Christopher Breward
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Sartorial spectacle
Clothing and masculine identities in the imperial city, 1860–1914
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This chapter considers how fin-de-siecle imperial preoccupations, together with an escalating sense of decadence or imminent collapse in the face of rapid social change, related to the experience of the urban everyday and the formation of metropolitan identities. It draws out the connections between imperial aspirations and metropolitan realities in the realm of men's clothing and physical appearance. The chapter illustrates the ways in which the increased consumer activity and the enhanced visibility of sartorial practices characteristic of the period indicated deeper social, sexual and racial tensions. Though the identification of social origins through the quality of clothing was unproblematic, an assumed association between fashion and effeminacy raised particular problems for the communication of masculine values by sartorial means. The chapter suggests the enduring connotations of reticence and introversion that the undemonstrative clothing of the urban desk worker bequeathed to succeeding constructions of male fashionableness and English masculinity.

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Imperial cities

Landscape, display and identity


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