal for women to wear trousers. For men it is still narrowly defined ‘’.
There are respondents who think that the idealized image of the masculine man is seen as attractive and is a means where they feel more engaged with the brand after being confronted with this image. The main driver of these remarks is because this is an image they have seen before their whole life and is not new to them, where this is the safest option to look at. Besides, the respondents made several homoerotic remarks regarding the looks of the model with the