The Commodification of the Male Body in Homoculture.
What do you say! There you are on Instagram, showing pictures of yourself at the gym, gradually evolving like the seasons of the year from full gym kit (winter) to teeny underwear (summer) as the fat gets less and the muscle grows. But you don’t have to carefully select or invest in underwear. Because in Insta-homoculture for those men who have the right abs and butt, the underwear finds you through your account and then straight to your post.
I don’t speak of me, you understand! No matter how many times I pop a mention of Marks & Spencer, I rarely have trouble getting out of my flat because of the Postman poking M&S underwear through my flaps…letterbox I mean.
In homoculture, the male body and how it has been presented and represented centres on ideals of masculinity. If only certain people attained this Men’s Health ideology in the past, representation through Instagram is now more diverse, broad ranging and local. ‘Ordinary’ males are now insta-stars. The commodification of the male body is or can be accessorised across a range of men from diverse backgrounds. The only VIP ticket required is a gym or sports toned-body.
If a brand of underwear wishes to have a broader representation than a billboard, ad on social media or in a magazine, why not send it to the ordinary guy on Instagram who has accumulated 14k followers from shirtless pictures accessorised with a cat or dog (the homoculture cute factor of an animal increases the appeal of the male form.)
For the brand this reaches 14k plus viewers looking for an increase in cultural capital, the appeal factor of nice underwear and body attainment. If an ordinary guy can look good and get 1k likes then marketing of the underwear is…job done!
Ultimately, who benefits? This is one of the questions I pose. Is it free or reduced price underwear you get to become poster boy of the moment? Maybe that gym membership takes up your disposable income so wearing a pair of branded underwear for half or a quarter of the department store price is a simple choice to make. Turn it on it’s head though.
My Insta searches or recommendations are peppered with shirtless men. But not exclusive mind. Retro furniture and French cars also feature heavily so I am, I like to think, have a bit of a cultural Edina Monsoon in me.
Think about it though, you were a young guy who was never quite masculine enough in the school gym changing rooms. You were skinny or slightly overweight in high school where masculine ideals positioned teenage guys through sport achievement and how a physic was looking and changing. Then you discover how the gym gives you confidence in your 20s, 30s or 40s. Suddenly avoiding the school gym gives way to never avoiding the local gym; six days a week, two hours a session.
Of course you would want to show your body off. Then suddenly you have 10k followers which boosts your body confidence. Finally, you are asked to tag a brand of underwear with a free or reduced price sample. It would be two fingers up to the jock guys from school, the muscle guys who squeezed you out when you first hit the club scene and how would you ever have thought you would be here, modelling for a company.
So the commodification of the male body works both ways I would argue. The monetary winner being the brand and the homoculture male feeling a sense of self-worth and confidence. Perhaps a few guys will become bigger than just 14k followers but I think most will accept the contract of Instagram; your pictures are only as good as your gym sessions if you follow that path. I’m just waiting on my M&S package…
This has been made up in the Carrie Bradshaw sense of “I kinda’ got to thinking…”, way you understand. I just think Instagram is an interesting marketing tool. But if you have modelled for underwear or anything else, let me know how it works. Just don’t send me pictures…unless you have a Citroen 2CV.