You Should Be Reading: Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion

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Today Worn Through would like to highlight a new journal in our field: Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion. This journal is unique in that it highlights an often neglected group in fashion studies: men. Much of what has been published from the academic fashion perspective focuses on women and girls, which is understandable considering that “fashion” has historically been associated with the feminine. This journal, however, aims to change that. With articles on men’s dress and topics of gender, identity, sexuality, culture, marketing, and business, it “provides a dedicated space for the discussion, analysis, and theoretical development of men’s appearance from multiple disciplines.” This volume concentrates on a category of dress much talked about for women but very rarely for men: undergarments. We hope you enjoy!

1. Berry, J. (2014). The underside of the undershirt: Australian masculine identity and representations of the undershirt in the ‘Chesty Bond’ comic-strip advertisementsCritical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 147-160.

This article considers the male undershirt within discourses of distinctive Australian national dress styles, bush wear and swimwear. Through the case study of Chesty Bonds advertisements, this article will argue that the undershirt became a symbol of strength, virility, heroicism and mateship during the 1940s and 1950s. In aligning the Chesty Bond character with iconic Australian heroic types the surf lifesaver and the bushman advertisers were able to draw on mythologies of masculine cultural identity to promote the undershirt as a staple of the hegemonic male wardrobe. Through an analysis of the Chesty Bond comic-strip advertisements, the author argues that the athletic undershirt contributed to discourses of national identity in which the white male was dominant, and women and non-Anglo-Celtic men were marginalized, seen as being outside the Australian archetype. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Black, P., Carter, M., De Perthuis, K., & Gill, A. (2014). What lies beneath? Thoughts on men’s underpants. Critical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 133-146. 

This article consists of a number of thoughts about and meditations on men’s underpants. Beginning with a ‘day in the life’ of a standard pair of underpants, it moves on to explore some of the specific characteristics that accompany the wearing of this particular garment. There follows a consideration of the role played by underpants in the creation of male characters for screen and television. A brief look at Homer Simpson’s Y-fronts is followed by the examination of a crucial moment in the history of Australian undergarments, namely the move from wool to cotton as the chief material of their manufacture. After an exploration of the humour that is often associated with men’s underpants the article finishes with a series of recollections that show how undergarments can be folded into the most intimate of memories. — Full Article Abstract 

3. Blanco F., J. (2014). Revealing myself: A phenomenological approach to my underwear choices through the years. Critical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 117-132.  

In this article the author applies a phenomenological approach to discuss his personal lived experience and creative authorship in selecting his underwear, thus, explaining the meanings created by his interaction with his underwear and how this clothing object has been shaped by his cultural context, socio-economic factors and his relation to his own body and sexuality. Underwear can be directly linked to questions of identity and a person’s location within a social context. Since identity can be read as imbedded in social relations and situations, it can be assumed that underwear is a dynamic tool in the construction of multiple identities. Underwear advertising openly showcases men’s bodies indicating that there is a strong connection between the role underwear plays in the private and public self. Whether underwear is revealed or not to others at some point of the day, the undergarment choices we make help create identity as performance both in private and public. The article discusses how underwear is essential in the performance of our self and social image and related to aspects of masculinity, sexuality and other scripts of cultural conventions. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

4. Cole, S. (2014). Jocks in Jocks: Sportsmen and underwear advertising. Critical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 161-176. 

In 2012, British Football player David Beckham launched a range of self-branded underwear. He had previously modelled underwear for Emporio Armani. In both of these instances, Beckham followed in the footsteps of many other sportsmen throughout the twentieth century who were utilized by underwear brands to promote their products. Predating Beckham by 80 years American Baseball player Babe Ruth had featured in advertisements for Coopers and Sons Jockey underwear and launched his own brand of undergarments in the 1930s. This article will examine the changing use of sportsmen in underwear advertising over the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, examining the way in which the sportsman’s body has been presented as a hard muscular ‘rock’ or passive ‘languid leaner’ and been increasingly objectified and commodified. — Full Article Abstract

5. Lönnqvist, B. (2014). Missiles, eroticism and fetishes. Critical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 177-184.

This article addresses ideas about the origins of clothing in practice today. Clothing that conceals as protection, conceals mentally against shame and clothing that can be viewed as an aesthetic object. It examines the power of sexuality and erotic sexuality that has found a new means of expression and influence through men’s underwear. It explores language as an instrument for the exercise of power and the idea of protection and beauty as exemplified by men’s underwear in advertising. — Full Article Abstract

6. Maglio, D. (2014). Underwear for New York ‘swells’ in the age of VictoriaCritical Studies in Men’s Fashions, 1(2), 99-116. 

This research was inspired by an article in a menswear trade journal that examined one day in the sartorial life of the fictional Montgomery Montmorency, a ‘howling New York swell by environment and inclination’. At the start of day, his butler chose a suit of medium weight silk underwear in a shade of electric-blue that complemented the slate-blue mixed business suit he would wear to Wall Street. While the article documented nine complete wardrobe changes in one day, many with silk accessories, it was the detail of colour-coordinated electric-blue silk underwear that was most intriguing. Well-dressed men, like Mr Montmorency, were expected to be devoid of ‘peculiarity, pretension, […or] violent colors’ in public, which left the private world of underwear and bed clothing to express any flavour or personality. Under sensible outerwear, ‘swells’ wore carefully selected underwear in soft, sensuous and expensive silks, even following seasonal colour palettes. Using Mr Montmorency as the prototype for an upper-class consumer of fashion, this article will continue to ‘lift the veil’ from the separate spheres ideology in which women consume and men earn. Building on the work of Christopher Breward, Brett Shannon and Shaun Cole, the author focused on the urban environment of NYC as a central place where clothing and accoutrements were readily available. Making, marketing, displaying and purchasing the array of silk underwear attainable, revealed men to be consumers with ‘tastes more costly than those of women’. This article will include the styles, manufacturers and retailers of silk underwear worn by New York ‘swells’ in contrast to their woolen and worsted tailored clothing. Trade journals, fashion consumer publications and ephemera from the Bella C. Landauer collection of the New York Historical Society were studied. Textile samples from the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, etiquette books and dyers sample books were also examined. — Paraphrased Article Abstract


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