Men don’t buy nice things just because they’re status symbols

There's a lot more to men’s appreciation of the finer things than insecure masculinity

An academic report by Sorbonne University concluded ‘decisively’ that high testosterone levels in men provoke increased interest in luxury brands and prestige purchases. Apparently, the thicker your chest rug, the more likely you are to want a Rolex.

Now, far be it from me to tackle empirical evidence head-on (contrary to popular belief, I’m not that ignorant) but this is stereotyping waffle masquerading as intellectualism. Granted, there are men out there for whom a spendy suit or a noisy car is a supplement of a kind – but we don’t all have those (mental or physical) deficits to content with.

The response the study’s provoked from the mainstream media has fed the folly. The Verge published a piece recently stating; ‘If you thought you liked the Bugatti Chiron because of its otherworldly performance numbers, its opulent materials, or its striking looks, think again. You’re obviously just responding to your masculine need for exclusivity and superiority.’ Am I the only man who finds that intensely irritating, if not insulting? Nor does it seem fair to state that ‘testosterone levels decide men’s desire for luxury goods’, as The Economic Times suggests, as if it’s the be-all, end-all mechanic.

‘Apparently, the thicker your chest rug, the more likely you are to want a Rolex’

As a rule, I don’t have a problem with the idea that an increase in testosterone dials up our appetite for luxury goods. What bothers me is the myopic notion that men only like shiny things if they have shoulders wider than Putney Bridge. Responses like this implicitly work to a ‘they’re all the same’ assumption – branding men as collectively powerless to resist anything that’s a marker of prestige, and only capable of making value judgements on objects as vehicles for oneupmanship, to the exclusion of all other concerns.

That’s not how I shop. Status is not my sole concern (and seldom a concern at all) and that’s certainly not the approach The Jackal takes to recommending products or brands to our readers.

We are interested in how things are made, in the intrinsic value of craft and in spending hard-earned money intelligently. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Or even good. And equally, just because something’s affordable/accessible/‘cheap’ doesn’t mean it’s junk, either. If we all went around throwing wads of fifty pound notes at obvious purchases, there would be no independent brands, no artisans, no vintage scene and no followings for individuals pursuing passion projects. No one would be doing things differently.

Consumer decisions are informed by a diverse range of factors – and of course, many men will purchase something as a ‘status symbol’ at some point. But to conclude (as much of the aforementioned media coverage has) that’s the dominant driver in male consumer behaviour is, to put it generously, over-simplistic.

There’s a reason I wear my father’s unassuming 1970s wristwatch, and that I spend more time hunting down interesting pieces of design in vintage stores than I do gravitating towards the big name brands. It’s because provenance and authenticity matter – and they matter to a growing cohort of men. And this is because today’s smart-thinking man wants to present with confidence, consideration and, dare I say, intelligence.