Men in Black: Fashioning Masculinity in Nineteenth-Century Spain

Publication Date

Fall 2012


Clothes offer us a commentary on the individual who wears them, and one of those

comments deals with gender. Clothing is fundamental to gender, turning male and female bodies into men and women. In the nineteenth century the preoccupation with appear- ances was greater than in previous periods thanks to changes in the social system and a reformulation of gender roles, as well as the popularity of physiognomic theory. Given this increased sensitivity to the gaze, it is curious that men would uniformly adopt the black suit as their garment of choice. This revolution in male fashion was born from contradic- tory motives. On the one hand, the man in black attempted to avoid the gaze so as not to be anyone’s object of desire. An exception to this rule was the elegante, for whom fashion was a way of life. The elegante became a frequent target of the satirical press, which ques- tioned his masculinity. On the other hand, the black suit came simbolize the power of the ascendant middle class because it recalled Spain’s most important monarchs, such as Carlos V and Felipe II. The black suit thus became a polysemic signifier, and the man who wore it attempted, impossibly, to be both the subject and object of the gaze.


Letras Hispanas





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