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Suited for Success? Suits, Status, and Hybrid Masculinity


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This article analyzes the sartorial biographies of four Canadian men to explore how the suit is understood and embodied in everyday life. Each of these men varied in their subject positions—body shape, ethnicity, age, and gender identity—which allowed us to look at the influence of men’s intersectional identities on their relationship with their suits. The men in our research all understood the suit according to its most common representation in popular culture: a symbol of hegemonic masculinity. While they wore the suit to embody hegemonic masculine configurations of practice—power, status, and rationality—most of these men were simultaneously marginalized by the gender hierarchy. We explain this disjuncture by using the concept of hybrid masculinity and illustrate that changes in the style of hegemonic masculinity leave its substance intact. Our findings expand thinking about hybrid masculinity by revealing the ways subordinated masculinities appropriate and reinforce hegemonic masculinity.
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Suited for Success?
Suits, Status, and
Hybrid Masculinity
Ben Barry
and Nathaniel Weiner
This article analyzes the sartorial biographies of four Canadian men to explore how
the suit is understood and embodied in everyday life. Each of these men varied in
their subject positions—body shape, ethnicity, age, and gender identity—which
allowed us to look at the influence of men’s intersectional identities on their rela-
tionship with their suits. The men in our research all understood the suit according
to its most common representation in popular culture: a symbol of hegemonic
masculinity. While they wore the suit to embody hegemonic masculine configura-
tions of practice—power, status, and rationality—most of these men were simul-
taneously marginalized by the gender hierarchy. We explain this disjuncture by using
the concept of hybrid masculinity and illustrate that changes in the style of hege-
monic masculinity leave its substance intact. Our findings expand thinking about
hybrid masculinity by revealing the ways subordinated masculinities appropriate and
reinforce hegemonic masculinity.
hybrid masculinity, embodiment, menswear, suits, sartorial biographies
School of Fashion, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Joint Graduate Program in Communication and Culture, Ryerson University and York University,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Ben Barry, School of Fashion, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5B 2K3.
Men and Masculinities
ªThe Author(s) 2017
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/1097184X17696193
Sociologist Tim Edwards (2011) tells us that “the suit is ...the very essence of
men’s fashion and, indeed, of masculinity” (p. 53). But what makes the suit mascu-
line? And, moreover, what kinds of masculinities are expressed through the suit?
Researchers on masculinity have tended to ignore clothing in their work, despite the
fact that dress is one of the most immediate ways in which people read and express
gender identity (Kaiser 2012). Fashion scholars have examined the shifting designs,
practices, and semiotics of suits at various historical and cultural moments. But they
have often simply assumed that suits are masculine, without addressing how men’s
lived experiences of wearing them supports, challenges, and nuances this
claim. Research into the bodies that don suits is vital because dress, as Entwistle
(2000) theorizes, is an embodied practice: it “operates on a phenomenal, moving
body ...that involves individual actions of attending to the body” (Entwistle 2000,
10–11). In this article, we explore the relationship between masculinity and suits
through men’s embodied experiences. We use the concept of embodiment to refer to
how people’s experiences of their body form the basis for their sense of self (Turner
1996). Specifically, we ask: what do men’s embodied experiences of buying, choos-
ing, and wearing suits reveal about masculinity?
To answer this question, we employed a sartorial biography methodology. Sar-
torial biographies combine life histories and object interviews to explore how cloth-
ing materializes identity (Woodward 2016, 1). Entering the wardrobes of four men,
we examined their suits and interviewed them about these garments. This approach
allowed us to uncover the ways in which the materiality of men’s suits was inter-
twined with their embodied experiences of masculinity. What results is a rich
description of the suit as a material culture artifact through which overlapping
subject positions were negotiated by the four men in our sartorial biographies. Our
research advances thinking about the emergence and consequences of contemporary
changes in masculinities. These transformations in masculinities, according to
Bridges and Pascoe (2014), can be explained through the concept of hybrid mascu-
linities. Masculinity scholars use this concept to describe men’s selective incorpora-
tion of identity elements that have been associated with marginalized and
subordinated masculinities and femininities. The way that our research participants’
subject positions were negotiated through use of the suit, which is often understood
as a symbol of hegemonic masculinity, provides unique insights into the workings of
hybrid masculinity. By uncovering men’s embodied experiences, we argue that suits
not only remain a symbol of hegemonic masculinity, but also that their embodiment
further reinforces gender inequalities.
We follow Edwards’ (2011) definition of a suit as an outfit composed of jacket
and trousers made from the same materials. The suit was first worn in seventeenth-
century England by King Charles II and became the garb of country life for the
eighteenth-century gentry. Its codification into the uniform of business during the
1800s reflected a relaxation of British sartorial conventions (Shannon 2006). By the
end of the nineteenth century, the two-piece combination of jacket and trousers was
standard dress for men attending business and evening events in the West. It was in
2Men and Masculinities
this period that the suit trickled down to the middle-class. In comparison to the
ornate and impractical clothes that had previously been worn by the aristocracy, the
suit was a classless alternative promising democracy and rationality (Hollander
1994; Zelinsky 2004). By the mid-twentieth century, suits had trickled down to the
working class as well. The wearing of suits had become a social norm, and large-
scale mass production of suits had made them more affordable (Edwards 1997;
Zelinsky 2004). In Britain, working-class soldiers returning from both World Wars
were issued with “demob” suits, while more stylized suits were also an important
part of the dress of postwar working-class youth subcultures such as the teddy boys,
mods, and skinheads (Breward 2002; Hebdige 1979). In the United States, the mass
affluence of the postwar period and the expansion of postsecondary education made
the Ivy Look, with its signature sack suits, the de facto uniform of the American male
(Mears 2012). In 1950s America, suits were so ubiquitous that they had come to
symbolize mass conformity, as famously exemplified by Sloan Wilson’s 1955 novel
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and the 1956 film of the same name. The relaxa-
tion of sartorial codes since the 1960s has meant that suits are worn less often today;
however, suits remain common attire for business and those who do not wear suits
for work will often still have a suit for formal occasions such as weddings and
funerals (Zelinsky 2004).
Suits and Masculinities
As suits have changed over time, so too have cultural notions of masculinity. While
there are many forms of masculinity, we use the notion of “hegemonic masculinity”
in this article to refer to the most culturally exalted, dominant configuration of
masculinity. It is a form of gender practice that is based on domination and inequal-
ity (Connell 2005). Hegemonic masculinity is expressed through various discourses
such as appearances (e.g., fit bodies), affects (e.g., rational), sexualities (e.g., hetero-
sexual), and behaviors (e.g., assertive; Pringle 2005). Hegemonic masculinity is the
benchmark against which all others forms of masculinity are judged—for example,
the gender practice of gay men—and are subsequently subordinated. This form of
masculinity is also hegemonic in the Gramscian sense, for it is constantly reconfi-
guring itself, co-opting elements of other forms of gender practice to remain domi-
nant (Connell 2005). Connell (1995, 2005) recognizes that masculinity is tied up
with a range of subject positions such as race, class, and sexuality. Masculinity is
therefore not singular but multiple, not static but in motion. In certain contexts, some
male subject positions become more pronounced, whereas in other contexts those
same aspects of identity fade into the background. To capture the dynamic nature of
men’s gendered identities, scholars speaks of masculinities as opposed to masculi-
nity (Beynon 2002).
Sartorial practices express varying forms of masculinity, and men’s conformity to
particular sartorial codes is one way in which they express hegemonic masculinity
(Ugolini 2007). With its connotations of rationality and the renunciation of
Barry and Weiner 3
femininity, the suit is often understood as emblematic of dominant masculine ideals.
The cut of suits works to mask and desexualize the male physique (Collier 1998)
while emphasizing the wearer’s mind over their body (Reynaud 1983). Many cuts of
suits also widen the wearer’s shoulders to make them appear broader, while the V-
shaped opening of the jacket draws attention to the chest, making the wearer seem
more powerful and commanding (Edwards 2011). Accordingly, the form and cut of
suits reinforce socially constructed notions of men as rational and powerful disem-
bodied subjects (Petersen 1998). The wearers of a suit become anonymous and
ubiquitous: the image of impersonal authority (Thornton 1996). The notion that suits
are emblematic of masculinity can be traced back to Flu
¨gel (1930). He famously
argued that suits represented a movement in men’s clothing away from flamboyance
and individuality to modesty and uniformity, a “great masculine renunciation” of
fashion in favor of universal brotherhood at the end of the eighteenth century.
Although the suit is a symbol of hegemonic masculinity, there is nothing essen-
tially masculine about it. Suits are perhaps seen as symbolic of patriarchy because
they are the international uniform of government and business (Flicker 2013). As a
result of declining formality in dress, even in office environments (Janus, Kaiser,
and Gray 1999), suits have come to be associated with the money and power of those
in high-status occupations where suits are still required by dress norms (Edwards
2011). Yet while suits might seem to represent power and high social status, they
sometimes simply represent formality; the demands of formal occasions such as
weddings and funerals mean that ownership of a suit is not strictly determined by
social class (Edwards 2011; Zelinsky 2004). They have also been symbols of various
marginalized masculinities. In the United States, variations on the suit have been an
important part of African American culture, from those worn by the freed slaves of
the antebellum South (Foster 1997) and black dandies of the nineteenth and twen-
tieth century (Miller 2009) through to the jazz musicians of the 1960s (Mears 2012).
Similarly, in the middle of the twentieth century, Latin American “pachucos” wore
zoot suits to gain visibility (Cosgrove 1984). These various ways in which suits have
been worn demonstrate the complex and multifaceted nature of the suit. As such,
what we are looking at in this article is not the singular “suit” but its plural form—
Embodied Suits
The examples above show how when suits are worn by bodies that do not fit the
configurations of hegemonic masculinity, they take on new meanings through the
interaction between the body, clothes, and culture. This dynamic highlights Entwis-
tle’s (2000) theory of dress as a “situated bodily practice” (p. 11). According to
Entwistle, the human body meets the social world through the material culture of
clothes. Dressing is an intimate act that affects how people feel in their bodies. Dress
is also central to how the body is expressed in social settings, and the ways people
dress their bodies are shaped by social norms. While suits are designed for particular
4Men and Masculinities
bodies, the body is often absent in analyses of suits. Scholarship on suits has tended
to be historical (e.g., Kuchta 2002) or theoretical (Edwards 1997, 2011) in nature, or
it has focused on workplace norms (e.g., Kiddie 2009; Peluchette, Karl, and Rust
2006, Peluchette and Karl 2007) and impression management (e.g., Forsythe 1990;
Goudge and Littrell 1989). As is the case with most everyday clothing (Buckley and
Clark 2012), there is little research on suits as an embodied form of everyday dress.
This is a troubling oversight, for as Frith and Gleeson (2004) and Barry and Martin
(2016a) have shown, men’s dress practices are shaped by body ideals, with men
seeking to highlight or hide their body parts depending on whether they meet these
There are, however, a few studies that do look at how men experience their suits
(e.g., Janus, Kaiser, and Gray 1999; Kaiser, Freeman, and Chandler 1993), and the
recent work by Casanova (2015) warrants discussion here. In her book Buttoned Up,
Casanova interviews seventy-one white-collar men about their workplace dress
practices. She argues that white-collar men strategically embrace conformity in their
workplace clothing because it enables them to maintain their male privilege. As they
do so, however, the trend toward slim fit menswear and the saturation of the lean,
toned male bodies in popular culture has made men increasingly body conscious
when they don office wear. Given the importance of bodies in Casanova’s analysis,
it is surprising that discussion about the ways diversely shaped bodies embody their
office clothes remains missing. She generalizes about men’s body consciousness
without highlighting the unique experiences of fat or thinly framed men, for exam-
ple, when discussing their selection of office clothes. She also overlooks the ways
other intersectional identities interact with body size. By analyzing four men of
different body shapes, we build on Casanova’s analysis by discussing the relation-
ship between men’s experiences of their bodies and their suits.
Methodology: Everyday Fashion as Material Culture
Findings for this article stem from a larger project on men’s clothing consumption
and dress practices. The project employed a sartorial biography methodology, with
interviews carried out in the homes of fifty men of diverse ages, body shapes,
ethnicities, and sexual orientations. All of the research participants lived in Toronto,
Canada. These men were selected by sending requests to social, political, and pro-
fessional groups as well as to the first author’s network of contacts. Participants did
not need to have an interest in fashion to take part. In selecting the final participants,
the first author sampled for demographic diversity. The participants were first asked
questions about their clothing practices including: How has your style changed
throughout your life? What influences your clothing choices? The participants were
then asked to provide a tour of their current wardrobes and discuss the memories,
uses, and feelings that they attached to the pieces. As participants discussed each
item, we probed to better understand the relationship between the garment and their
body image, subject positions, consumption practices, and social encounters.
Barry and Weiner 5
Exploring what participants said as they touched their clothing allowed for “an
understanding of how particular garments materially evoke the sensory experiences
of wearing” (Woodward 2016, 8). We therefore paid close attention to how language
articulated men’s experiences of the material. We also photographed the men’s
wardrobes. To protect the anonymity of the participants, names were changed and
none of them were photographed in their outfits.
For this article, we selected four interviews from the larger sample. Our criteria
for choosing them were that each of the men owned a different number of suits and
had distinctive perceptions of suits. We also wanted to have diversity in the sample.
To this effect, the men had different bodies, ethnic backgrounds, and gender iden-
tities which enabled us to investigate the ways intersectional identities impacted
men’s relationship with their suits. The research participants described in this article
were Dave, a white heterosexual master of business administration (MBA) student;
Winston, an East Asian heterosexual store manager; Bob, a white transgendered,
queer professor; and Kanwar, a South Asian heterosexual elected official. We note
that while the four men come from different class backgrounds, the group’s current
class position is homogenous: they are all white-collar professionals. Men who were
working-class, bohemian and wore gender nonconforming clothes took part in our
research, but they did not wear suits and had little to say about the outfit. We
therefore decided their interviews were not relevant to this article. In focusing on
just four participants, we use the small-scale case study approach recommended by
Buckley and Clark (2012), who argue that it recognizes the complexity and richness
of individuals’ lived experiences. Similarly, our small number of participants is
consistent with studies of Downing Peters (2014) and Barry and Martin’s (2016b),
which both employed sartorial biographies. Small samples enabled these researchers
to deeply engage with each participant’s clothing histories, dress decisions, and
To provide geographic contextualization to our study, all of our participants
were born in Canada with the exception of Bob, who was born in the United
Kingdom. They all live in Toronto, the fourth biggest city in North America.
Casanova (2015) argues that place matters for dress norms. In her study, New
York City, Cincinnati, and San Franciscoeachhaduniquestylecultureswhich
influenced how white-collar men dressed for work. Toronto is a major center of
both commerce and culture, but it is in the second tier of “global cities” (Hume
2007) and is not considered a “fashion capital” (Berry 2012). We have noticed that
the men in Toronto’s central business district are not dressed formally compared to
those we see around New York’s Wall Street or in the City of London. However,
this is changing: more men are wearing suits and fashionable suits in Toronto’s
business district. While it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of these changes, one
could look to global trends such as the popularity of men’s online shopping and
menswear blogs (Rothman 2015) or simply the fact that Toronto is a rapidly
expanding metropolis that has recently been deemed “cool” by tastemakers
(Marche 2016).
6Men and Masculinities
Dave is a thirty-two-year-old white, heterosexual MBA student who is 60200 with a
lean build. He first became interested in clothes as a child through his love of
basketball. His interest in basketball clothing led to a more general fascination with
the hip-hop styles that were popular when he was a teenager in the late 1990s and
early 2000s. Dave had been an avid sneaker collector but in the past few years he has
made a concerted effort to dress in a manner he perceived as more “grown-up.” Dave
was passionate about clothing and enjoyed shopping at upscale menswear depart-
ment stores and boutiques. However, Dave’s feelings toward fashion were ambiva-
lent; he described a desire to keep up with the latest styles and look cool, but he was
also wary of clothes that would make him look “not masculine”—which he further
described as “prissy” or “dainty.” He did not like the clothing silhouettes that “don’t
enhance the very male form,” such as those that made the body appear “really
willowy.” He also did not like wearing dress shoes that “clip clop, like high heels”
because these shoes made him “feel feminine, and I don’t like that.” Dave had an
extensive wardrobe of street wear and athletic clothes—so extensive in fact that his
clothing took up an entire room of the house that he shared with his girlfriend. While
self-conscious about the length and thinness of his legs, he described how he works
out “like crazy” to make his legs more muscular and—after having spent his youth in
baggy hip-hop style clothing—had recently started wearing fitted clothes that accen-
tuated the more muscular physique he had worked to achieve.
Although Dave embraced many aspects of menswear, he struggled with suits.
Dave had to start wearing suits when he enrolled in his MBA program. He
explained that he felt different from the conventional male business student: “I’m
a little bit of an outlier from all the guys in my program ...It’s a very cliquish, very
uniform. They’re all in banking and they all golf like crazy, and they all are
competitive over their suits.” Although Dave perceived casual and athletic styles
to represent his personal aesthetic rather than suits, his program nevertheless came
with expectations that students dress for the business world. For Dave, suits were
very much the symbol of masculine sobriety and mass conformity that Flu
(1930) held them to be:
There’s something about wearing a suit that I find kind of constricting for a man.
I don’t find, maybe I don’t understand the nuances enough, but I don’t see a lot
of self-expression ...Everything’s already done for you when you put on a suit.
Dave’s concern about the restraint placed on self-expression seems to support the
notion that for some, the suit really is the epitome of faceless conformity as con-
veyed by The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Dave said of the men who work in
Toronto’s financial district, “those guys, they wear one type of suit and that’s really
boring.” Wearing suits also made Dave feel physically and psychologically uncom-
fortable, as he explained how his suits made him “feel stiff and uncool.” The slim
Barry and Weiner 7
cuts of contemporary suits further made Dave feel that his body conveyed a feminine
appearance by “enhancing how long and thin my legs are” which is “a part of myself
that I wouldn’t want people to see.”
Out of Dave’s four suits, the only one he was fond of was too outside of
today’s fashion norms to be worn as business dress: a 1920s-style Versace suit
from the 1970s. Depicted in Figure 1, this suit was purchase at a secondhand
store on a holiday in San Francisco. He would wear the suit to special events but
would not want to be seen wearing it at business school because it made him
“stand out too much.” Where Dave’s other suits made him feel “stiff and uncool,”
he explained that when he wore this one he felt “cool wearing it—it’s very
different.” It was therefore not the form of the suit itself that Dave found restrict-
ing but instead the perceived expectations within his MBA program that one
should wear a suit consistent with the hegemonic notions of masculine sobriety.
Dave’s Versace suit enabled him to be distinctive in a suit instead of blending in
with other suited men.
When asked about which of his “normal” suits he felt most comfortable in, Dave
told us that his favorite was a black Hugo Boss suit purchased for his brother’s
wedding. While Dave had objections to suits because he felt physically and mentally
constrained by them, this suit was cut in a style that made Dave feel both confident
and comfortable when he wore it:
Figure 1. Dave’s vintage yellow Versace suit.
8Men and Masculinities
It’s taken in really well in the waist, and the shoulders are left wide, and I like the way
that makes me look. Just the tailoring ...I really like the look of like broad shoulders on
myself. I like looking athletic. I like looking strong.
Dave made references here to many of the cultural signifiers associated with
hegemonic masculinity—specifically “broad shoulders” and “looking athletic.”
Contrary to suggestions that suits render the body invisible (e.g., Collier 1998),
this suit highlighted those contours of Dave’s body which are most traditionally
associated with a strong masculine physique. As a middle-class white man in good
physical shape, Dave’s tall and lean body is precisely the type of body that is
validated as the norm within the ideals of hegemonic masculinity, and his Hugo
Boss suit was cut in a manner that it accentuated his idealized masculine body.
Dave explained that he could easily buy suits off-the-rack that perfectly fit his
body without requiring tailoring. Despite the fit between the standardized cut of
suit and Dave’s physique, Dave perceived suits to be uncomfortable and for him,
they represented the loss of individual expression. Dave could nevertheless easily
wear his suits when needed, reaping the benefits of the suit’s association with
masculinity and business success.
Like Dave, Winston struggled with suits; however, unlike Dave, thirty-five-year-old
Winston is a man of size and color and subsequently outside of the appearance traits
of hegemonic masculinity. Feeling excluded from this norm made Winston believe
he was undeserving of expensive clothes:
I don’t feel like I am worthy to spend on expensive clothes because I still feel like a part
of me doesn’t want to wear expensive, nice clothes because I’m fat. I don’t want to
show myself. I don’t want to stand out. I just want to blend in. So when it comes to
buying clothes, it’s always a huge sense of insecurity with me.
Winston described how difficult it was to find clothes that fit well because he is
50500 and 250 pounds: for example, with pants “the crotch always goes to the knees
for me because I’m big and short. I don’t have the ideal body.” Winston’s larger
body shape forced him to shop at specialty stores, increasing his feelings of exclu-
sion. He experienced such a strong feeling of marginalization based on his body size
that he compared it to racism:
It’s awful. This is a special section for you fatties. I don’t want to feel excluded. I just
want to be included with everybody else. I want to be able to go into the regular section
and just have it go up to my size. You know how back in the day they used to have a
section for black people? I feel like this is a separate section for fat people. It’s just a
different type of discrimination. Instead of race it’s body.
Barry and Weiner 9
Winston’s choice of metaphor expressed how deeply alienating an experience it
was for him to buy clothes. Shopping for clothing also brought back troubling
childhood memories of exclusion based on class and race. Having grown-up poor,
Winston was also racially marginalized because his Vietnamese family lived in a
primarily white community. He explained, “It goes back to those childhood feelings,
like excluded and hurt and you don’t fit in and you can’t be like the skinny, white
kids with money. You’re excluded again and you’re not part of society.”
While Winston now works as a store manager and is middle-class, his class
background meant that he did not feel comfortable buying clothes that he con-
sidered to be expensive. As he explained,“Igrewupverypoor,soanythingwe
bought had to be on sale and so that carried with me. So now when I buy things,
I have to get a good deal otherwise I can’t justify paying full price.” Although all
of our participants were middle class, they did not all grow up in these positions.
Casanova (2015) found that families, and fathers in particular, shaped how men
dressed: they either socialized them into standards of dress or provided examples
of how men did not want to dress. Men learned that dress facilitated class repro-
duction or class mobility. Appearance mattered for men from lower status fam-
ilies who lacked economic resources. Men from these backgrounds were
socialized to view clothing as a necessity that should require minimal
economic investment and they had a difficult time shaking those values as adults.
Winston’s family’s thriftiness, brought about by spending constraints, continued
to influence him. Thus his price consciousness was a product of Winston’s
working-class family upbringing.
Since Winston’s body differed from the norm for which off-the-rack suits are
designed, he found it difficult to find a suit that fit well in the price range he was
willing to pay:
If you want a suit that’s going to fit and be stylish, it’s going to be super-duper
expensive. It’s going to be definitely custom-made, but it’s going to be even more
expensive because I’m plus size. I have a friend who owns a custom-made suit store.
He still has to charge me more because I’m plus size ...So $300 additional to the
custom-made suit, which is already, like, between $400 and $600, so I’m looking at
$1,000 after everything. It’s not even a designer suit. I’d rather have a roof over my
Winston felt discriminated against by this extra charge and the fact that there
were no off-the-rack suits that fit him well, concluding that it was “impossible” for
him to buy a suit.
Winston owned only one suit, as shown in Figure 2, that he had purchased online.
Entering nineteen body measurements, he had hoped to get a suit customized to his
body at a reasonable price. However, the suit was cut completely wrong for his body:
“It’s too baggy in the pants. It’s too tight around the belly. It’s too loose round the
shoulders.” The way in which Winston’s body filled this suit reminded him of how
10 Men and Masculinities
his body diverged from the hegemonic masculine norm. Winston described this
divergence as “triggering”:
Putting on the suit and then realizing it’s too tight here or it’s too loose around the
pants. It’s triggering. It reminds me of those terrible memories ...I feel very unhappy
because it makes me feel like if I had a typical body then I wouldn’t have this issue, but
because I have this body I have these issues.
Not only did Winston find suits physically uncomfortable to wear, he also found
them to limit his ability for self-expression. He explained that while he is “jealous of
women because women get to play around” with work clothing, he feels “definitely
restricted by the suit” because “you can’t really do much with it.” Winston’s atti-
tudes toward suits were reflective of the suit’s preferred reading as a symbol of
hegemonic masculinity. He described suits as restrictive and monotone, asserting
that suits made him feel like he was “an office drone, not individualistic at all.” With
Winston’s emphasis on how suits were impossible for him to wear because of his
body and his interpretation of suits as bland clothing, there was a close overlap
between popular interpretations of suits and hegemonic masculinity. The fit of the
suit expresses the masculine body ideal while its blandness conveys the masculine
traits of restraint and sobriety. Winston’s identity was comprised of multiple, over-
lapping subjectivities (Vietnamese, working class, and fat) and none of these, in his
Figure 2. Winston’s custom suit purchased online.
Barry and Weiner 11
mind, were compatible with wearing a suit. Taking the most dominant reading of the
suit at face value, Winston perceived the suit as symbol of masculinity from which
he was marginalized.
Bob is a fifty-three-year-old white professor who transitioned from female to male.
Before transitioning, Bob had been in relationships with women but did not identify
as a lesbian. Many of the cisgender men in our sample had not actively thought about
their own masculinity or how it was expressed through their clothing; Bob’s trans
identity meant that he did not have that privilege. Bob’s responses to our questions
were highly reflexive, demonstrating his conscious understanding of masculinity as
a performance. Bob had one suit—illustrated in Figure 3—which he wore to embody
the male identity into which he had transitioned. He was mindful of how the fit and
details of men’s suit jackets—compared to women’s—signified that the jacket was
designed for a man and enabled him to feel male. However, since off-the-rack suits
are designed for the proportions of a “typical” cisgender man, Bob had to get
extensive tailoring to make his suit fit his 50300 and 120-pound body. Bob had worked
on his body to gain more masculine proportions, undergoing surgery to remove his
female chest and going to the gym to gain muscles in his shoulders and across the
Figure 3. Bob’s only suit that is tailored to his body.
12 Men and Masculinities
back. He explained that the fit of clothing was important to him because it high-
lighted his new, male body:
I’ve worked on my body through surgery and going to the gym and through being on
testosterone and it’s now much more how I want it to be so I want to have it visible,
I don’t want it hidden.
The disconnect Bob felt between his gender identity and biological sex created a
fit dilemma few cisgender men encounter: what size of penis to wear when buying
suit trousers. Since trouser styles have different fits in the crotch, Bob had to choose
among his various prosthetic penises:
When I was going shopping for the suit I texted my friend and I said I’m shopping for a
suit, which dick should I go with because I have a bigger one and a probably more
average sized one and he says well I always like to go out with my biggest dick. Then
I was thinking well I don’t know because if someone is going to be on their knees in
front of me helping to fit the pants and pin them I didn’t want to have some like
enormous bulge there.
The daily performance of maleness through dress is both automatic and taken for
granted by the vast majority of men as a result of their cisgender privilege. But the
meeting of material culture and gender identity in the above example highlights that
the suit is as much a part of Bob’s gender identity as his prosthetic penis.
Bob’s suit was purchased in preparation for a promotional interview at work. He
was seeking to move into an administrative role as chair of his department. Since he
had started his job before transitioning, it was important for Bob to present himself
as masculine. Bob told us how he wanted a suit that “signaled a certain kind of
grown-upness, good taste, that kind of affirmed my transition and my masculinity.”
Bob’s decision to wear a suit reflected an acceptance of wider social mores that
associate the suit with masculine professionalism and sobriety while at the same
time reflecting his own individual sense of identity as a transman:
It was important for me to dress in a way that said yes this is me, I’m your oddball
colleague who is now more of an oddball because I am transgendered but I think I’m
suitable to play a leadership role in this department so I wanted to dress in a way that
expressed somehow all of that.
Bob used his suit to emphasize his own masculinity, with an understanding that
leadership and professionalism are still gendered as masculine traits. Wearing a suit
subsequently made Bob feel confident going into the job interview for a leadership
role within his department:
It made me feel empowered because it’s such a classic piece of male masculine cloth-
ing particularly in a professional context, and so being among one’s colleagues and
Barry and Weiner 13
people on the search committee its a classic professional situation where you’re pre-
senting yourself and people are asking you about you. They are interviewing you to see
if you are suitable to play a particular role in a very conventional hierarchy and a very
conventional workplace so I wanted to dress in a way where I felt like I am an
appropriate person to be a candidate for this job and I feel like I’m dressed in a way
where I signal that.
That same suit helped Bob navigate his father’s funeral. He approached this event
with much trepidation because his family had not seen him since transitioning and he
was worried that they might see him as “kind of disgusting” or a “circus freak.”
Drawing on the suit’s image of formality, sobriety, and masculinity allowed Bob to
feel appropriate and confident when presenting his new male identity to his family
during this event. He explained that that suit:
...helped signal the fact that I wasn’t presenting myself in a way that made me look
like the circus freak ...I felt that what I was able to do was to be me, to be appropriate
and to feel totally comfortable that I was doing all the right things.
In the cases of his job interview and father’s funeral, Bob used the codes asso-
ciated with the suit to signal traits associated with masculinity: professionalism,
respectability, and sobriety.
During our interview, Bob was considering purchasing more suits as he had
recently taken on a more senior role at work as director of a graduate program.
He reflexively drew on the meanings associated with the suit because he wished to
convey the authority of his new position though his clothes:
I’m going to be among a conventional academic hierarchy and notions of gender and
who is a leader, who is responsible, what does that type of person look like? Suits are
expression of formality and a type of seriousness that fits into conventional systems of
what’s serious and who is serious.
Bob stressed that wearing a suit did not mean that he wanted to be known “as one
of the guys,” but instead to “dress in a way that allows room for me to tweak that
identity which can come through me being perfectly put together in the suit but then
tell someone that I’m trans.” He hoped to appropriate aspects of masculinity from
suits that would benefit him without being what he called “stealth” and losing his
transidentity to a dominant masculine identity. The term stealth has been used by
transpeople to describe their attempts to successfully pass as their identified gender.
In her analysis of transpeople at work, Connell (2010) found that most of participants
openly identified as transgender rather than performing stealth due to increasing
legal protections. At his workplace, Bob’s goal was not reject his trans identity and
embody hegemonic masculinity through the suit. Instead, Bob’s suit allowed him to
draw on its discursive practices in order to negotiate his own transmasculinity in the
14 Men and Masculinities
world. Wearing his suit enabled Bob to externally embody aspects of hegemonic
masculinity and, in turn, feel masculine—accessing the privileges associated with
hegemonic masculinity. While Bob identified as a transman, his professional ambi-
tions demanded that he identified as a hegemonic man. In the context of these
overlapping identities, Bob’s suit enabled him to embody aspects of hegemonic
masculine subjectivity by drawing on the meanings associated with this form of
male dress.
Kanwar is a thirty-six-year-old elected government official. Although Kanwar’s
family background is upper-middle-class, he grew up feeling like an outsider in a
mostly white and Christian community where he experienced racism as a result of
his South Asian ethnicity and Sikh faith. As a high school student, he used clothing
to protect himself against the racism he experienced, describing his clothing as
“social armor.” Kanwar styled himself in an “urban or hip-hop” aesthetic that con-
sisted of dark colors and oversized silhouettes. His intension was to convey “a
toughness, kind of some of that street edge” through his clothes. When he started
law school, he wanted to “still convey that same strength and confidence” of his
previous style “but in a more professional way.” He began not only to wear suits but
also to learn about them. Describing the suit as a “language,” he wanted to under-
stand its “syntax” and “grammar.” He said, “If I understand how a suit should fit, if I
understand the difference between off-the-rack and a bespoke ...the better I can
demonstrate my understanding of the language of fashion.” By studying the suit, he
could embody his knowledge of its codes in the suits he wore:
Knowing how big your lapel should be and knowing where your button place-
ment ...All these subtle things were me saying, I am understanding the nuances of
the language and I speak it very fluently, so when I wear it, I wear it with fluency.
Kanwar owned seventeen suits and—during his interview—he provided many
examples to demonstrate that he understood the nuances of a suit’s design and fit.
As depicted in Figure 4, he showed us that the sleeves of his suit jacket had
surgeon cuffs (i.e., working button holes)—revealing it was custom. Wearing his
suits expertly was a strategy for Kanwar to disrupt racism by demonstrating that
he understood Western sartorial conventions better than those of European
It is a way of saying to people without saying it, I speak your language, and in fact I
speak it even better than you. And not because of any ego that I want to be superior to
someone, but as a way of communicating that, though you may look at me and think
that I am in some way less or I am an other or I am different, I actually speak the
language that you respect.
Barry and Weiner 15
Kanwar used the suit to protect himself against discrimination by drawing on its
most dominant meanings: power and prestige. As a South Asian man who wears a
turban in his daily life, wearing a suit changed how he perceived people to engage
with him: “When I wore suits, it would discourage people from mistreating me; if I
walked into a store, I would get more respect, day-to-day I would get increasing
respect. So I used it as that.” He not only wore his suits subversively, undermining
the suit’s associations with white privilege, but he wore suits with a strategic inten-
tionality that was communicated throughout our interview:
A suit ...disarms people who otherwise might seek to be rude or seek to treat me
inappropriately, it pushes the balance, like I don’t know if I should push him, maybe he
will sue me or something, maybe he’s like a fancy lawyer, he’s, I don’t know what he
is, right? So it was kind of throws people off their balance. Otherwise you would just
look at a person and go okay, they are a turbaned person, or they’re a bearded person,
I’m just going to be rude to them or treat them in a certain way or have a certain
stereotype about them. But the way I dress, the way I did it kind of offsets it.
By adopting an appearance that is most associated with hegemonic masculinity,
Kanwar drew on the privileges of gender and class that come with the suit. As with
the “urban” clothes Kanwar wore when he was younger, he similarly used the
metaphor of “armor” to describe suits:
Figure 4. Kanwar’s surgeon cuffs on his bespoke suit jacket.
16 Men and Masculinities
Suits to me are like suits of armor. I feel putting on a suit is like putting on a suit of
armor, and it is an outward expression of confidence. So I feel I am ready to go to
battle ...So putting the armor on, I’m ready for the fight.
While Kanwar was mindful of how different suit styles and textiles were appro-
priate for different contexts, he nevertheless felt that the suit jacket’s structure
enabled him to feel protected. Take, for instance, his description of his summer
evening suit pictured in Figure 5:
In an evening, you’re relaxing, you want a little bit more of a flowing kind of breezy
look, when you’re in court, you want to have a little bit more stronger armor, thicker
steel, so this would be like a lighter armor, still armor, because it still mentally protects
me from some of the class prejudice that exists but this is thinner armour.
When describing the feeling of wearing his suits, Kanwar explained how the way
suits felt on his body enabled him to feel powerful. In this way, when he wore suits,
Kanwar felt that he embodied masculine traits: “Because the suit hugs me a certain
way, I can feel the reassurance of it just moving with the body and fitting in the right
way. I know I am ready to go to battle and fight.” Embodying conventional mascu-
line traits of aggression and strength through suits was further expressed in Kanwar’s
description of the design of one of his suit jackets in Figure 5:
Figure 5. Kanwar’s summer suit with peak lapels.
Barry and Weiner 17
The lapel is a bit wider than usual, and a wider lapel conveys a bit of strength, even this
has a wider lapel, wider than most. So it’s a bit of a strong kind of look, a bit of an
aggressive look. It’s a bit of an aggressive strength.
Like our other participants, Kanwar was mindful of how suits fit his body. He had
the financial resources to have suits made specifically for him and became aware of
how the suit emphasized his body shape through the tailoring process: “I have really
broad shoulders, so an English cut is already kind of bulky, so it makes me bulkier,
so to soften it a bit, the Italian cut is a softer silhouette.” Not only did bespoke suits
allow Kanwar to develop an awareness of his body, but the experience also propelled
him to view suits as distinctive. Pointing to one suit jacket, he elaborated: “I had
certain things that I wanted ...I drew a picture and showed the tailor.” Due to his
class position, he was able to customize suits to his tastes and body instead of buying
Kanwar’s understanding of the suit drew on discourses of masculinity from
popular culture. He reminisced about growing-up watching James Bond with his
father and idolizing the movie character—who was always dressed in a tuxedo—as
the embodiment of masculine power.
While James Bond has taken many different forms over the years, his crude
representation of hegemonic masculinity has remained consistent as an upper class,
womanizing and man-of-action figure (Cox 2014). Much attention has been directed
toward Bond’s wardrobes (see, e.g., McInerney 1996) and unsurprisingly, Kanwar
saw Bond’s hegemonic masculine characteristics as embodied in his clothes—
power, adventure, and heterosexuality. Kanwar felt that since James Bond’s suits
embodied masculinity traits, he would signal these traits—and others would recog-
nize these qualities in him—when he wore his tuxedo: “If there’s ever an opportu-
nity, I feel like it’s my James Bond moment, where I can just break out my tux and
go to an event. For me, wearing a tux is the ultimate power.” Kanwar also wore a
tuxedo to symbolize social class status: “You are obviously someone big time if you
are wearing a tux because you obviously went to some fancy shindig that was black
tie.” By associating the tuxedo with wealth, Kanwar believed that wearing this outfit
allowed for him to proclaim social standing based on financial success. While
Kanwar understood the masculine codes that he expressed by wearing a tux, he was
also aware that he was being “disruptive” by wearing this garment as a “brown
skinned guy, a turbaned person with a beard” in the “ultimate form of men’s
While the men in this study were diverse, the meanings that they associated with
suits were not. Despite the diversity of their subject positions, all four men analyzed
in our sartorial biographies subscribed to the most dominant meanings associated
with suits, approaching them as ways to embody rationality, power, and social status.
18 Men and Masculinities
These are configuration of gender practice associated with hegemonic masculinity,
and our participants donned suits to access the privileges that came with it. While
these men are not all at the top of the hierarchy of masculinities, they were never-
theless part of on the ongoing process through which hegemonic masculinity recon-
figures itself. In this way, the sartorial biographies reveal the nuanced ways in which
hybrid masculinities, despite being more diverse and inclusive, still reinforce sys-
tems of power and inequality.
One aspect of hybrid masculinities involves a set of practices that Bridges and
Pascoe refer to as “strategic borrowing” (p. 252). A longtime fan of both basketball
and hip-hop, Dave’s personal style incorporated aspects of fashion associated with
black masculinity Dave’s favorite suit was a yellow, double-breasted, Prince of
Wales checked number. This colorful suit was reminiscent of those worn by African
and Latino American men to affirm their marginalized identities (Cosgrove 1984;
Miller 2009). While Dave appropriated this style, he did not wear it to business
school. He was concerned that his professors and peers might question his credibility
since the yellow suit did not fit into white middle-class dress norms. Dave’s subject
position as a white man with a lean, tall body is important here. Racialized men and/
or those with diverse bodies would not have the freedom to pick and choose when to
confirm to hegemonic masculinity because their bodies always mark them as outside
of it. White, lean men, however, can choose when to break from configurations of
hegemonic masculinity because their bodies conform to the masculine norm and are
therefore unmarked.
In another example of hybridity, Dave’s enjoyment of fashion—a field coded as
both gay and female (Edwards 2011)—could been seen as indicative of declining
“homohysteria” and the incorporation of “feminine” traits among heterosexual men
(Anderson 2009). Dave’s race, class, body, and sexual orientation placed him in the
category of the most powerful men in society, but his large wardrobe and concern
with appearance mixed in aspects of marginalized masculinities. However, Dave’s
clothing choices were guided by a desire to look “masculine” rather than “prissy.” In
disparaging men who looked effeminate, he distanced himself from those aspects of
fashion associated with feminine and gay men. This was an example of what Bridges
and Pascoe (2014, 254) refer to as “fortifying boundaries.” They use this concept to
describe the ways men with power “masculinize” those parts of marginalized iden-
tities that they co-opt, while at the same time disparaging elements of those identities
associated with subordinated masculinities. This practice reinforces the boundaries
between hegemonic masculinity and the marginalized masculinities whose practices
have been co-opted. In Dave’s case, he appropriated aspects of feminine and gay
masculinities, but he spoke about his fashion choices in such a way that his own,
more privileged form of masculinity did not become associated with them.
Our sartorial biographies extend the boundaries of hybrid masculinities by
exploring the experiences of marginalized men. Bridges and Pascoe (2014) note
that research on hybrid masculinities has focused on young, white and heterosexual
men. They argue that hybrid masculinities are often motivated by an understanding
Barry and Weiner 19
that white, heterosexual masculinities are “less meaningful than more marginalized
or subordinated forms of masculinities” (p. 247). But our analysis questions to whom
this normative masculinity is “less meaningful.” Our marginalized participants per-
ceived white middle-class masculinity as meaningful—so meaningful that they
borrowed from it, in the form of the suit, in an attempt to attain social status.
According to Bridges’ (2014) theory of “sexual aesthetics,” white middle-class men
are often considered cool and progressive when they co-opt marginalized masculi-
nities and, in this way, benefit from gender and sexual inequality. In contrast,
Kanwar, Peter, and Bob were not granted this same heightened status when they
appropriated from dominant masculinities. Instead, appropriation only helped them
offset discrimination and be seen as possessing the competence of white middle-
class masculinity. This suggests that a double standard exists in way men with power
versus men who are marginalized are perceived when they enact hybrid masculi-
nities. While powerful men are perceived as gaining higher status, marginalized men
are only seen as reaching equivalence. The double standard fortifies masculine
hierarchies along racial and class lines.
Our sartorial biographies also reveal the contradictory consequences of hybrid
masculinities. Suits enabled our marginalized participants to successfully enter and
engage in systems of power by assimilating to dominant masculinities. By facilitat-
ing entry into these systems, suits allowed marginalized bodies to be visible in
spaces from which they have traditionally been excluded. While being visible can
trouble systems of power, none of our participants’ hybrid masculinities challenged
the configurations of hegemonic masculinity. In fact, they reinforced the notion that
to be successful is to approximate as closely as possible the appearance of white
middle-class masculinity. They all donned the standard business suit as a means to
minimize the effect of racism, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination on
their careers; their marginalized subject positions meant that they could not risk
rejecting the dress norms of their professions. They felt that their career aspirations
left them little option but to wear standard suits in order to incorporate aspects of
hegemonic masculinity into the marginalized masculinities which they embodied.
Wearing standard suits affirmed the notion that elements of dress deemed masculine
are symbols of power. In this way, hegemonic masculinity was extended to margin-
alized men without substantively changing its gender configurations. As Messner
(1993) notes “men of color, poor and working-class men, and gay men are often in
very contradictory positions at the nexus of intersecting systems of domination and
subordination” (p. 734). While the marginalized men in this study gained power
through changes in their own style (i.e., wearing a suit) and the style of hegemonic
masculinity (i.e., increasingly inclusive of marginalized men), the wider structures
of male power remained intact.
By focusing on how men embodied their suits, our sartorial biographies illumi-
nate the nuanced ways hybrid masculinities are manifested through the relationship
between clothing and the body. Most of Casanova’s (2015) participants did not view
their bodies as a whole but instead scrutinized each part of it. Expanding Casanova’s
20 Men and Masculinities
work, our participants not only viewed their bodies as distinct parts but evaluated
each part according to its associations with hegemonic masculinity. They then used
clothing as a tool to conceal or reveal each body part based on their assessment.
Dave wanted suit pants to hide his legs because he perceived them as thin and weak,
whereas Kanwar wanted a jacket to highlight his broad shoulders in order for them to
appear strong. This concern could be seen as a rejection of hegemonic masculinity
because concern with appearance is popularly associated with women and gay men
(Entwistle 2000). However, studies of men’s magazines have shown that consumer
culture has promoted appearance management as an acceptable component of white,
middle-class, heterosexual masculinity since the 1930s (Coulter 2014; Osgerby
2001). In its 1980s “new man” incarnation, for instance, this “commercial
masculinity” (Beynon 2001) explicitly appropriated gay male culture (Mort 1996;
Nixon 1996). But Messner (1993), who was an early theorist of hybrid masculinity,
describes new man as “more style than substance” because it involved little more
than a change in the appearance of masculinity (p. 732). Rather than rupturing the
dominance of hegemonic masculinity, our participants’ interest in their appearance
is reflective of historical shifts that have appropriated appearance and style into
configurations of dominant gender practices.
Our inclusion of men with fat, thin, tall, short figures allowed us to explore how
bodily differences influenced men’s engagement with suits. As previously men-
tioned, Casanova’s (2015) analysis ignores how differences in men’s body shapes
influence their dress decisions at work. Although all men critiqued aspects of their
bodies, we found that fat men, as evidenced by Winston, are excluded from easily
strategically borrowing the suit as a symbol of hegemonic masculinity because it is
unavailable in larger sizes off-the-rack. The fat body is a symbol of femininity in
Western culture, lacking strength and discipline (Monaghan 2005; Whitesel 2014).
Clothing allows men to disguise parts of their bodies that fail to conform to hege-
monic masculine configurations, but they cannot conceal their entire body shape
when it symbolizes femininity. The design of the suit also physically reminds men
that their bodies do not conform to masculine norms, despite their efforts to wear the
outfit. For example, the poking of Winston’s belt buckle against his stomach pro-
duced the sensory prompt that his body was not designed for the suit. We therefore
argue that clothing fortifies new hierarchies of power and inequality along the lines
of body shape, placing men with fat bodies at the bottom. In this way, our work
tempers Casanova’s (2015) argument that men strategically embrace conformity
through office wear by demonstrating that this privilege is not available to larger
Our research also reveals how hybrid masculinities operate at the intersections of
class, ethnicity, and body shape. Fat bodies not only symbolize femininity but also
lower class because fat people are seen as not having the money or time to engage in
body work (Herndon 2005; Monaghan 2005). Fat bodies are understood as an
embodiment of social class (Warin et al. 2008) and “the war on obesity” has been
described as a form of “symbolic violence” directed at poor and nonwhite
Barry and Weiner 21
overweight people (Wachs and Chase 2013). While our participants with thin or
average-sized bodies could purchase suits off-the-rack which only required minor
adjustments, this was not possible for Winston who needed to purchase a custom
suit. Even when he did, the suit still did not fit because he used an online made-to-
measure service instead of a more expensive bespoke, in-person tailor. Because he
had grown-up poor, Winston’s class habitus prevented him from making such a
purchase. Bespoke suiting is trumpeted for its ability to make men of all sizes look
good, meaning that fat men can offset the association between fatness and lower
class by wearing a suit that fits them. But if fat men do not have the necessary
disposable income to buy a bespoke suit or are uncomfortable doing so, their body
physically manifests their failure to embody power and status. Winston further
complicates the intersection of class habitus and body size as a man who is also
Vietnamese. Winston’s experience reveals that having a lower-class habitus and fat
racialized body can produce triple marginalization through clothing.
All of our participants displayed thought and consideration when making suiting
decisions. We have argued that this effort was driven by a desire to access status and
power. We would also suggest that these men wanted to minimize the risks that can
occur from wearing the “wrong” clothing. As our participants explained in their
interviews, they were mindful of avoiding certain dress decisions that could lead
them to be mocked, teased, or belittled—all qualities that would make them appear
weak, vulnerable, and thus feminine. But we argue that underlying their anxiety was
not only the fear of being seen as feminine; it was the risk of being found not
masculine. Wearing a suit was a disguise that shielded them from being found out
as a fraud in their masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity is an unrealistic ideal that is
unachievable for anyone to embody (Connell and Messerschmidt 2005). While our
participants shared this view when they considered their personal identities, they still
believed that hegemonic masculinity was a configuration of gender practice that was
achievable for others. They therefore put great effort into choosing suits that allow
them to present the impression that they embodied hegemonic masculinity even
though they did not see themselves as truly reflective of what that style of mascu-
linity was meant to look like. This serves to illustrate the power hegemonic mascu-
linity has over how men think about themselves and each other.
We encourage scholars to continue to unpack how men’s engagement with var-
ious types of gendered clothing relates to changes in the configuration of masculi-
nities. What do men’s embodiments of sports apparel or the current military trend
reveal about hybrid masculinities? Alternatively, how do men’s embodiments of
typically feminine aesthetics, which are a popular feature of contemporary men’s
fashion, reflect changes in masculinity? Researchers exploring these questions
should examine men from a range of subject positions to uncover the complex
influence of privilege and inequality on the appropriation of different masculinities.
22 Men and Masculinities
By using clothing as a lens to explore hybrid masculinity, researchers can better
understand how this principle mode through which gender is made visible can push
understandings of men and masculinities.
Authors’ Note
We express sincere thanks to the four men who generously shared their perspectives
and suits with us.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article is part of a larger research
project on men, gender, and fashion that has been funded by an Insight Development
Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
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Author Biographies
Ben Barry is an associate professor of equity, diversity, and inclusion and director of the
Centre for Fashion Diversity and Social Change in the School of Fashion at Ryerson Uni-
versity. His research unpacks the intersections between masculinities and fashion, and has
been published in Critical Studies in Men’s Fashion and International Journal of Advertising,
among others. He is currently writing a book entitled Refashioning Masculinity: Men and
Fashion in the Digital Age (University of Chicago Press). He holds a PhD from the University
of Cambridge.
Nathaniel Weiner is a PhD candidate in York University and Ryerson University’s joint PhD
program in communication and culture. His research interests include consumption, mascu-
linity, men’s fashion, online communities, and youth subcultures. He has published his work
in Catwalk: The Journal of Fashion, Beauty and Style and The European Journal of Cultural
Studies. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on men who participate in online
clothing forums.
26 Men and Masculinities
... The study of masculinity has recently become relevant to the field of fashion studies, with researchers underlining the need to analyze the male social body and identity through an aesthetic perspective (Barry, 2015(Barry, , 2017Breward, 1999Breward, , 2010Cole, 2000;Edwards, 1997;Geczy & Karaminas, 2018;Martin & Koda, 1989;McCauley Bowstead, 2018). This has led to a shift in the cultural view of fashion, which has changed from a predominantly female domain to a social sphere where men also take part in the definition of identities through consumption and representation. ...
The study of masculinity has recently become relevant to the field of fashion studies. However, fashion is still underrepresented in the field of men’s studies, which hardly takes into account its importance in the cultural construction of masculinities. This article aims to build a bridge between these two fields through the analysis of fashion designer Dirk Bikkembergs. Known as part of the internationally established ‘Antwerp Six’ and for his strong representation of masculinity and the muscular body, Bikkembergs’ imagery is interesting to any scholar wishing to reflect on the cultural definitions of the male body, especially when that body is being presented on the border between normativity and homoeroticism. The article explores the evolution of the visual representation of the male body in photography, and particularly fashion photography, demonstrating how the relationship between masculinity, the male body and the gaze changed over time. We then use the proposed framework for a critical investigation of the visual imagery of Bikkembergs’ world, which revolves very much around masculinity and the male body, to pinpoint an ambiguity at the base of the brand: despite the brand’s normative narrative and orientation, we posit that its photographic production leaves space for a queer reading.
Full-text available
Business Masculinity represents a distinctly English configuration of masculinity that was hegemonic in the City of London’s banking and finance industry until recently. This work uses visual semiotic analysis, historical analysis and Bourdieusian concepts to show how Rothschild reproduced the aesthetics of Business Masculinity in the portrait A View from the Royal Exchange (1817) by using clothing and other symbolic cultural capital. To secure his trajectory, Rothschild needed to align his identity with Business Masculinity and thus Englishness – and disassociate himself from Jewish masculinity – in a culture of antisemitism, as well as deal with the repercussions arising from his alleged manipulation of information about the Battle of Waterloo (1815). In this context, the portrait played a significant part in Rothschild’s public identity-management. Shortly after the portrait’s publication, Rothschild was trusted with key information and opportunities which were conducive to his enterprise growing exponentially. It is suggested that the portrait played a hitherto underacknowledged part in Rothschild’s trajectory, by disassociating Rothschild from Jewish masculinity and associating Rothschild with Business Masculinity.
Scholars have debated whether hybrid masculinities perpetuate or challenge male dominance and power. This study advances such dialogue by unveiling the kernel of hybrid masculinities through careful examination of young Korean men’s narratives on how to manage appearance and dressing up, especially on wearing make-up. Findings suggest that young men narrate three approaches, namely, expressive, instrumental, and meritocratic, as a means to explain their perspectives on such practices. A close look into their statements on the rationales of dressing-up and wearing make-up—seemingly a social act of hybrid masculinities—shows that such behaviors are pathways to fortify masculine power whose roots intersect with the local socioeconomic structure. This study theoretically contributes to unveiling how the basis of male dominance and power intersects with the normative and pervasive ideal of the neoliberal self, suggesting traditional masculinities are concealed in the complex indigenous assemblage of neoliberalism and lookism.
Efforts to involve men in teaching young children is aimed at disrupting gender-specific occupational segregation and the feminization of teaching. This paper foregrounds the reasons a group of South African male preservice teachers chose to specialise in Early Childhood Education (ECE). We deploy hybrid masculinity as a lens to unpack how men reconfigure male power as prospective ECE teachers. Male authority and intergenerational relations in ECE and the avoidance of sexual misconduct permit male teachers to strategically mediate power and claim status as prospective ECE teachers. Highlighting these gendered complexities is vital in developing a gender equitable ECE landscape.
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Superheroes are extremely popular among children, adolescents, and adults in the United States (and worldwide). However, there is little research on the impact of superhero exposure on developmental outcomes, particularly over time. The current paper includes a 5-year longitudinal study examining the relationship between superhero exposure in early childhood and indicators of hegemonic masculinity in later childhood, including endorsement of masculinity ideology, muscular ideal, and male gender stereotypes, and attitudes toward women. Participants included 155 children (51% female, Mage = 4.83 years at Wave 1) and their parents, who completed several questionnaires at two separate time points. Analyses revealed that early superhero exposure was indirectly associated with weaker egalitarian attitudes toward women and greater endorsement of the muscular ideal during later childhood through superhero exposure in late childhood. Implications for individuals, parents, and media producers are discussed.
Pakistan is a developing country with a population exceeding 200 million in 2021. Women comprise half of the population and are facing various social, economic, and cultural challenges in Pakistani society. Recent estimates show that more than three-fourths of employed women in urban areas are in non-governmental employment. Hence, the representation of women in the public sector is less than 2%. However, most women work in the informal sector, such as cottage and small-scale industries. Women artisan entrepreneurs have attained various fields such from fabric, material, and embroidery to jewellery, carving, mirror work, and other handicraft items. These women artisan entrepreneurs are striving hard with their lesser income to stand up in the male-dominated society. Hence, the business environment for women artisan entrepreneurs show the complicated interplay of various factors like social, cultural, traditional, and religious which mutually demonstrated a lower status of women in Pakistan. Women artisans may play a dual role in the country’s economic development by keeping the cultural heritage alive for upcoming generations. Due to the lack of researches on women artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries, the present study explores the issues and challenges of women artisan entrepreneurs in Pakistan. A qualitative research strategy and a semi-structured interview technique are used for data collection. The present study’s target population comprises of 20 women artisan entrepreneurs from Punjab zone rural areas. The findings revealed that women artisan entrepreneurs face various challenges such as poor infrastructure, power supply issue, power breakdown, no direct contact with the supplier, exploitation by middleman, limited marketing avenues, no direct customer contact, fewer finances, less familial support, and less profit. The results show that the younger generation is unwilling to continue their ancestors’ profession due to confronted obstacles. This study will help policymakers formulate policies related to education and training facilities for women artisan entrepreneurs to keep this sector alive.
Full-text available
In the developing and third world countries, in particular, a sustainable livelihood approach to poverty reduction has become a prime concern worldwide, where livelihood depends largely on the outcomes of conventional farming. On the other hand, the handicraft sector traditionally plays an influential role in improving people’s livelihood conditions. It is a growing challenge to conserve and preserve the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts. Handicraft by local craftsmanship and materials are special manifestations of a specific culture or society. However, growing globalization leads to more commoditization of goods, and artisans find their products competitive worldwide. It is also necessary to secure a sustainable livelihood for the artisans who work in this traditional craft. This chapter will explore the traditional art form of stone carving, which is widely practiced among a group of people of the Susunia region of Bankura district of West Bengal, India. This research will look at the limitations and weaknesses associated with stone-carving operations and also aims to investigate the numerous livelihood results obtained from stone-carving activities by stoneworkers through entrepreneurial activities. Entrepreneurship is known as an antidote to poverty and unemployment. This research aims to promote and explore the influence of entrepreneurship on the sustainability of artisans.
There is a growing appreciation of the ‘aesthetic’ dimensions of enterprise culture and the power of artisanal entrepreneurship as a driving force in local economies and enterprise cultures, but despite a growing body of research on the topic, there is little research on how ‘artisans’ operationalise their business models to extract value from their environments. This is important because many artisanal businesses do not at first glance appear to follow the classic entrepreneurial business model and aesthetics, nor do ‘artisans’ adopt an obvious entrepreneurial identity. We see them as artists, artistes and creatives, not as entrepreneurs, because we focus on the artisanal aspects of their businesses. In this chapter, I examine the business model of the Scottish artist Graham McKean and establish that as well as being an artist he is also a shrewd artist-entrepreneur attuned to the nuances of his localised enterprise culture and that his art also captures and commodifies the unique enterprise culture of ‘Glasgow’ and the ‘South of Scotland’ area and its masculine characterisation. The men are portrayed as heroic individuals and resonate with corporate and entrepreneurial mythology. Using semiotic analysis, this study examines a selected strand of his artistic output and identifies how artistic tropes such as caricature, meme and parody can be used to depict and sell visual aspects of ‘success’ and ‘enterprise culture’ and how enterprise becomes infused into the artisanal business.
The present study examines the roles of social entrepreneurs in women empowerment and rural community development in India. It is a qualitative study that analysed cross-case studies of two social entrepreneurial ventures. Firstly, the present research identifies five roles of social entrepreneurs’ self-efficacy for solving social issues like women empowerment and rural community development. Secondly, the study identified the diverse characteristics of social entrepreneurs in rural community development via socio-economic development and sustainable livelihood. Thirdly, the study also found that these roles are interlinked, but each role can also be independently functional, meaningful, and impactful. The application of social entrepreneurship techniques, skills, and knowledge was critical to the transformation of rural community development. Sharing this new addition is fundamentally an essential contribution to social entrepreneurship knowledge. The present study follows a qualitative method using a cross-case analysis with particular attention to social entrepreneurial ventures engaged in handicraft social enterprises. The study is based on in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and participant observations, including photos taken and videos made of the location. Social entrepreneurs are acting as change agents for solving the prevalent social problems of society like women’s empowerment and rural community development. It facilitates social mobility and uplifting aspirations, particularly for social entrepreneurs, and hopes for a region otherwise less developed. It may have social infrastructural development potentiality and social policymaking. It would be an essential source for policy decision-making, policy determination, economic planning tool, and a practical guide in addressing wide-ranging social issues like sustainability, socio-economic development, women empowerment, and social entrepreneurs’ role in rural community development.
Full-text available
Pakistan is a developing country with a population exceeding 200 million in 2021. Women comprise half of the population and facing various social, economic and cultural challenges in Pakistani society. Recent estimates show that more than three-fourth of employed women in urban areas are in non-governmental employment. Hence, the representation of women in the public sector is less than 2%. However, most women work in the informal sector, such as cottage and small-scale industries. Women artisan entrepreneurs have attained various fields such from fabric, material, and embroidery to jewellery, carving, mirror work, and other handicraft items. These women artisan entrepreneurs are striving hard with their lesser income to stand up in the male-dominated society. Hence, the business environment for women artisan entrepreneurs show the complicated interplay of various factors like social, cultural, traditional and religious mutually demonstrated a lower status of women in Pakistan. Women artisans may play a dual role in the country's economic development by keeping the cultural heritage alive for upcoming generations. Due to the lack of researches on women artisan entrepreneurs in developing countries, the present study explores the issues and challenges of women artisan entrepreneurs in Pakistan. A qualitative research strategy and a semi-structured interview technique are used for data collection. The present study's target population comprises of 20 women artisan entrepreneurs from Punjab zone rural areas. The findings revealed that women artisan entrepreneurs face various challenges such as poor infrastructure, power supply issue, power breakdown, no direct contact with the supplier, exploitation by middleman, limited marketing avenues, no direct customer contact, fewer finances, less familial support and less profit. The results show that the younger generation is unwilling to continue their ancestors' profession due to confronted obstacles. This study will help policymakers formulate policies related to education and training facilities for women artisan entrepreneurs to keep this sector alive.
Full-text available
This article explores how men’s everyday dress practices and associated social media usage influence their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. Through interviews with 20 young men of diverse ethnicities, body shapes, and sexual orientations, findings reveal that young men’s engagement with fashion and social media merge to create a cultural climate of heightened body consciousness. Contemporary slim-fit clothing trends magnified men’s appearance fixations and incited body surveillance in compliance with conventions of male attractiveness. The proliferation of outfit posts and selfies on social networks have further caused appearance anxieties as Web 2.0 apps impelled participants to compare themselves against their peers. This study concludes that men’s body image pressures have only reinforced hegemonic masculine boundaries and the subsequent power for those who conform to them. Men with bodies that deviate from the appearance ideals experience daily anxiety because they perceive their bodies as culturally deficient.
Bridging theory and practice, this accessible text considers fashion from both cultural studies and fashion studies perspectives, and addresses the growing interaction between the two fields. Kaiser and Green use a wide range of cross-cultural case studies to explore how race, ethnicity, class, gender and other identities intersect and are produced through embodied fashion. Drawing on intersectionality in feminist theory and cultural studies, Fashion and Cultural Studies is essential reading for students and scholars. This revised edition includes updated case studies and two new chapters. The first new chapter explores religion, spirituality, and faith in relation to style, fashion, and dress. The second offers a critique of "beauty" and considers dressed embodiment inclusive of diverse sizes, shapes and dis/abilities. Throughout the text, Kaiser and Green use a range of examples to interrogate the complex entanglements of production, regulation, distribution, consumption, and subject formation within and through fashion.
Why start with this invocation of a 50-second television and cinema advertisement that ran in the UK from Boxing Day 1985 through until the Autumn of 1986? The advert is important to the story this book sets out to tell for a number of reasons. First, it brings together a particular and distinctive set of codings of masculinity that occupy a central place in the book as a whole. The foregrounding of the surface of the body is central to "Launderette's" representation of masculinity. Through the choice of camera shots, an intensity is produced in the framing of the masculine body in the advert. As Nick Kamen, the model, undresses a series of looks are formally established that bring the viewer's eye close up to his face, chest, arms, thighs and bottom. A fragmentation of his body is produced in these shots that undercuts the more established codes of aggression and power associated with masculine display. The revealed torso and Kamen's features combine to allow the display of both developed (but not too hard) muscularity and a marked softness and sensuality connoted through his soft lips, eyes and skin-tone.
Women in political leadership are imprisoned in a double-bind communication: when they perform and dress along feminine patterns, they might be looked as deficient actors in the hard field of politics. When they refuse typical female looks and submit to male dress code, their performance is commented as conspicuous. The global visual political communication in media sends clear signals: nothing changes. Women are still the exception, ‘the other’. The visualized lose-lose situation for female politicians is conceived as symbolical violence. In this article the central piece of clothing - the dark suit – is discussed under cultural perspective, along macro-structural principles of the gender order, as instrument in the repetitive practice of exclusion in politics and within the distribution of media pictures. A visual discourse analysis - a ‘vis-course analysis’ - of international group photos from political events like summits traces fashion practices marking the fields of masculinity and power.