Book Review: Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015
Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Eguerra with essays by Tim Blanks and Peter McNeil.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2016
Reigning Men, Fashion in Menswear 1715-2015 by Sharon Sadako Takeda, Kaye Durland Spilker and Clarissa M. Esguerra delivers an opulent visual display of the menswear collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In her introduction Sharon Sadako Takeda explains how in 2007 LACMA acquired a collection of European dress for men, women and children. The strength of the menswear pieces drew them to the realisation that collections based upon and showcasing menswear above womenswear are rare and indeed far less prominent than collections and books based upon the history of womenswear.
Reflecting upon the writings of J C Flugel and his book The Psychology of Clothes, written in 1930, in which Flugel raises his argument of ‘The Great Masculine Renunciation’ at the end of the 19th Century. Here he explains how he feels that menswear took a step back from the decorative and elaborate styles of the previous century in favour of a more conservative, business like aesthetic, preferring to be correctly attired rather than elegant or elaborately so.
Reigning Men endeavours to rise against this and in fact explores the argument that menswear has always held a position of importance with an ‘enduring relationship between masculinity and fashion’ (McNeil, Peter).
Menswear has and continues to act as a method to document the mood of the times, reflecting society and cultural influences.
The book charts the timeline of menswear discussing the Macaroni, the Dandy, the Peacock along with key influencing events in history such as the French Revolution, the First and Second World Wars, followed by the wealth of youth and sub cultures that would follow.
The authors chart key figures in history such as Beau Brummell, Edward VII and Edward VIII, Oscar Wilde though to more contemporary influencers such as Mick Jagger and the Beatles, discussing their impact upon style.
The content is well formatted juxtaposing historical elements next to their modern counterparts and re-interpretations for example the memorable style of the Oxford Bags from the 1920s alongside the later Raf Simons Spring Summer 2011 collection, identifying how menswear continues to be influenced from the past and re-invented.
Reigning Men successfully celebrates the subtle and refined changes in menswear and displays men’s style as a reflection of society.
Essays by Tim Blanks and Peter McNeil provide more in depth analysis and thought provoking discussions on the impact of menswear and how it continues to evolve.
With an array of detailed, informative photography and interesting annotations with a wealth of historical knowledge Reigning Men is well worthy of a place in any menswear book collection.