Sartorial Stagnation: The Degradation of Menswear

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper will present the anthropology of dress and adornment in a new light by considering western-centric menswear through the lens of stagnation. It will question how dress in its current form, as a non-human object, is the product of a unique cosmopolitan discourse. Formal menswear has remained static in terms of design for almost one hundred years, while there has been a substantial stagnation and degradation of quality. This is mirrored by a decline in the frequency with which the majority wear formal dress. I will suggest that as a product of this notions of ‘smartness’ have degraded and that the ability to read the semiotics of tailoring has been lost by all but a few cognoscenti. Furthermore, the appearance of new streetwear tropes such as ‘scumbro’ highlight the sartorial stagnation being experienced by younger populations, and a desire to rebel through dress. Finally, I will question whether this form of stagnation is cyclical, with a desire for a new group to appear differently through dress ultimately coming to stagnate in its own right.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2018
EventSTAGNATION: In a changing world - University of St Andrews (Department of Social Anthropology), St Andrews, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Nov 201812 Nov 2018


ConferenceSTAGNATION: In a changing world
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CitySt Andrews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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