Welcome to Notes from the Field
Notes From the Field is a recurring column written from behind the scenes by Fashion and Fashion Studies professionals across all disciplines. We highlight process, showing readers how it looks and feels to be blazing trails in this exciting new field.
For our inaugural edition we bring you two voices on modern menswear and masculinity, side by side. Each of the pieces offers a glimpse at the working life of a gentleman scholar concerned with performativity, gender, and media. Yet, the approaches are singular.
Dr. Ben Barry writes from within academia, where he is among the vanguard of Fashion Studies scholars shaping the field and actively creating new ways of conducting fashion research. In this piece he presents a model for integrating the fashion industry’s traditional preferred medium—the fashion show—into a rigorous research practice. He shares with FSJ readers the ins and outs of a group process that made this feat possible.
Meanwhile, Daniel Penny provides a dispatch from the “Proper Kit” trade show by Styleforum, where performative masculinity is every bit as much on display as on the catwalk. With the critical eye of a near-outsider, he observes the rituals of dress, demonstration, and feedback integral to participation in a new media fashion community. His critical journalistic instincts and training (i.e. dressing to blend in and a sharp eye for social dynamics) clear the path for conclusions he can’t help but reach about style and groupthink.
These two writers bear witness to the fashioning of 21st century masculinity from different angles and each digest their findings according to their experience, professional and otherwise. By putting them in conversation with one another, we hope to draw your attention to themes present in both pieces: the creation of gendered identity through dress; the defenses erected and concessions made by male-identified people in order to participate in fashion; and the role of the audience, present or virtual, in developing narratives of acceptable masculinity.
If you’d like to share the secrets of your research or let us in on how a project is developing in a future Notes From the Field feature, please get in touch!