Eric Musgrave

Since 1980, menswear & fashion retail commentator, opinionated thought-leader,
event host & all-round top bloke. Contact me to discuss working together.

Power & Style: a sumptuous volume

I am much enjoying a recent addition to my library: Power & Style – A World History of Politics and Dress by Dominique and François Gaulme. This French wife-and-husband team have produced a 288-page masterpiece that examines the role of men’s dress and power from ancient times. François is an anthropologist and historian and his wife is a former journalist for Figaro Magazine, so this is a very learned but readable work.The many images are also very impressive and well chosen, as this small selection illustrates.

The cover sets the tone. It shows a tunic made in c 1912 by Hawkes & Co (now Gieves & Hawkes) for Albert Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, captain in The Life Guards and later the seventh Earl Spencer, paternal grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales and maternal great grandfather of Princes William and Harry. The tunic is in the Gieves & Hawkes archive, which is on show at its 1 Savile Row flagship.

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From the opening chapter, Naked Societies, a portrait of Sioux warrior Turning Bear from around 1900 in a photograph by John Alvin Anderson.

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A modern example of regal splendour: Ngie Kanga Joseph, fon or king of Bandjun, Cameroon, photographed by Daniel Lainé.

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From the days before photography, Joachim Murat in a Hussar’s Uniform, 1801, by François Gérard. Not the astonishing decoration on this outfit, all done by hand in those days.

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From the chapter on King Edward VII, a photo of the future king when Prince of Wales (on the extreme left) with his elder son Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (extreme right), and two of Edward’s brothers, Arthur, Duke of Connaught, and Leopold, Duke of Albany. This photo was probably taken in the 1880s as Albert Victor died of influenza in January 1892, aged 28.

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Edward’s nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, in 1894 wearing the most beautiful gloves and sporting the most spectacular fur muff.

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From the chapter on Totalitarianism, Lin Pao and Mao Zedung on the 20th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, 1969. The Great Helmsman is wearing a now very fashionable workwear tunic. I like the matching cap too.

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From the same chapter, Adolf Hitler photographed by Heinrich Hoffman around 1926-27. Apart from the Nazi insignia, it is a great example of a southern German traditional costume, one which is often seen in Bavaria today. The best lederhosen (literally leather trousers) are made of pig suede or deer hide.

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Joseph P Kennedy, Sr and his sons Teddy, John, Joseph Jr and Bobby at their Hyannis Port home in the 1930s, from the chapter on American Style. JFK was dapper even as a teenager.

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A superb pic of Warren Beatty in about 1967 wearing a Cartier Tank watch and white loafers.

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The most powerful man in the world is not the most stylish, but Barack and Michelle Obama make a good-looking couple here, in Washington DC on Inauguration Day, January 20 2009.

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To counterbalance the cover, a guardsman – obviously a high-ranking one – photographed at Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012.

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Power & Style – A World History of Politics and Dress is published by Flammarion, with a cover price of £50. My thanks go to Simon Baker at Gieves & Hawkes for sending me this brilliant book. I can recommend it wholeheartedly.


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