In this article the constraints on identity change for a group of working class men experiencing long-term unemployment in the UK is examined. Despite their lack of access to paid employment, these men continued to construct their gender identity around the breadwinner persona. The theoretical framework employed concepts from both Connell and Bourdieu. Based on discourse analysed data collected from a series of four loosely structured group discussions, it is argued here that these men had (i) less access to capital generally and (ii) reduced access to 'useful' types of capital resources. In other words, these groups of men have fewer resources to hand in constructing masculine identities that reflect the changing structural and ideological demands of the current social-historical period. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.