Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dress for success: Research examines male influences on 'looking' middle class

August 18, 2014
University of Cincinnati
A national presentation takes a unique look at how family, identity and culture influence appearance.

They might be called a chip off the old block, but when it comes to upward social mobility, they might call Dad a lesson in what not to wear.

Related Articles

University of Cincinnati research takes a new approach to examining the socialization of male children into the middle class. The research by Erynn Masi de Casanova, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of sociology, was presented at the 109th Meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.

Based on interviews with 71 male, white-collar workers in three major metropolitan cities, Casanova explores how adult men perceive the relationship between representing family, identity and culture through appearance. "Their accounts show how parents, particularly fathers, explicitly or implicitly socialized them into standards of dress and appearance that can best be described as respectable and professional in relation to work dress and the middle class," says Casanova.

"Many of these men remembered receiving from an early age the message that being presentable and dressing appropriately was important and expected in locations such as school, church and work," Casanova says. The paper includes one German immigrant's recollections of his father -- a handyman who dressed blue collar during the week and wore a Sunday suit and tie to church. Other accounts described fathers wearing their very best at all times, among them a father who wore a tie even when he was gardening.

On the other hand, many men linked less formal dress with their father's blue-collar social status, while others felt disdain or embarrassment toward fathers who tended to wear flashier fashions. "This predominant middle-class orientation toward dress -- that is, the devaluation of lower-class or 'street style,' and the simultaneous shunning of overly luxurious clothing -- held true even for families that were wealthier or poorer than the average U.S. family," writes Casanova.

Casanova says in some cases, the men mentioned their father's ethnicity or nationality to either distance themselves from, or identify with, their father's culture, such as mentioning "Italian glamour" in reference to fashion style, or in the case of a son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants citing a family motto, "Think Yiddish and dress British."

"Nearly all of the black men I interviewed -- some of whom were children of black immigrants -- referred to the distinctiveness of black style and the importance of dress and fashion in their communities," Casanova reveals in the paper, adding that in some cases, men kept their business and non-work clothing separate, believing that fashion worn during their off-hours was inappropriate for the white-collar business world.

Casanova says that some of the men, feeling that their fathers were fashion challenged, would buy their fathers clothes to influence their sense of style. Several of the men interviewed reported that their mothers selected what their fathers should wear. Casanova says around 15 of the men felt their father's manner of dress was something to be avoided, and she says one-third of that group were from blue-collar backgrounds.

In conversations that included stories of handing down a patriarch's watch, Casanova says the interviewees would often cite fashion in connecting three generations of men in their family, from their grandfathers to the study participants, or from the participants' fathers to their own sons. She concludes, "Learning about dress is part of learning to be a man in a particular place and time, but these lessons varied depending on class status and family background. Some of the men in this study were raised to expect to don the white collar, whereas others came to corporate workplaces through a different path of upward mobility, and had to learn how to fly."

The interviews were conducted with male, white-collar workers in New York, San Francisco and Cincinnati. The median age of the participants was 40, and interviewees ranged in age from 24 to 71. The majority of the participants (76 percent) were born in the U.S. Seventy-two percent of the participants were white; 8 percent identified as Asian; 7 percent identified as black; 3 percent Latino/Hispanic; 3 percent Indian; and 7 percent identified as "other" race/ethnicity (including Eurasian, Brazilian, Ukrainian.) The majority of the respondents, 61 percent, had achieved a bachelor's degree while 34 percent had achieved a master's degree. Fourteen percent identified as gay. Fifty-six percent of the participants did not have children.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Cincinnati. The original article was written by Dawn Fuller. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University of Cincinnati. "Dress for success: Research examines male influences on 'looking' middle class." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818135216.htm>.
University of Cincinnati. (2014, August 18). Dress for success: Research examines male influences on 'looking' middle class. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818135216.htm
University of Cincinnati. "Dress for success: Research examines male influences on 'looking' middle class." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140818135216.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Scientists Find Link Between Gestational Diabetes And Autism

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) Researchers who analyzed data from over 300,000 kids and their mothers say they&apos;ve found a link between gestational diabetes and autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

Video Messages Help Reassure Dementia Patients

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer&apos;s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Common Pain Reliever Might Dull Your Emotions

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2015) Each week, millions of Americans take acetaminophen to dull minor aches and pains. Now researchers say it might blunt life&apos;s highs and lows, too. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins