Stylistic change in men's business suits related to changes in the masculine roles in the United States, 1950-1988

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this research was to establish the relationship between the stylistic changes the men's business suit and the masculine roles as represented in advertising imagery in the United States from 1950 through 1988. The men's business suit is a behavioral expectation for business and professional men often called "white collar workers." The suits are a social product given to change as collective tastes are manifest over time. The masculine role, a set of behavioral expectations dictated by consensus, is also a social product given to change over time. This research examined the relationship between changes in styling of men's business suits, and changes in masculine roles apparent in advertising.

A content analysis of men's business suits was executed to quantify the stylistic expressions, manifest in the structural components of the business suit. The classic appearance was represented by a composite illustration and was used as a device against which to compare the dominant style traits apparent in business suits for each decade researched. A survey of advertising and editorial spreads in The New York Times, Esquire and Vogue was combined with a survey of scholarly literature on gender and masculine roles to determine the pervasive masculine roles for each decade.