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The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress

Any gent passing through Philadelphia would do well to check out The Peacock Male, on view through June at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building. The PMA has a strong collection of costumes and textiles, which combined with some new acquisitions, tightly and efficiently paints a colourful portrait of the ways men have dressed up now and throughout the ages. The purposes remain essentially similar; we find our inner male peacock when dressing to establish territory, for mating and bonding rituals, and to display tribal affiliation—whether our tribe be a Scottish clan, a fire house, a punk-rock subculture or a baseball team.

While the exhibition's historic breadth is comprehensive in itself, enthusiasts of contemporary style will find it easy to draw lines between the displayed works and the living, breathing menswear culture of present day. A circa-1840 French pocket square on view would be right at home among Tom Ford's recent work, and a nearby 18th Century silk and satin embroidered coat represents a style that was a clear influence on the late Alexander McQueen.

Images Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
24.jan.2011 culture style
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