Clothes Make the Man
The social pressures that discouraged men's interest in fashion in the late 19th century pitted the belief that fashion was not for men against the lure that fashion still held for them.
Despite a professed masculine indifference, men not only dabbled in fashion, but when they could afford do so, revelled in it. Men deflected social censure by indulging their fashionable impulses covertly in public. In private, the field was clear for men to wear colours and fabrics considered inappropriate in public.
Men's styles and fashion trends that came to the fore in the late 19th century are still with us today. Modern suits bear a remarkable resemblance to the sack suit so popular with young men in the 1890s. Casual men's clothes based on sportswear of the late 19th century have become so familiar that their original sporting associations are all but lost.
These late-19th-century influences on men's fashion linger with us. Are the tensions that plagued men's relationship to fashion still with us, too?
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