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Cover of Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men's Dress in the Twentieth Century.

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century

author: Shaun Cole (2000)
date read: 2020-02-18
pages: 224
lists: history , nonfiction
rating: β˜… β˜… β˜… β˜… β˜†

This book is a treasure! It follows the history of gay men’s dress from the days of Oscar Wilde to the 90s, and by necessity along the way explains the cultural changes in and around gay groups. It explains hidden and implicit cultural meanings, is sourced from interviews, magazines, and lots and lots of other books and articles. I can’t overstate how in-depth and conscientously the information is presented.

While being very descriptive, it’s also to the point, and comes with a huge bibliography and lots of footnotes. I’ll follow up a couple of those, and I like I have a much better understanding of the evolution and context of a lot of gay … traditions, I guess?

My only niggle: I had the impression that the issue of race could’ve been tackled more: It’s a part of the book, and occasionally mentioned in terms of how black gay men’s dress was different from others, but not very much/often. I can’t judge how much of this is just a scoping or sourcing issue, and I appreciated that it was mentioned repeatedly.

Since this book focuses on dress, it skirts the issue of differentiating between gay men and trans women – I completely understand and support this choice, but you should be aware that naturally a lot of the descriptions of late 19th/early 20th century dress sounds like a fair share of the gay men back then may have prefered to be trans women today, and if you don’t want to engage in that topic, you may want to skip the book or the earlier chapters.


25/ Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century by Shaun Cole. This book is a treasure. It explores gay history and culture by following clothing trends from Oscar Wilde to the 90s. Easy to read, well-sourced, incredibly in-depth. https://books.rixx.de/reviews/2020/don-we-now-our-gay-apparel-gay-mens-dress-in-the-twentieth-century/
25/ Don We Now Our Gay Apparel: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century by Shaun Cole. This book is a treasure. It explores gay history and culture by following clothing trends from Oscar Wilde to the 90s. Easy to read, well-sourced, incredibly in-depth. https://books.rixx.de/reviews/2020/don-we-now-our-gay-apparel-gay-mens-dress-in-the-twentieth-century/ #rixxReads