Del boy 'alive and well' among UK male business owners
Posted: Tue 8th Sep 2015
The 1980s image of money and status obsessed entrepreneurs like TV's Del Boy and Loadsamoney still rings true in the UK, a new academic study has claimed.
Professor Simon Down of Anglia Ruskin University and Dr Andreas Giazitzoglu of Newcastle University studied 10 white, male, middle aged business owners from a semi-rural area in North East England during their weekly meetings at the local pub.
Observing their behaviours the researchers found that the entrepreneurs regularly discussed expensive commodities which they used as "props" to demonstrate their success.
Luxury cars and "wads" of cash dominated their conversations with driving a new German sports car with a private registration plate seen as a clear way of signalling a higher position in the hierarchy of the group.
Offering to buy drinks from a large amount of publicly displayed cash showed they warranted respect from other men in the pub. One member admitted to withdrawing a large amount of money to to pay for his weekly bills just before going to the pub so he was able to display it at the bar.
Winning was another main topic of discussion, the study said, which the men used as a way to demonstrate their masculinity and their ability to provide for their family. The men often greeted each other by asking "how is business going?" to which the answer "I am winning" was regularly used.
They also revelled at "getting one over" on city-based businessmen who they believed fail to take rural businesses seriously.
Professor Down said: "It's fascinating that while the participants have different identities outside the pub - they are of different ages and own different kinds of businesses - together they manage to collectively agree upon and perform a remarkably cohesive version of entrepreneurial masculinity.
"These is a sense of hierarchy, a concept of winning and providing, and a clear distinction between themselves and entrepreneurs from urban areas. The men use these aspects, as well as more superficial markers of masculinity like driving expensive German cars and displaying cash, to construct their identities."
Enterprise Nation questioned Professor Down on the thinking behind the study and why it only focused on men. He told us:
"The purpose of the study was to understand how these entrepreneurial men go about constructing masculinity. There has been a great deal written about the femaleness of women entrepreneurs, but men are somewhat invisible.
"There is a large literature about the changing nature of masculinity and work identity, but little on male entrepreneurs. Knowing more about how these men 'do' masculinity can tell us things about why some men might find entrepreneurship attractive, or why others might be put off.
"The purpose of ethnographic (anthropological) research is not to find out what the aggregate 'normal' male entrepreneur is like (all male entrepreneurs do this or that), but it is to understand the particular. Men 'do' masculinity in very different ways. Knowing the detail of what those difference are is surely the point.
"A group of similar male entrepreneurs in Guildford, Surrey, who run architects and advertising and media companies, who drink white wine at a wine bar would no doubt 'do' masculinity in very different ways from these guys in a North East rural town. Instead of the amount of cash in their wallets or which German car they drive, perhaps it would be the cost of the public school their children go to or the obscurity of their holiday destination or whether they summited Mont Blanc that summer."
The study was published by the International Small Business Journal.