Congratulations to Kristen Barber on the publication of her new book Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry. The book was published in August 2016 with Rutgers University Press.
The twenty-first century has seen the emergence of a new style of man: the metrosexual. Overwhelmingly straight, white, and wealthy, these impeccably coiffed urban professionals spend big money on everything from facials to pedicures, all part of a multi-billion-dollar male grooming industry. Yet as this innovative study reveals, even as the industry encourages men to invest more in their appearance, it still relies on women to do much of the work.
Styling Masculinity investigates how men’s beauty salons have persuaded their clientele to regard them as masculine spaces. To answer this question, sociologist Kristen Barber goes inside Adonis and The Executive, two upscale men’s salons in Southern California. Conducting detailed observations and extensive interviews with both customers and employees, she shows how female salon workers not only perform the physical labor of snipping, tweezing, waxing, and exfoliating, but also perform the emotional labor of pampering their clients and pumping up their masculine egos.
Letting salon employees tell their own stories, Barber not only documents occasions when these workers are objectified and demeaned, but also explores how their jobs allow for creativity and confer a degree of professional dignity. In the process, she traces the vast network of economic and social relations that undergird the burgeoning male beauty industry.
“Barber provides excellent insight into how women groom men while upholding their gender and class identities, and how masculinity and beauty are not at odds with each other. Truly a pleasure.”
—Jamie Mullaney, author of Paid to Party: Working Time and Emotion in Direct Home Sales
“What does it mean that contemporary men are going to salons, getting their nails done, or dyeing their hair? Kristen Barber examines how these practices are intimately related to shifting definitions of masculinity, and actually buttress gender, race, and class inequalities. A compelling and colorful read.”
—C.J. Pascoe, author of Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School