Why Don’t More Men Take Their Wives’ Last Names?

The vast majority of U.S. adults think a woman should give up her maiden name when she gets married.

But the prospect of a married man adopting his wife’s last name hasn’t always been so startling in Western cultures. In medieval England, men who married women from wealthier, more prestigious families would sometimes take their wife’s last name

.. in many “highly hierarchical societies” in England and France, “class outweighed gender.” It was common during this period for upper-class English families to take the name of their estates. If a bride-to-be was associated with a particularly flashy castle, the man, Coontz says, would want to benefit from the association. “Men dreamed of marrying a princess,” she says. “It wasn’t just women dreaming of marrying a prince.”

.. In America today, many men tend to have the same hang-up about surrendering their last names, says Brian Powell, a professor of family and gender at Indiana University Bloomington who has studied attitudes toward marital name changes: They worry they’ll be seen as less of a man. And it seems they’re probably right. In a forthcoming study, Kristin Kelley, a doctoral student working with Powell, presented people with a series of hypothetical couples that had made different choices about their last name, and gauged the subjects’ reactions. She found that a woman’s keeping her last name or choosing to hyphenate changes how others view her relationship. “It increases the likelihood that others will think of the man as less dominant—as weaker in the household,”

.. “With any nontraditional name choice, the man’s status went down.” The social stigma a man would experience for changing his own last name at marriage, Powell told me, would likely be even greater.

.. At the time, he was a management consultant about to transition into academia, but his wife was already in graduate school, publishing academic papers, and building a reputation in her chosen field. “Your name is your brand,” Slusky told me. “And when I got married, I happened to be at a moment in my career when rebranding wouldn’t really hurt me.”