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Destabilizing the gaze towards male fashion models: Expanding men’s gender and sexuality identities

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Fashion advertisements pioneered the mainstream objectification of the male body in popular culture. While scholars have theorized about the influence of these images on men, few empirical studies have examined men’s engagement with them. This study investigates how men experience objectified men’s fashion advertisements through interviews with 30 gay and straight male fashion consumers. Analysis revealed that both gay and straight men gaze upon images through the lenses of appreciation and fantasy, destabilizing normative binaries of gender and sexuality. Despite the delight that men experienced, objectified fashion images roused despair and distress because the models represented limited body ideals and expressions of gender and sexuality. Findings provide empirical evidence to support and advance a new theorization of the male gaze in men’s fashion images. Fashion professionals are advised to expand their representations of male imagery to enable men to continue to traverse gender and sexuality boundaries.
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Keywords: body image; fashion advertising; masculinity; men; objectification; the gaze

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ryerson University 2: University of Saskatchewan

Publication date: March 1, 2016

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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