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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Department of History

Abstract

The 1950s was period of dramatic social upheaval. The massive changes brought on by suburbanization, the G.I. Bill, postwar dislocation, the rise of the white-collar worker, the cold war and more significantly impacted ideas about gender. This thesis explores the meaning of corporate work and its impact on masculinity from 1946 to 1963. During this period a group of public intellectuals attacked corporate work as unmanly and white-collar workers as effeminate. These intellectuals believed masculinity was in decline, and that white-collar men were no longer men. While commentators challenged postwar masculinity, business leaders rallied to defend white-collar men’s masculinity. Pro-business intellectuals defended white-collar men’s positions in 1950s both as masculine and valuable to the company. Ultimately, these discourses impacted ideas about men’s bodies. Male beauty culture emerged during this contest over the proper ideal of masculinity. Some elements of male beauty culture embraced commentators’ rhetoric, but most sided with white-collar leaders. Thus, in a period where middle-class white men’s grip on masculinity was tenuous, male beauty culture and white-collar leaders sought to reaffirm their position atop the social and cultural hierarchy.

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