Andrew Bengry ‘Howell and Christine Griffin – ‘Self-Made Motormen: The Material Construc
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Fig.1 Christine Griffin & Howell Griffin
Andrew Bengry-Howell (one of the authors) is a higher level educator with experience of over 10 years with research interests in youths and identity (2015, 2012). The second author, Christine Griffin, is a leading figure in the development of qualitative research in social psychology. (web-support, 2016)
Both the authors specialise in social Psychology. While Andrew Bengry-Howell is a senior lecturer in Psychology in Bath university, Christine Griffin is a lecturer in Social Psychology in Bath Spa University.
Exploring the article we find two main key points to the thought of the authors. The first being the research of how and why working class males obtain their first symbol of individuality – their first car.
As this is a big step to show individuality and freedom the authors engage in conversation with these “modifiers” on why they do those types of improvements to their cars.
In the process of conversation, they reach the conclusion that the reason for this is hidden in a few factors. Firstly the dominantly male group of males does the improvements and changes to distance the cars from their original manufactured design and style. In this way the car becomes individually unique and different from any other car – it is personalised. It transformed the simple “act of consumption into a set of practices through which car modifiers produced their cars as symbolic extensions of themselves” [pp. 375] Secondly that creates a sense of accomplishment from the manual work through the physical work done on the cars.
The second interesting finding is connected more to the “why” they start modifying the cars. This is evident in the phrase of one of the modifiers which states that the vehicle was initially perceived as a “chick’s car” and that’s why they proceed to “de badge” and strip the car of it’s if you will, brand identity. The author of the text almost seems perplexed by these actions. As earlier mention both of them specialise in researching youths and psychology, so they are familiar with how they interact with brands and what kind of meaning they have in some areas, as is in the given example of the article, with clothes for instance. [pp. 337](Fig.2)
Brands have a psychological aspect as well as an experiential aspect. Knowing how brands work (Nordqvist, 2015), and how the process of branding has evolved to make a product more recognisable and to attach feelings and emotions to it, it’s understandable why the authors are confused by the actions of the “modifiers”. Instead of buying a well-recognised brand, to prove and establish their masculinity by brand association, they invest in a vehicle that is not as popular or that doesn’t have a positive brand image to connect to and then proceed to de badge and alter the image of the car until it’s unrecognisable from the original.
It is an interesting phenomenon but when we think about it that type of behaviour could be found in another type of “subculture”.
Individuals with a taste for the unique, and a self-assured nature, have inspired the movement undeniably.
We call these individuals “hipsters” (Thorn, 2014). The hipster is an individual that strays away from the mainstream, in fashion or otherwise popular. In a similar way to the car modifiers from the Midlands of England they break the rules of branding and trends.(Fig.3)
The paper is an excerpt from an academic journal created from the collaborative research of two academic bodies.
Fig.3 hipster photo
Where else can you see this type of cultural rebellion?
Commodity – a useful or valuable thing.
Incongruity – the state of being incongruous; incompatibility.
Intrinsic – belonging naturally; essential.
2015 (2012) Bath spa university – our people. Available at: http://www.bathspa.ac.uk/our-people/a.bengry-howell (Accessed: 6 November 2016).
web-support (2016) University of bath. Available at: http://www.bath.ac.uk/psychology/staff/christine-griffin/ (Accessed: 6 November 2016).
Nordqvist, C. (2015) What is a brand? How do brands work? Available at: http://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/brand/ (Accessed: 6 November 2016).
Thorn, J. (2014) Clever hacks. Available at: http://www.dailypooper.com/page/article/327/hipsters—where-did-they-come-from (Accessed: 6 November 2016).