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Masculinities and the Medieval English Sumptuary Laws

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... In truth, aristocrats (especially those actually residing at court) have engaged in such emulative practices for hundreds of years. Historically, monarchs often dictated what types of clothes and accessories courtiers could wear (or not wear; sumptuary laws prohibited the aristocracy from wearing certain colors and fabrics and restricting their use to royal families; Phillips 2007). In what may be one of the earliest examples of "human branding," (Thomson 2006) Elizabeth I encouraged her courtiers to wear cameo brooches that depicted her image (Sharpe 2009). ...
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The term “royalty” connotes people who either occupy the role of monarchs in society, or who are related to these figures by blood or marriage. Although many royal houses around the world occupy a symbolic/ceremonial rather than a political role, royalty and the “human brands” royal families contain remain important sources of aspirational and conspicuous consumption. In this essay, we focus on how the British Royal Family Brand (BRFB; Otnes, Cele C. and Pauline Maclaran. 2015. Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press.) has remained the most visible and impactful royal variant in the world, even as its economic and political influence, and that of Britain, has waned. We discuss the influence of the BRFB in fueling consumption practices pertaining to commemorative purchasing and collecting, heritage management, perpetuating mass and social media narratives, supporting and perpetuating brands, and spawning and maintaining touristic trends. We observe that successful royal influence is due in part to the ability to leverage key universal narratives (e.g. the triumph of the underdog) and to tap into consumers’ desires to vicariously or actively engage with lifestyles typically accessible only to people who occupy the highest social stratum in their respective cultures. We discuss the implications of royalty on consumer culture, and suggest areas of future research.
... "Nonmaterial" policies may affect the distribution of material goods, not least because implementing them normally entails material costs. For instance, European nobles supported sumptuary laws forbidding commoners from wearing colors like purple or fabrics like velvet (Muzzarelli 2009;Phillips 2007). Although society suffered from both enforcement costs and commoners' loss of utility, the nobility enjoyed officially enforced status symbols. ...
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--Johns Hopkins University, 1915. Vita. Published also as Johns Hopkins University studies in historical and political science, ser. XXXVI, no. 2. Bibliographical foot-notes. Microfilm.