You Should Be Reading: Considerations on a Gentleman’s Posterior

This week, Worn Through would like to highlight “Considerations on a Gentleman’s Posterior” and encourage you to add it to your reading lists.

Cole, Shaun. “Considerations on a Gentleman’s Posterior.” Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture vol. 16, no.2 (2012): 211-234.

link to full article

About the author: Shaun Cole is the course director for MA History and Culture of Fashion and MA Fashion Curation at London College of Fashion. He recently published a book on the history of men’s underwear, which as well as offering an historical overview investigates men’s underwear in relation to technological developments, packaging and advertising and sex and sexuality.  Shaun continues to develop explorations into the role of dress within the formation and expression of gay male identities, initially explored in Don We Now Our Gay Apparel (2000) particularly in the twenty-first century. Alongside this he is interested the social, cultural and sexual connotations of the representation of the un(clothed) male body (London College of Fashion).

Abstract: In discussing J.C. Leyendecker’s 1911 painting Man on a Bag used to advertise S.T. Cooper and Sons’ Kenosha Klosed Krotch union suit, Richard Martin noted that the positioning of the male figure had to be careful to avoid raising concerns about anal anxiety, reflecting Freudian theories of sexual development. For this new revolutionary back opening for men’s underwear it was essential to depict a rear view of the male figure wearing the garment. However, as Martin noted, there was a certain discomfort around the idea of considering the male rear end. The association of sodomy and homosexuality led to this insecurity about the display of the male posterior. Men’s behinds have, however, periodically been put on display throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through changing fashions and this article will address key moments when male fashion has concentrated and highlighted the male behind such as the adoption of shrink-to-fit blue jeans by teenagers in the 1950s and close-fitting Italian-style trousers worn beneath “bum freezer“ jackets that revealed a shapely male behind. It will also consider the depiction of the male behind in underwear advertising and the use of padded underwear to enhance this “asset,“ and conclude with a reflection on the mass adoption of the hip-hop-inspired low-slung jean.

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