I am an ordinary man: Getting and wearing suits in Britain 1945-1980

Sprecher, D. 2019. I am an ordinary man: Getting and wearing suits in Britain 1945-1980. Everyday Fashion: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Clothes. University of Huddersfield and University of Leeds 27 - 28 Jun 2019 University of Huddersfield.

TitleI am an ordinary man: Getting and wearing suits in Britain 1945-1980
AuthorsSprecher, D.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

‘When you bought a Burtons’ suit…you were saying, basically, I am an ordinary man and that’s what most Englishmen really wanted’. Nik Cohn, Today There are No Gentlemen, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 14.

Getting and wearing a suit was an experience common to most men in the post-war period in Britain. From the 1940s to the 1980s men had suits given to them, purchased for them and they bought them for themselves. The status and ubiquity of the suit as a garment worn by men, even as it has declined in significance, means it is an important site where men have negotiated their identities and sense of masculinity. The suit has operated as a marker of conformity but also of emotion, agency and choice, especially with made-to-measure tailoring.

This paper will provide new insight into the often disregarded experiences of ordinary men and their engagement with fashion. It will argue for the importance of exploring the personal narratives around men’s suited lives as they reveal aspects of men’s identities, their changing relationship with the suit as they age, and the many meanings that can be attached to particular forms of dress beyond simple fashionability.

The analysis will use the made-to-measure suits of the Leeds tailoring industry as the focus of the discussion – the Leeds tailoring companies such as Burton dominated the British outerwear tailoring market until the 1970s. The paper will use object study to draw on the garments themselves, as well as oral history, personal accounts and extensive imagery to argue for a richer and more nuanced understanding of men’s ordinary dress and fashion.

Keywordsmenswear, tailoring, ordinary dress, age
Year2019
ConferenceEveryday Fashion: Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Clothes
PublisherUniversity of Huddersfield
University of Leeds
Publication dates
Published28 Jun 2019

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