Inconspicuous Consumption

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:
Inconspicuous Consumption

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter provides a definition for inconspicuous consumption where elite men's fashion is considered as opposition to luxury. It explains that this distinction was driven not by a sociology of conspicuous consumption and invidious distinction (the attempt to keep up with, or ahead of, the Joneses), but by a dynamic of inconspicuous consumption and invidious indistinction (the attempt to keep away from, hidden from, and superior to, the Joneses). It observes that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was competition for social distinction—fashion itself—that motivated the anti-fashion movement of the great masculine renunciation. It concludes that in attempting to create an image of masculinity compatible with ideals of liberty and property, the three-piece suit merely reproduced a fashion tyranny in inverted form.

Keywords: inconspicuous consumption; elite men's fashion; sociology; conspicuous consumption; invidious distinction; invidious indistinction; great masculine renunciation; three-piece suit

Chapter.  1952 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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