The English middle class in the late nineteenth century enjoyed an increase in the availability and variety of material goods. With that, the visual markers of class membership and manly behavior underwent a radical change. In The Cut of His Coat: Men, Dress, and Consumer Culture in Britain, 1860–1914, Brent Shannon examines familiar novels by authors such as George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Thomas Hughes, and H. G. Wells, as well as previously unexamined etiquette manuals, period advertisements, and fashion monthlies, to trace how new ideologies emerged as mass-produced clothes, sartorial markers, and consumer culture began to change.
While Victorian literature traditionally portrayed women as having sole control of class representations through dress and manners, Shannon argues that middle-class men participated vigorously in fashion. Public displays of their newly acquired mannerisms, hairstyles, clothing, and consumer goods redefined masculinity and class status for the Victorian era and beyond.
The Cut of His Coat probes the Victorian disavowal of men’s interest in fashion and shopping to recover men’s significant role in the representation of class through self-presentation and consumer practices.