Thrift’s Construction of Glamour in Practice
In Nigel Thrift’s work “Understanding the Material Practices of Glamour” he defines glamour as a particular form of the technology of allure (Thrift, 2010). Thrift draws on concepts from Gabriel Tarde’s understanding of economies, and how they must be engaging, produce value and various mechanisms of fascination (Thrift, 2010). Glamour fundamentally creates captivation of commodified goods, and this exists in a capitalistic society. According to Thrift, this is achieved now more so than ever through calculated technologies of manifested allure (Thrift, 2010). Glamour is constructed through aesthetics, and they are a part of everyday human life. Aesthetics are the art of creating reactions without words, through the look and feel of people (Thrift, 2010). Aesthetic pleasure is intangible but evokes satisfaction.
People yearn affirmation from audiences. Thrift explains through the practice of glamour, engaging in alternate versions of oneself is a form of characterization (Thrift, 2010). The misrepresentation of oneself is a newly reconstructed illusion (Thrift, 2010). However, if the public is aware of the extensive effort, time, and money put into your aesthetics the captivating nature of it all is lost. Glamorous materials and personas, which result in the construction of new “worlds” are rejected or inherently internalized by the public (Thrift 2010). Regarding glamour Thrift notes, “It is manipulation. It is seduction. It is a certain form of deception. But it is something more too. It is meticulous selection and control” (Thrift, 2010, p. 299). Glamour provides intellectual illusions that impact consumerism politically and ethically. Thrift has concerns regarding the morality of consumerism. The impulsivity concerning purchases made with no levels of reasoning questions our ethics (Thrift, 2010). This feeds into hierarchal systems of power that aim to facilitate purchasing decisions. People are inherently drawn into the captivating nature of aesthetics, but not everyone succumbs to its powers. Individuals must consciously reject it in order to avoid mindless consumption.
Glamour has overlapping ideologies with affect theory. Affect theory helps explain power dynamics and affects (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010). The authors of The Affect Theory Reader articulate glamour as illuminating realms of aesthetics, ethics, and politics through both human and non-human entities (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010). Thrift explains that there is a rise in the market of non-human objects in regard to aesthetic design. Capitalist firms promote market segmentation and customizations in hopes of generating economic value (Thrift, 2010). Within affect theory, the subject is showing and emitting immediate, perpetual, and emotional effects. This corresponds to the communicative power of aesthetics through the look and feel of people emitting reactions.
Glamour also has overlapping ideologies with Adorno and Horkheimer’s cultural industries. Cultural industries were manifested by Adorno and Horkheimer as a way to describe the processes and products of mass culture. Industries generate a culture consumed by blind satisfaction. This form of mass deception cripples’ consumers into becoming victims of a larger capitalistic system. The commodification of beauty’s homogenous products perpetuates likeness. This directly ties into their construction of “sameness” (Adorno & Horkheimer, 2002, p. 94). The goods sold within the vast realm of commercial glamour are a key part of social movements that generate economic value. The plethora of products are a part of the commercial sphere. Glamour also provides a sense of falsification and deception, which Adorno and Horkheimer highlight in the construction of media platforms that offer false choice (Adorno and Horkheimer, 2002). The calculated selection of glamorous products perpetuates the power and control of the market. Glamour promotes excitement and stimulates consumers to purchase; it is a form of selling (Thrift, 2010).
Normcore is a contemporary representation of aesthetics and glamour in practice. It is a fashion style for those who are trying hard, to look like they are not trying at all. This directly relates to what Thrift describes as an attempt to conceal the effort put into aesthetics. Normcore devalues individualism and heightens conformity (Duncan, 2014). It has become a style adopted by cultural society and clothing industries have capitalized on this by targeting younger demographics. Brands like Pac Sun, Champion, and Adidas are all fashion organizations that have capitalized on the trend. The types of clothes that fit into this style are often highly overpriced and endorsed by celebrities. This also correlates with Thrift’s comments about society’s fascination with celebrities. The public sphere blasts their images, while wearing normcore and people wish to emulate it. The style is bland and lacks authenticity (Duncan, 2014). Normcore questions the morality of purchases that Thrift analyzes. Do people truly want to look like everyone else? Is fashion now a means of consumption and no longer a form of self-expression? Thrift and Duncan would agree that this aesthetic style is not a style at all, but a form of deception used to induce consumerism.
The material practices of glamour are also embodied in contemporary praxis through the Kardashians. The Kardashian family are beauty moguls that have capitalized on a multibillion-dollar glamour industry. Glamourous personas originated with aristocrats and have transformed into modern day celebrities (Thrift, 2010). The Kardashians generate mass attraction due to their physical attraction. They are hypersexualized and idealist beings. Charismatic celebrities like the Kardashians embody sex appeal, luxury, and wealth (Thrift, 2010).
Specifically, one of their most well-known product lines is Kylie’s lip kit. The calculated decision to generate products glamorously is a key component of contemporary capitalism. Thrift explains that through the mixture of human and non-human entities, the presence of color reconstructs new environments (Thrift, 2010). The lip kits are available in a wide range of colors, meant to transform the consumer. They sell out rapidly, demonstrating their popularity, and the publics overwhelming use of their products. Additionally, the Kardashians are recognized for their impeccable check bones which are achieved through contouring. Kim Kardashian West’s beauty line has a breadth of products that are all sold together. Insisting just one product is not sufficient enough to achieve the look. It takes bronzer, highlighter, foundation, brushes, and blending sticks to achieve a flawless finish. These branches of products, endorsed by the Kardashian brand show how beauty corporations capitalize on the humanistic urge to look and feel glamorous.
The Kardashians also benefit off of medias constant coverage on them, this aligns with Thrift’s idea that we are inherently drawn to charismatic celebrities’ due to the lack of intimacy within the current public sphere (Thrift, 2010). This in addition to their social media presence amplifies the presence of their products; which make them nearly inevitable to avoid. Individuals wish to mimic their looks, by purchasing products that claim to make them look just as flawless as the Kardashians.
Adorno, T. & Horkheimer, M. (2002). The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Dialectic of Enlightenment (pp. 94-136). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
Duncan, F. (2014). Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion. New York, NY: New York Magazine.
Gregg, M., & Seigworth, G. J. (2010). The affect theory reader. Duke University Press. retrieved from https://washcoll.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspdi rct=true&db=cat02442a&AN=washc.b1538990&site=ehost-live
Thrift, N. (2010). Understanding the Material Practices of Glamour. In M. Gregg & G. J. Seigworth (Eds.), The Affect Theory Reader (pp. 289-308). Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Image Attribution: The images used in the entry are in the Public Domain.
Written by Cassidy Quattro, 2019