Detail from an advert for Imperial union suits. From the collection of Dr Shaun Cole.

#UPMTC: The Big Sell, by Shaun Cole

This blog post details the presentation from Shaun Cole at the first Underpinnings Museum Twitter conference, entitled The Big Sell: Men’s Underwear Advertising in the Early 20th Century.

In addressing men’s underwear advertising, a number of problems are posed, associated particularly with the fact that its visual representation falls into the interstice between the fully clothed man and the male nude. Although printing techniques made the use of photography possible in newspapers and periodicals from the late 1880s, it was not until the late 1940s that photography began to take over from illustration as the favoured type of image in men’s underwear advertising. This presentation will give an overview of the content of a number of advertisements, looking at the presentation of the garments, their particular features, the bodies they were destined to be worn upon, and the particular means of attracting both male and female purchasers of men’s underwear.

Dr Shaun Cole is a writer, lecturer and curator, and Associate Dean Postgraduate Communities at London College of Fashion. He was formerly Head of Contemporary Programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he curated several exhibitions, most notably Graphic Responses to AIDS (1996), Dressing the Male (1999) and Black British Style (2004). Shaun has written and lectured extensively on the subject of menswear and gay fashion and underwear his publications include ‘Don We Now Our Gay Apparel’: Gay Men’s Dress in the Twentieth Century (2000), The Story of Men’s Underwear (2010) and Fashion Media: Past and Present (2013).

We will share each of the conference presentations via its own blog post over the coming weeks. If you’re on Twitter, you can join the discussion via the Underpinnings Museum’s account and the conference hashtag #UPMTC

The header image for this post features detail from an advert for Imperial athletic union suits, from Dr Cole’s personal collection.

Share your thoughts