Now I must think of an assignment. Here’s one. It’s called "Building a lifestyle." By "lifestyle" I mean the characteristic choices from media and material culture that a group of consumers uses to define itself and the world. I cast the net wide to include: the Rat Pack, Preps (in the 1980s), Sloan Street Rangers, Geeks, Chaps (see the website www.thechap.net), Mods, Rockers, Skinheads, Hippies, the New Georgians, and so on. You get the idea. (See the bibliography below for supporting documents and other suggestions.)
The Rat pack life style includes characteristic choices in how to conduct oneself in public (fist fights OK), a style of language (lots of beatnik talk), highly characteristic dress (styling suits with thin labels and ties), a defining way of thinking about and treating women, a very particular view of maleness, a very particular view of the world (self advertising mixed with deep solidarity, splashy, public, brawling) and so on. (How particular was this lifestyle versus other lifestyles of the postwar period? Try to imagine Cary Grant as a Rat Pack member, or any of the Rat pack guys as Cary Grant.)
I want APSW students to design a lifestyle from the ground up, specifying favorite music, films, novels, style of dress, home furnishing, style of speech and so on. Make it cohere in some ways. Make it inconsisent in other. Build in some contradictions. It is the latter two, as much as the first, that make a lifestyle live.
I am tempted to impose this constraint: For American students, the demographic segments lives in the American sunbelt. For British students, they live in the Home counties. In both cases, these consumers are middle class, retired and over the age of 55. Nota benne: this age group is still often stereotyped as unimaginative and culturally conservative. The rest of us know better. There are NO constraints here. Take for granted that this segment is as creative and reckless as any other.
1. Great account planners, in my experience, are informed about their cultures. They know life styles. My hope is that building life styles will make students sensitive to the issue of lifestyle and more appreciative of naturally occurring choices.
2. Many of the great brands came up by drawing inspiration and loyalty from a new lifestyle (Jeep, Scotch, natural food, and so on). And some brands have actually created a new lifestyle (Starbuck’s Third space, Nike’s athletics for everyone). This is the original "blue ocean" strategy. Build a lifestyle and some part of consumer loyalty, taste and preference belongs to the corporation. (This way lies glory and ever lasting fame for the account planner.) This is something more than an exercise.
This may or may not be the final form of the assignment. I will look to Russell for his advice.
Allsop, Kenneth. 1964. The Angry Decade: a survey of the cultural revolt of the nineteen-fifties. London: Peter Owen Limited.
Artley, Alexandra, and John Martin Robinson. 1985. The New Georgian Handbook. London: Ebury Press.
Asimov, Eric. 1996. The New Bad-Boy Sound: Space Age Pop. The New York Times January 6, 1996: E2.
Barr, Ann, and Peter York. 1982. The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook: The first guide to what really matters in life. London: Ebury.
Belk, Russell W. 1986a. Yuppies as Arbiters of the Emerging Consumption Style. 514-19. Advances in Consumer Research, ed. Richard J Lutz. Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.
Birnbach, Lisa, ed. 1980. The Official Preppy Handbook. New York: Workman Publishing.
Brooks, David. 2000. Bobos in paradise: The new upper class and how they got there. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Cohen, Leonard. 1966. Beautiful losers. New York: Viking Press.
Dyer, Richard. 1994. Fashioning Change: Gay men’s style. Stonewall 25: The making of the Lesbian and Gay community in Britain. editors Emma Healy, and Angela Mason, 178-88. London: Virago Press.
Finestone, Harold. 1960. Cats, Kicks and Color. in Identity and Anxiety: Survival of the person in mass society. editors Maurice R. Stein, Arthur J. Vidich, and David Manning White, 435-48. Glencoe?: The Free Press.
Fitzgerald, Frances. 1987. The Castro. in Cities on a Hill: A journey through contemporary American cultures. Frances Fitzgerald, 25-119. New York: Touchstone, Simon and Schuster.
Heerdegen, Juergen, and Andrew Dickson. Straight-edge.com.
Katz, Jon. 2000. Geeks how two lost boys rode the Internet out of Idaho. 1st ed ed. New York: Villard Books.
Kluver, Billy. 1997. A Day with Picasso: Twenty-four Photographs by Jean Cocteau. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Swingers. 1996. Doug Liman.
Lippert, Barbara. 1995. Our Martha, Ourselves. New York Magazine May 15, 1995: 26-32, 35.
Twist. 1992. Ron Mann.
Sager, Mike. 1995. Generation H. GQ 65, no. 9: 276-83, 303, 306.
Watson, Steven. 1995. The Birth of the Beat Generation: Visionaries, rebels and hipsters, 1944-1960. New York: Pantheon Books.
Wolfe, Tom. 1970. Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.