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Study Notes

Overview of ‘University’s not for Me – I’m a Nike Person' by Archer et al


Last updated 10 Sept 2021

‘University’s not for Me – I’m a Nike Person’: Urban,Working-Class Young People’s Negotiations of ‘Style’, Identity and Educational Engagement

Archer, L. Hollingworth, S. and Halsall, A 2007, Sociology, BSA publications, SAGE

Research Methods: Longitudinal interviews with 53 students and group interviews with a further 36 students across 6 schools. Some students completed photographic diaries and focus groups were also held with teachers, heads of year and Connexions advisors. The students were year 10 and 11 students from working-class backgrounds and a broad range of ethnicities.

Aim of the research: Archer et al were concerned with the lower rates of participation in Higher Education of working-class and minority ethnic students. Drawing upon the ideas of Pierre Bourdieu, they suggested that one of the reasons for lower participation in HE for these groups was the cultural clash between the habitus of working-class pupils and the environment of Higher Education which was better suited to the habitus of the white middle-class – who knew the ‘rules of the game’.

Research findings: Archer et al found that the young people in the study had constructed identities based upon the wearing of branded sportswear that differentiated them from middle class pupils. The working class identified themselves as ‘Nike’ is comparison to the middle class ‘Gucci’. The working-class students drew symbolic capital (status) from wearing these clothes despite the views of middle-class pupils and teachers as being tasteless. Archer et al also encountered evidence of the impact of not being able to afford a ‘Nike’ identity, with respondents suggesting that they would be mocked for wearing lesser brands. Archer et al also found that the student interviewed drew worth from the brands being associated with black masculinity associated with sports stars that were used to promote brands. For the female respondents, a second aspect of this identify was linked into the wearing of jewellery.

The students have negative outlooks of their educational prospects based upon past interaction with schools. However, the development of ‘Nike’ identities led these students to clash with teachers over wearing trainers instead of shoes, or wearing make-up and jewellery. This led to them being further marginalised within the field of education. Staff interviewed by Archer et al feared that the consumer lifestyle working-class pupils were being drawn into could led to pressure of being involved in illegal economic activities. Archer et al found that the students were aware of financial pressures and knew of ‘shady activities’ that could help them. They also were also aware that university would mean that their lifestyle would be limited and as such decided it was not for them.

Where this can be used on specification: Identity formation, links between education and criminality, educational underachievement, subcultural values, class conflicts, impacts of material deprivation.

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