Understanding modern masculinity – the new narratives shaping male identity and behaviour

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Understanding modern masculinity – the new narratives shaping male identity and behaviour

A new research report from 72andSunny and CrowdDNA’s New Narratives series identifies the cultural shifts in how men think, behave and identify in today’s world, and how brands can best engage with them. Alex Houghton, strategy lead at 72andSunny, explains…


New Narratives: Mapping Modern Masculinity explores the shifts in culture around masculinity in Australia. Our methodology included qualitative interviews with members of our panel of cultural influencers, culture makers and cultural experts to understand the latest trends; combined with social listening to provide a quantitative gauge of these trends’ relative size and impact, from emerging to mainstream.

The research enabled us to map the new narratives shaping how modern men behave and express themselves. Three stood out as being of particular importance to marketers wanting to engage male audiences in 2024.

Re-kindling masculinity

This narrative isn’t about returning to unhealthy old school habits. It’s about keeping the good stuff, while chucking out the bad. It sees men rejecting the outmoded sexism, disrespect and aggression of previous generations – while still celebrating timeless positive attributes like mateship, honesty and authenticity, to promote a newly open and empathetic form of masculinity.

Australia’s iconic ‘Solo Man’ is a perfect example of this narrative. His recent marketing makeover sees him still being a ‘manly man’, while simultaneously poking fun at the old tropes of stereotypical hyper-masculine advertising.

Re-thinking masculinity

This narrative incorporates traditionally feminine traits and concepts, to create a looser and far more inclusive definition of masculinity. This includes being more emotional, vulnerable, and intuitive. This addition of a ‘softer’ depth and dimension to masculinity pushes at the boundaries of traditional gender norms.

This narrative is highly relevant to marketers of body care products. Tom Ford’s groundbreaking move into men’s make-up ushered in a new acceptance of men wearing what were once women-only items. The huge popularity of Troye Sivan and an army of immaculately made-up male K-pop stars shows how this narrative has been embraced by large sections of society.

Re-inventing masculinity

This is the most progressive of the new narratives. This dares to confront society’s binary definitions of masculinity and femininity, and embraces gender fluidity. Here, men unashamedly seize the individual freedom denied to previous generations, to be as unique and true to themselves as they want.

Yet ASAP Rocky wearing skirts and holding the baby while his partner Rihanna poses for Vogue – while still being a hero to uber-cool audiences everywhere, plus an ambassador for Mercedes – shows that progressive doesn’t mean transgressive.

This spectrum of male identity and behaviour illustrates the range of opportunities open to marketers in 2024 to engage with modern men.

Contact alex.houghton@72andsunny.com to receive a copy of the report.