Conspicuous Constructions

David Kuchta

in The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780520214934
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520921399 | DOI:
Conspicuous Constructions

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter traces the origins of the three-piece suit and seeks to reconsider the importance of this process by which explicitly political decisions and values become internalized, personalized, and naturalized into everyday manners and habits—a process, it uses Edmund Burke's eighteenth-century terms, that “renders a man's virtue his habit” so that “his duty becomes a part of his nature”. It explains that modern English masculinity is nothing if not a conspicuous construction, a self-consciously political and conspicuously public creation, precisely because contemporaries like Burke saw the inculcation and naturalization of virtuous masculine habits as central to England's political order. It also seeks to explain why Charles II would concern himself with introducing the three-piece suit, and, equally importantly, why men still wear three-piece suits.

Keywords: three-piece suit; values; Edmund Burke; modern English masculinity; conspicuous construction; political order; Charles II

Chapter.  6299 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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