Advertisers have long used handsome men to hawk their wares. In the 20th century, marketers who realized that women did a majority of the household shopping created dashing spokesmen, such as the Arrow Shirt Man, to appeal more to the ladies than the menfolk. And certainly advertising has played an integral role in the male beauty culture that has skyrocketed in the past 20 years, too. In fact, some scholars and experts trace men's heightened attention to self and—more importantly—how they appear to others back to a single, revolutionary image from 1982.
Talk to a group of teen boys, and they'll probably tell you that, sure, they'd like to have the swoon-inducing sex appeal of Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner, or whomever is playing the newest iteration of the Degrassi High heartthrob. But do they want to look like them, immaculately styled and toned to the max? No way, bro.
If there was ever a marginalized male group directly and powerfully affected by the masculinity construct, it’s jail and prison inmates. No, I didn’t just finish up an Oz marathon (honestly, I haven’t seen a single episode of the prison drama, so there will be no show references dropped in this post henceforth), but I did stumble across a series of studies dissecting the insidious, damaging culture of hypermasculinity in jails and prisons. Considering that there are roughly 1.4 million men behind bars in the United States, it’s a relevant issue directly impacting a sizable population.