Class Acts explores the development of lifestyle marketing from the 1960s to the 1990s. During this time, young men began manipulating their identities by taking on the mannerisms, culture, and fashion of the working class and poor. These style choices had contradictory meanings. At once they were acts of rebellion by middleclass young men against their social stratum and its rules of masculinity and also examples of the privilege that allowed them to try on different identities for amusement or as a rite of passage. Starting in the 1960s, advertisers and marketers, looking for new ways to appeal to young people, seized on the idea of identity as a choice, creating the field of lifestyle marketing.
Mary Rizzo traces the development of the concept of lifestyle marketing, showing how marketers disconnected class identity from material reality, focusing instead on a person’s attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. The book includes discussions of the rebel of the 1950s, the hippie of the 1960s, the white suburban hip-hop fan of the 1980s, and the poverty chic of the 1990s. Class Acts illuminates how the concept of “lifestyle,” particularly as expressed through fashion, has disconnected social class from its material reality and diffused social critique into the opportunity to simply buy another identity. The book will appeal to scholars and other readers who are interested in American cultural history, youth culture, fashion, and style.
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Mary Rizzo is assistant professor of professional practice in history and associate director of public and digital humanities initiatives for the History Department and Program in American Studies at Rutgers University, Newark. Her work has appeared in the Public Historian, the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Public: A Journal of Imagining America, and the blog History@Work. She is a trustee of the National Council on Public History and a member of the editorial board of New Jersey Studies.Review:
“In this lively and insightful book, Mary Rizzo casts a keen eye on a group rarely examined in terms of style and social class: young men. A great read on a fascinating topic.” —Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
“Mary Rizzo’s Class Acts is a fascinating romp through a half century of style, fashion and popular culture. Brilliantly conceived, bristling with intelligence and analysis.” —William Graebner, author of Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America
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