Which man does the suit make?
Examining the role of the suit in shaping and challenging hegemonic masculinity in western culture
Vol. 3, no. 1, pages 7-13
University College Utrecht
This paper conducts a symbolic analysis of the two-piece suit as an icon of western hegemonic masculinity. By tracing the garment’s historical root to 16th the century England, and the rise of protestant sartorial ideals that shaped it visually, it constructs a narrative of the way in which the suit was gradually and lastingly imbued with the symbolic privilege and power of masculinity. It goes on to examine the way in which, in previous decades, the changing cultural definitions of contemporary masculinity, as well as the appropriation of suits by women as a means to establish a counter-hegemony, has caused a shift, or, according to some, a decline in the symbolic power of the suit. It questions whether the suit will retain its symbolic masculine power despite that fact that its wearer-ship is no longer limited to a privileged white, heterosexual demographic.