You Should Be Reading: Topics in Men’s Fashion

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Let’s face it: fashion, at least since the 18th century, has been strongly associated with women. Over the past several centuries, it has unfortunately been connected with women’s frivolity and vanity. And in contemporary society, men’s fashion shows are covered almost as an afterthought to the highly publicized women’s fashion weeks; one need only browse a rack of fashion magazines at the bookstore to notice that by and large, the target market is women. This female-centric focus extends to research in fashion as well; because fashion is so much more associated with women, the research questions tend to focus on them as well. However, that is starting to change. As the study of fashion gains traction in academia, new questions arise to explore areas traditionally neglected in the research. The three recently published articles below highlight some of those topics, from the flamboyant peacocks of the 1920s and ’30s to the rapidly expanding world of hip-hop menswear and the role of male attire in shaping first impressions. We hope you enjoy!  

1. Howlett, N., Pine, K., Orakçioglu, I., & Fletcher, B. (2013). The influence of clothing on first impressions: Rapid and positive responses to minor changes in male attire. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 17(1), 38-48. 

Clothing communicates information about the wearer and first impressions can be heavily influenced by the messages conveyed by attire. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of minor changes in clothing on the perception of a male model, in the absence of facial information with limited time exposure. In an on-line study, 274 participants rated four images on five dimensions (confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary and flexibility). The man was depicted wearing a bespoke (made-to-measure) and a regular (off-the-peg) suit, which differed only in minor details. Participants saw the faceless images for a maximum five seconds. The man was rated more positively on all attributes apart from trustworthiness when pictured in the bespoke suit. The earnings of participants also played a role in perception, with higher earners giving lower ratings to both suit types. Minor clothing manipulations can give rise to significantly different inferences. Even small changes in clothing choice can communicate different information to a perceiver. On the evidence of this study it appears men may be advised to purchase clothing that is well-tailored, as it can positively enhance the image they communicate to others. This study is the first to empirically investigate first impressions using time-limited images with minor clothing manipulations on a faceless model. Impressions arose only from clothing and were not confounded by physical attractiveness or facial features. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Lewis, T., & Gray, N. (2013). The maturation of hip-hop’s menswear brands: Outfitting the urban consumerFashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion Industry, 5(2), 229-244.

Hip-hop clothing brands emerged in the 1990s in response to a growing acknowledgment amongst its artists that fashion was an important part of the culture. From the 1980s into the 1990s, hip-hop fashion was an adopter of designer brands that represented an aspirational American lifestyle of its wearers. With the introduction of clothing brands in the 1990s, founded primarily by African-American men involved in the rap music industry, hip-hop clothing began to exert its own influence on American fashion. However, as the youth who followed hip-hop culture matured their clothing preferences began to change and few brands were able to quickly adapt. The most successful brands have proven to be those that were the earliest entrants into the market and managed to maintain a brand equity that likely associated them with authenticity among consumers. One of the most profitable brands was headed by hip-hop music entrepreneur Russell Simmons who was also interviewed for this article. — Full Article Abstract 

3. Maglio, D. (2013). Peacocks in the sands: Flamboyant men’s beachwear 1920-30Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion, 1(1), 23-38. 

**Note: This article is a selection from Intellect’s new Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion journal, the first issue of which was published in October.

Palm Beach, Florida in winter was ideal for luxury pastimes of the social elite and, equally important, an opportunity to see and be seen in the latest leisurewear. Journalists documented the habits and styles of millionaires and movie stars. This information was both society news and fashion direction to the menswear industry. The newest ideas in men’s beachwear from luxury resorts in Florida and Europe ultimately influenced beachwear in retail stores throughout America. Photographs and descriptions in menswear publications of resort wear were compared to the textiles and garments I examined at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (MFIT), New York and the Hampshire Museum Collections, United Kingdom. Men who dressed for business in constrained clothes transformed into peacocks in the sands with no concern for appearing less than masculine. Flamboyant dress in this period reflected an exceptional use of colourful robes, pyjamas and bathing suits often with extravagant patterns. — Full Article Abstract

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