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Coming out of the cabinet: Fashioning the closet with Sweden's most famous diplomat

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This article offers a critical analysis of the media discourse surrounding the Swedish diplomat Sverker strm's coming out as a gay man at the age of 87. Particular interest is devoted to his striking fashion choice of wearing a pair of oddly coloured socks, which highlighted his contradictory masculinity as well as the many inherent paradoxes of the closet. strm's red and green socks functioned as a means to express forbidden desires, to oppose normative expectations in a playful way and to grant the gay subject a presence in a world that is still very much structured by the logics of the closet. Moreover, his contradictory body language, coupled with his repeated affirmations that his coming out was a private issue, revealed a divided masculinity that was ideologically dependent on a pre-feminist understanding of gender and sexuality as private, that is to say non-political. The article argues that there was strong evidence to suggest that his coming out was in fact a tactical move in a political game, a move aimed to denounce and ridicule the Swedish Security Police (SPO), who, after decades of surveillance, refused to grant the diplomat access to its classified files on him.
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Keywords: Sverker strm; Swedish sexual politics; cold war masculinity; fashion and homosexuality; the closet

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Stockholm University.

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • Critical Studies in Fashion and Beauty is the first journal dedicated to the critical examination of the fashion and the beauty systems as symbolic spaces of production and reproduction, representation and communication of artifacts, meanings, social practices, and visual or textual renditions of cloth, clothing and appearance.

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