The two most important people in the history of men’s clothes:
Beau Brummell, one of the buddies of King George IV, killed foppish dandyism and started the trend of men wearing less flashy clothes than women.
The Duke of Windsor, who abdicated as King Edward VIII, started the trend toward less formal clothes, set the standards for a number of functions, and invented a number of significant details (including cuffs on trousers).
Note that individual designers have not had significant influence, probably because they’re all busy stealing from each other. Those of us interested in men’s clothes have been waiting for the next British courtier or other role model to revolutionize men’s style. Charles, William and Harry aren’t it: they dress respectfully, but none of them has any particular flair. Obviously it’s doubtful that society is structured in such a way that any single man could have such a great influence, but it’s fun to dream about like how religious people fantasize about the second coming of their gurus.
The only individual woman I’m aware of who has had much influence is Queen Victoria, who popularized both the white wedding dress and wearing black for mourning. Women’s designers (eg: Coco Chanel) seem to have more influence, and so women end up with a fashion cycle instead of stylistic periods. Within each fashion cycle, women of note can be influential. This article discusses Kate Middleton’s move into influence with her wedding dress by McQueen (her influence will be of a more upmarket variety than Michelle Obama’s).
A few of my friends have been asking their social networks for help finding ugly Christmas sweaters to wear to a themed party (full disclosure: I didn’t get invited). I’m sure they’re at least vaguely aware of the politics of such a theme, but I’m going to make it explicit: the wealthy and the cool distinguish themselves from the poor and the square by arbitrarily categorizing some sweaters as “ugly”.
“Hey man, nice sweater. It’s so ugly.”
“Yeah, when my family first got to this country we had to shop at Goodwill, this is the first one my father bought to get him through his first winter here. Good thing they didn’t have these parties back then, right? He would have died.”
“Geez, man, I’m sorry, you can cut in line for egg nog.”
At the Salvation Army closest to campus, there is an “ugly sweater” rack for all the students purchasing these as novelties for themed parties. Similar sweaters are not separated at the store that serves the non-students, and that is located in the same building that provides other services to low-income or homeless persons. And because bodies and clothes interact and activate certain ideas about each the other, the same sweater on a college student going to a themed party is funny because it is outdated, and on a young fashion blogger pairing it with leggings is innovative because it is renewed, and on an older woman imagined as its appropriate owner the sweater will be “just” unfashionable because (supposedly) so is its wearer.
In other words, poor people just call them “sweaters”.
Value Village is the largest thrift store in Victoria. In the past year or two I’ve heard a few people complaining that it’s too expensive. For the first time they have a “Christmas sweater” section – coincidence?