Anthropological term for which gender wears the fanciest clothes?
December 25, 2019 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I have a vague impression that in some cultures men wear the fanciest, most colourful clothing (look at those Cavalier boots!) and in other cultures women do (I'm assuming those are Roundheads all around). I'm guessing there are cultures where men and women and other genders all wear fancy colourful clothing. Is there an anthropological word for the categories, sorta parallel to matrilocal/patrilocal/bilocal/avunculocal?
posted by clawsoon to Human Relations (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've read enough ethnography to say that residence patterns (matrilocal/patrilocal/etc.) are fairly often listed as percentages in a household survey instead of being strictly generalized, but I've never heard a term for what you're looking for and suspect it would be considerably more ambiguous. The Human Relations Area Files database does have clothing as a topic (290) and an option for individual trial access, so that might be a place you could look for how clothing has been described cross-culturally--I've never actually used it though.
posted by Wobbuffet at 3:14 PM on December 25, 2019 [1 favorite]

As far as I understand it, these patterns are subject to ... well, fashion, shifting greatly over time. Something that might also be of interest to you in this context is The Great Male Renunciation, which explains when, why and how men's fashion became kinda minimalist in certain parts of the world. I always found that phenomenon pretty fascinating.
posted by sohalt at 12:21 AM on December 26, 2019 [7 favorites]

I don't know of a specific term for what you're describing, but sumptuary laws often specify by gender what garments and adornments are appropriate to wear.
posted by prewar lemonade at 6:57 AM on December 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: sohalt: Something that might also be of interest to you in this context is The Great Male Renunciation

Yep, that's very interesting to me! I think the beginnings of that may have been captured in the second painting I linked to. I guess that would transform my question into something like: Has something like a Great Renunciation happened at any other time, or in any other culture, for any gender who's expected to reproduce, or was it a one-off?
posted by clawsoon at 10:04 AM on December 26, 2019

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