Three main phases can be identified in the history of lifestyles studies:
Lifestyles and social position
Earlier studies on lifestyles focus on the analysis of social structure and of the individuals' relative positions inside it. Thorstein Veblen, with his ‘emulation' concept, opens this perspective by asserting that people adopt specific ‘schemes of life', and in particular specific patterns of ‘conspicuous consumption', depending on a desire for distinction from social strata they identify as inferior and a desire for emulation of the ones identified as superior. Max Weber intends lifestyles as distinctive elements of status groups strictly connected with a dialectic of recognition of prestige: the lifestyle is the most visible manifestation of social differentiation, even within the same social class, and in particular it shows the prestige which the individuals believe they enjoy or to which they aspire. Georg Simmel carries out formal analysis of lifestyles, at the heart of which can be found processes of individualisation, identification, differentiation, and recognition, understood both as generating processes of, and effects generated by, lifestyles, operating “vertically” as well as “horizontally”. Finally, Pierre Bourdieu renews this approach within a more complex model in which lifestyles, made up mainly of social practices and closely tied to individual tastes, represent the basic point of intersection between the structure of the field and processes connected with the habitus.