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‘Till They See a Man in Spite of His Clothes’: Twentieth-century media and Raymond Duncan

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Raymond Duncan (1874–1966) entered the twentieth century clothed in a Greekinspired dress influenced by the past, yet strikingly modern for his time. Duncan, a leader at his own self-sufficient art colonies in Paris and Nice, spent 62 years of his life dressed in the daily uniform of hand-woven tunics and leather sandals that he and his followers created for themselves. Duncan first adopted his social and gender-defying philhellenic costume in 1903, and coverage of Duncan and his companions’ dress in newspapers and other media outlets continued throughout his lifetime. This article explores Duncan’s defiance of social conventions via his clothing, and the evolving attitudes of the twentieth-century mindset, from scandalized shock at Duncan’s trouser-less appearance during the 1910s to bemused curiosity from the 1920s onwards. As a male artist travelling through cultural centres such as Paris, London, Berlin and New York during the twentieth century, the attention afforded by the western press to Duncan’s ‘draperies’, long hair and sandalled feet contributed to the artist’s notoriety and success, and revealed a gradually evolving social interpretation of bohemian dress, which, by the time of Duncan’s death in the late 1960s, approached understanding and acceptance.
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Keywords: Isadora Duncan; Paris; Raymond Duncan; artistic dress; sandals; tunic

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Independent scholar

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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