Macaroni Masculinities

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This article discusses the macaroni phenomenon, with reference to transformations of masculinity and gendered consumption. It considers how the dress prerogatives of the male elite may have passed into the reach of the “lower” orders. McNeil contends that macaronic behaviour is more about the process of wearing than the product that is worn. He makes a case for an alternative or additional derivation of the term “macaroni” that privileges this sense of performative burlesque. The article argues the benefits of a cultural studies approach to eighteenth-century male dress, in which the relationship between modernity, fashion and representation is foregrounded, and macaroni dress related to evolving models of national and gendered identity. The macaroni contradicted the notion that masculine clothing expressed a stable and inherent self, overturning pre-modern dress hierarchies. The macaroni posited a self that exists only in performance, and cannot be fully understood by simply analyzing the clothes he wore. However, macaroni costume analysis does expose the visual flux such clothing brought to cities like London, redefining it as a modern center of international trade. The article concludes that it is the power of fashion as modern commodity that invoked the anxieties that saw the macaroni simultaneously mocked and celebrated in public discourse and popular culture.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2000

More about this publication?
  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
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