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Cloning fashion: Uniform gay images in male apparel

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Fashion has often served as a signifier of masculinity, from baroque flamboyance to neoclassical simplicity. Gay men have used fashion to create a recognizable image, sometimes in imitation or exaggeration of aggressively heterosexual attire. Before Stonewall, the gay man was often identified as a ‘Pansy’. After the Second World War, the artist Tom of Finland began presenting a new image of gay men – happy, rambunctious and hypermasculine in appearance, coinciding with the development of biker culture and social groups of gay men who did not identify with the effeminate stereotype. With gay liberation came the ‘Clone’, a series of variations reflecting the concerns of gays, who co-opted apparel and grooming identified with traditionally ‘masculine’ men, including some viewed as oppressors. The 1970s Castro Clone provided a contrast to the disco look. During the 1980s, when men’s fashion took on an androgynous or self-conscious air, the ACT UP Clone originated with AIDS activists using clothes to make a socio-political statement. In the 1990s, gay men became more secure and self-expressive but, arguably, shallower. The new Chelsea Clone look focused on tight clothes on a muscular body, contrasting the weight loss associated with HIV. In the early twenty-first century, gay uniformity declined. A highly muscular physique was seen as the hallmark of the AIDS generation. Straight ‘Metrosexuals’ adopted gay style, and in reaction, gay men turned to a less-polished appearance, again emulating and at times parodying heterosexual male archetypes. As civil rights expand, the visual boundaries of clothing seem to be disappearing.
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Keywords: ACT UP; Chelsea Boy; Clone; Tom of Finland; masculinity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Florida

Publication date: September 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Critical Studies in Men's Fashion examines the multi-faceted dimensions of men's appearance. It uses the holistic definition of dress as a means of examining the tangible and intangible aspects of creating and maintaining appearance. This journal is the first to exclusively focus on men's dress and topics of gender, identity, sexuality, culture, marketing and business will be discussed. Men's dress and fashion have been side-lined in scholarship, and this journal provides a dedicated space for the discussion, analysis, and theoretical development of men's appearance from multiple disciplines. All articles are blind-peer reviewed in order to maintain the highest standards of scholastic integrity. Theoretical and empirical scholarship in the form of original articles, manuscripts, research reports, pedagogy, and media reviews are welcome.
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