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Rupert Murdoch’s offer to buy Dow Jones became public in May. The proposed $US60-a-share offer was 67 per cent above the market price at the time.
Sixty US dollars. Is that a big amount of money? If you’re interested in fashion, it is. If you’re interested in the spending behaviour of young people, it is. If you’re interested in the influence gender has on shopping habits, it is.
According to the Lifelounge Urban Market Research report for 2007-08, a detailed investigation of the segment of the Australian young-adult market that influences the consumption behaviour of others, reveals that, over a four-week period, young men spend an average of 9 on clothing, footwear and accessories, only less than that of young women.
And the gap is narrowing every year.
However, although young males have become worthy opponents in this contest of cool, there are still plenty of differences in how they approach the art of grooming.
In the animal kingdom, it is the males that most often dress to impress, with their flamboyant plumes.
Although less conspicuous than the proverbial peacock, young males in the urban kingdom are dressing not only to woo but to wow.
These days more young males are interested in fashion and are closely involved in choosing what they wear and are interested in understanding what this communicates to others.
Where an awareness of fashion was once viewed by males as something that challenged masculinity, today fashion is a fundamental defining factor of a young male’s personal identity.
However, being openly conscious of what you wear is still perceived as a relatively feminine trait. Therefore, most males are still cautious about publicising their fascination with fashion and may not always be willing to adopt new trends as soon as they enter the market in the same way that females are.
The parallels between egonomics and economics are endless. As in any exchange, shares are traded by both males and females to gain power over their competitors. But how they determine their own market worth can differ significantly.
Females historically have placed importance on increasing their aesthetic appeal. This has been reflected not only in their obsession with fashion, but also in the industry’s obsession with them. There is undoubtedly a heavy skew of magazines aimed primarily at females in the market; and for good reason.
According to UMR, females are more likely to be influenced by mass media in their decisions to buy the latest must-have clothing items, which, therefore, makes females likely targets for frequent and impulsive purchases.
In contrast, fashion for today’s young men is a bit more complicated. Fashion acts as a symbol of what and who they perceive as successful, which in turn plays a big part in the way masculinity gets defined today.
UMR reports that, unlike their female counterparts, young males when they make fashion purchases are more likely to be influenced by a sports stars, their involvement with subcultures and increasingly by musicians (for example, Daniel Johns of Silverchair, who wore women’s shoes to the Arias).
Fashion can help young males display this new-found masculinity; it can also help control fears to do with failure, intimacy and lack of sex appeal that may threaten that masculinity.
How young men see themselves and how they wish to be perceived by others is of first importance. As a result, their purchases are becoming increasingly considered. UMR found that young males are less likely than females to consider cost or availability as a factor that determines what fashion items they buy.
In addition, the number of males buying clothing online has doubled in the past year and shopping at independent stores has increased. Such factors indicate that young males are using fashion as a representation of who they are.
Without doubt, today’s young males are matching their female counterparts in the vanity stakes. So, why the sharp shift from rugged to refined?
An influential factor would be that they belong to the first generation of males to have grown up with a wave of male fashion literature, such as GQ, Maxim, Esquire, Men’s Health and the form of "new man" advertising they contain.
In addition, there is a greater need for peer group association due to increased connectivity and the pervasiveness of digital media.
Like the old chicken-and-egg riddle, it’s hard to say which came first: the influence of the media; or the altered perception of masculinity that exists today.
Regardless, in the world of male fashion, the market is a lucrative one for both retailers and advertisers.
Although increasingly gen Y males are conscious of what they wear and how it communicates to others, they are not interested in shopping frequently for clothes or other fashion items.
They may be at ease reading about fashion in magazines but they don’t feel comfortable discussing it with other men.
Targeting men’s time-poor, no fuss, convenience-driven attitude would be an effective place for fashion marketers to start, as would be tackling their anti-fashion sensibilities.
Take a look at Lost star Matthew Fox’s ad for L’Oreal (you can find it on YouTube) for a good example of how advertisers aim to position men who have made it in the working world and possess the status symbols to prove it.
Assistant professor at the University of San Diego Susanna Stern, whose research focuses on how young people experience and are affected by electronic media, says that one of the most important factors in attracting teens to your website is to make them feel respected. "If you take teens seriously," Stern says, "they’ll take you seriously."
And with the UMR report for 2007-08 showing that young adults in Australia spend upwards of billion a year on hedonistic pursuits, you’d be wise to take them very seriously indeed.
Dion Appel is chief executive and co-founder of Lifelounge, a branded content and marketing agency that specialises in the youth demographic.