When we hear the word ‘glamour’, we envision beautiful movie stars in designer gowns or sleek sports cars and the dashing men who drive them. For a moment, we project ourselves into the world they represent, a place in which we, too, are beautiful, admired, graceful, accomplished, powerful, wealthy, or at ease. Glamour lifts us out of everyday experience and makes our desires seem attainable. It creates a distinctive sensation of projection and longing.
What we find glamorous, like what we find funny, varies with personality and culture. But all glamour promises transformation and escape. In the image of a rising jet or a speeding convertible, a runway model or a martial arts hero, we experience the same dream: that we might soar beyond present constraints to become better, more accomplished, admired, respected and desired versions of ourselves. Glamour lets us project ourselves into new identities, imagining the ideal in the half-known.
As a result, glamour can be as powerful as it is pleasurable. By focusing previously inchoate yearnings, it motivates not just momentary fantasies but real-world action, from buying holidays and high heels to moving to new cities and pursuing new careers.
In fact, more than we like to admit, glamour influences our answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
For young children, to whom the very idea of adulthood is alluring and exotic, the responses are almost always pure glamour: movie star, athlete, fireman, model, pilot, dancer, and, especially for the preschool set, princess or superhero. Children, their answers tell us, long for lives of power, excitement, beauty, fame, and significance.
So do adults. Whether experienced as children or young adults, the idealised professions we glimpse through books, movies, and TV shows often determine grown-up career choices – most of which have nothing to do with the stereotypically ‘glamorous’ trades of fashion or show business.