Structure, Not Agency: The rejection of creativity and video-game logic of online menswear communities

Nathaniel Weiner

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


As one of the cultural industries, fashion is often promoted as a site of self-expression and cultural ingenuity. Creativity and agency are thought to characterise the field of fashion: as practitioners, fashion students are encouraged to develop their creativity. As consumers, individuals engaged with fashion are said to be using agency to express individuality through dress. But those who approach fashion more critically argue that fashion also limits agency. It is characterised by an inherent contradiction between structure and agency, for while individuals use it to express their individuality, they make their dress decisions under conditions not of their own choosing This paper looks at individuals who embraced the deterministic aspects of fashion, rejecting notions of creativity and agency in the process. They were men who participated in online communities dedicated to the discussion of men’s clothing. Reporting findings from a research project that employed both online ethnography and in-depth interviews with 50 members of these communities, this paper details how the research participants made a gendered distinction between ‘fashion’ and ‘style’. Fashion was seen as feminised and irrational, with followers of fashion being unconsciously manipulated. By contrast, style was presented as a masculine, rational pursuit, where adherents were conscious of fashion’s determining structure. Style was understood as a rules-based system where success was determined by one’s ability to master the rules. This reflected a video-game logic that has been observed in other types of internet communities (Almog & Kaplan, 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jan 2018
EventMedia, Communication and Cultural Studies Association - London South Bank University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jan 201812 Jan 2018


ConferenceMedia, Communication and Cultural Studies Association
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'Structure, Not Agency: The rejection of creativity and video-game logic of online menswear communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this