Manliness, Modernity and Male Clothing

This chapter talks about the reinvention of what was perceived to be the more attractive physique of the man.  This change can be closely related to the invention of the measuring tape and the published rules “…which presented systems of proportion as universal law,” helped tailors to fit any style pattern to any body type.  The author suggest’s that it “…is in the very seams and tucks of the modern man’s wardrobe that rising concerns over effeminizing effects of commodity culture and the declining state of the British physique can be most profitably read” (pg166).  Standardized fit’s allowed for mass production significantly multiplying the scale on an international and national level. It was through the manipulation of scale that the tailor could more precisely give the idea shape of a perfect manly anatomical shape.  According to Dr. Henry Wampen a german mathematician and author of some of the most influential books in tailoring believed that “…the appreciation of the naked male form in its perfect state might have some role to play in the design of manufacture of contemporary men’s clothing” (pg 168-169).

The success in reshaping the male form through the construction of the garment helped men to portray a figure close to the greek god idea perfection anatomy.  The problem with this new idea of creating a disguise was when men would change into their tennis out-fit and “…predictably expectations suffer a blow when his puny frame emerges from its well-cut covering to assume the requisite sporting garb…” (pg174).  The rise of mens fashion and the techniques led to a more competitive position in the sexual marketplace.  With the rise of interest in the male form and the influences of fashion through a glamorous perception Eugene Sandow was able to promote healthy living, an athletic body, and “…the duty to display status and distinction through dress.” (pg178)    His main contribution to this genre is that he used the body to raise public awareness of a healthier way of living.

It is no wonder that the suit still plays a leading role in the fashion that men wear today.  It was made for compatibility while giving the illusion of a greek god like physique. The most recent invention of disguising the body for a more preferable physique is the wonder bra.  The wonder bra gives the illusion of a bustier top but like the suit leaves the expecter disappointed.  Fashion will alway play a major role in determining what is considered to be the most desirable shape.  These changes are caused by the psych of the generation usually influenced by the political and social atmosphere of their time.  A good example of this is during the 1920’s with the emancipation of women.  A frame that was more desired was straight and flat accompanied by short hair cuts.  This look died out shortly after the return of American soldiers from WWII and the restoration of more traditional american views on gender roles.  Today are much luckier in that there are so many different ways to give a desired look without the restraint.  With modern movement exploration of shapes in art and architecture have helped to discover different means of giving a more desirable shape.  I’m personally looking forward to the next major change in fashion…socially excepting men in skirts.. how lucky and freeing would that be?!?!




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