The myth that women are fashionable but men are not has been challenged through popular culture and academia in recent years, not least by the proliferation of men's style magazines such as GO and Arena, and the emergence of masculinity as a marketing tool. In this engaging new book, Tim Edwards applies a sociological approach to our understanding of men's fashion, which he perceives to be significant in the nexus of masculinity and society, past and present, rather than simply an artistic or aesthetic interest, denoting effeminacy or homosexuality.
Rejecting an essentialist or natural origin, Edwards explores how masculinity and men's fashion are constructed, particularly in relation to consumer society. It is the growing commodification and aestheticism of everyday life alongside developments in marketing and advertising, that Edwards identifies as the catalyst in the self-conscious emergence of men's fashion, rather than an abstract 'crisis of masculinity' or the 'new man' identity. Concurrently, in the 1980s, changes in demography, economics and ideology gave certain men greater freedom and spending power than ever before. Edwards investigates how these men, clearly distinguished by age, class and sexual orientation, were seduced by advertisers with sexy images of suited city gents and body beautiful boys in Levi's, and how the resultant process of consumption was facilitated through the practice of shopping itself, such as easy access to credit. He examines the influence of the advertiser's message in creating a hierarchy of masculinity in which some men are valorized and others denigrated.
Starting with an historical review of men's fashion and a discussion of its importanceand meanings, Edwards goes on to analyze the contemporary marketing of menswear and masculinity in advertising and in the media, and considers the politics of fashion for men in terms of gender, class, race and sexuality.