Cloning fashion: Uniform gay images in male apparel

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Author: Steven Stines
Date: Sept. 1, 2017
From: Critical Studies in Men's Fashion(Vol. 4, Issue 2)
Publisher: Intellect Ltd.
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,732 words
Lexile Measure: 1330L

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Fashion has often served as a signifier of masculinity, from baroque flamboyance to neoclassical simplicity. Gay men have used fashion to create a recognizable image, sometimes in imitation or exaggeration of aggressively heterosexual attire. Before Stonewall, the gay man was often identified as a 'Pansy'. After the Second World War, the artist Tom of Finland began presenting a new image of gay men--happy, rambunctious and hypermasculine in appearance, coinciding with the development of biker culture and social groups of gay men who did not identify with the effeminate stereotype. With gay liberation came the 'Clone', a series of variations reflecting the concerns of gays, who co-opted apparel and grooming identified with traditionally 'masculine' men, including some viewed as oppressors. The 1970s Castro Clone provided a contrast to the disco look. During the 1980s, when men's fashion took on an androgynous or self-conscious air, the ACT UP Clone originated with AIDS activists using clothes to make a socio-political statement. In the 1990s, gay men became more secure and self-expressive but, arguably, shallower. The new Chelsea Clone look focused on tight clothes on a muscular body, contrasting the weight loss associated with HIV. In the early twenty-first century, gay uniformity declined. A highly muscular physique was seen as the hallmark of the AIDS generation. Straight 'Metrosexuals' adopted gay style, and in reaction, gay men turned to a less-polished appearance, again emulating and at times parodying heterosexual male archetypes. As civil rights expand, the visual boundaries of clothing seem to be disappearing.



Chelsea Boy



Tom of Finland


The use of clothing to project masculinity is seen throughout history, though the definition of 'masculine' has been malleable. Gay men have used fashion to create a recognizable image, at times as a code, other times as a social or political statement, in either case as a means of suggesting solidarity and identity.

As the gay liberation movement encouraged gays and lesbians to come out of the closet, the clothes in those closets changed radically. In the 1970s, the public saw the first iteration of a character who would evolve both with fashion and with self-image. At the time this look was christened 'The Clone'.

The look has varied to reflect larger moments in the concerns of gay men. The Clone look was a product of the 'gay ghettos' of San Francisco and New York, but subsequently spread to other gay men and then influenced fashion as a whole. But it was a fashion iconography drawn from elements originating far from sophisticated, tolerant urban life. The variations often involve the appropriation of apparel and grooming commonly identified with the most traditionally masculine or aggressively heterosexual element of society, including oppressors.

By co-opting the attire of men considered irreproachably masculine by society at large, Clones, both original and revised, were, perhaps unconsciously, making a statement. Just as drag calls into question the superficial elements judged to define femininity, so could the Clone be pointing out that muscles, facial...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A501832665