'Cloth for men': masculine identities and haptic visuality in advertising for Dormeuil Tonik, 1968-1975

Paul Jobling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

'Cloth for Men', the title of this 10,000-word article, is also the strapline for a body of advertisements for the Tonik brand of mohair manufactured by Dormeuil, which appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine between 1968-73. Many menswear manufacturers and labels were promoted in its pages, and tailors in particular: in November 1967, for instance, tailors spent £256,600 on press advertising, while between 1969 and 1970 sales of suits constituted 11 million units. The most common utopian symbolism in campaigns for tailors like Austin Reed, Burton's and Hector Powe concentrated on the theme of hetero-normative flirtation and the idea that wearing a suit would make men more attractive to women. In contrast, the advertising agency Michael Robinson Associates evolved a more egregious and ludic use of gender stereotypes with ‘Cloth for Men’. In part, this was down to the challenge of manmade suiting fabrics such as Terylene and the impact of youth culture on advertising rhetoric. But there was another double impetus for Dormeuil's symbolic approach: the fact that the ABC1 readership of the Sunday Times Magazine was 'younger, better off and better educated' and the onset of the economic recession in 1973-74, which (as much as the Great Depression of the 1930s) necessitated publicity that was understated, elegant, urbane and witty, and which would stand out in a crowded market. Thus 'Cloth for Men', art directed by Peter Watson and photographed by Alec Murray, Franco Rubartelli, and Victor Skrebneski, was replete with literary and artistic allusions to decadent sexualities, with German model Veruschka von Lehndorff wearing 1930s-styled clothing and the copy and mise-en-scène evoking a nineteenth century sensibility. Veruschka also ‘doubled up’ to play both ‘male’ and ‘female’ parts, and, accordingly, I want to analyse how the gender ambiguities and criss-crossing of time connoted in the rhetoric of the ads perform what Jane Gaines has called a kind of ‘homosexual/heterosexual flip-flop’, and how the knowing transvestism, style and visual décor they represent overlap with Susan Sontag’s notion of Camp as ‘Being-as-Playing-a-Role’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-157
Number of pages18
JournalTextile
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014

Keywords

  • androgyny
  • camp
  • decadence
  • haptic visuality
  • intertextuality
  • mohair
  • semiotic square
  • youth culture

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