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Men and their groomed body: Understanding personal grooming as both a discursive and embodied practice

Chihling Liu (Department of Marketing, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 April 2019

Issue publication date: 6 June 2019




This study aims to offer insights into the embodied concerns that underpin men’s personal grooming practices through which they experience their body as the “existential ground of culture and self” and manage their everyday bodily presentation.


This study analyses 16 interviews with male consumers of age between 20 and 76. The interpretative analysis is informed by both Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the body-subject and the sociology of the body as discursively constituted.


This study proposes four bodily identity positions that link individual personal grooming practices to specific embodied concerns. These bodily identity positions underline the different ways the male body is called upon to carve out a meaningful existence.

Research limitations/implications

The research findings are not intended to generalise or to be exhaustive. Rather, it is hoped that they may stimulate readers to think more deeply about the role of the body in aiding male consumers to seek maximum grip on their life-world.

Practical implications

The study findings provide marketers with rich narratives for brand positioning and image development beyond the traditional sexual and/or alpha male-themed marketing and advertising. They also offer preliminary insights for mental health practitioners into how the male body shapes men’s identity development and experiences of well-being.


The study identifies the different ways personal grooming can become assimilated into an individual’s system of beliefs and practices. It also offers empirical support for a definition of the body as active and acted upon, especially with respect to male grooming.



The author would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to the associate editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and guidance on developing this manuscript. The author would also like to thank the men who generously gave their time and participated in this study.


Liu, C. (2019), "Men and their groomed body: Understanding personal grooming as both a discursive and embodied practice", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 53 No. 5, pp. 1015-1034.



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