Male domination in the Apparel Industry
The apparel or clothing industry is a diverse industry which covers an extensive range of areas e.g.fashion, design and technology as well as products i.e.synthetic and leather yarns, beddings, human clothes.
As such, the clothing industry often pertains to the fashion industry, which primarily influence by color, design, and fabric.
For the case at hand, the discussion on the apparel industry would entirely focus on personal clothing from underwear, pants, shirts and accessories for people. Clothing is basic necessity in life.
People wear clothing different reasons but mainly for protection from the extremities in our natural environment i.e. cold and hot temperature. However, more than just a protective garment, people used clothing as social tool to be more physically attractive or pleasant to others, to express our emotions and lifestyles, to distinguish cultural heritage, socio-economic class or profession and to create the necessary ambiance and setting in the performance of religious, political and other rituals. Under these premises, the apparel industry plays a significant role in the socio political history of people all over the world.
While the apparel industry is primarily engaged in the design and creation of garments made from fabric, its study seemed not appealing to men as evidenced by the fact that only few male students study the discipline today.
In fact, many people may have a misconception that textile and fashion is a female thing especially so because fashion and shopping normally comes in each others pocket. Unknown to many however, the textile and fashion industry is actually dominated by men since time immemorial. The proceeding essay would show that breakthroughs in the clothing industry as well as leadership in the industry are mostly made and held by men.
Men in the Fashion and Textile History
The textile industry has an age old rich history provided a considerable influence in the evolution of contemporary society. The etymology of ‘Textile’ is from the Latin word ‘texere’ meaning ‘to weave’. (Miller, E. 1969, p10) Weaving is one of the ancient surviving human crafts that dated back to Neolithic times.
Today, textile pertains to the material constituted by either natural or synthetic fibers that is formed in different mechanical process i.e. weaving, knotting to join them together to produce yarns.
One of the earliest forms of textiles was those from the sheep’s wool. Ancient people produce the wool yarn through a spinning and twisting process that are manually done by hands, which provided the principles for the invention of the spinning wheel that was introduced in the late 14th century.
In the next centuries to come, due to the expensive and laborious process of weaving, fashion is mainly focused on the privileged elite. The sense of fashion and design were mainly based on the history of dresses of the royalties. Royal members even employ court dolls or fashion babies to communicate their costumes with royalties from other lands.
(Hurlock, E., 1984, P130) During these era in around 1665, France commenced to establish itself as the fashion capital of the world under the kingship of the Sun King,” Louis XIV, who is passionate and unparalleled dedication for fashion that moved him to advance textile production and fashion innovation.
During this time also, fashion among men become more conspicuous from dress, i.e. lace, long hairstyles which popularize the wigs, shirts and even accessories i.e. swords and capes. (Rubin, D.L. 1992, p78)
Drastic changes in the clothing industry came about during the 1700s with the mechanization of the weaving process, which allowed mass production of the yarns and textiles. The “flying shuttle” of John Kay in England was the first spinning machine that sped up the weaving process. This was improved by Lewis Paul and John Wyatt who invented the roller method. (Newman, G. and Brown, L. 1997, p675)
A series of male inventors led to the improvement and innovation of the weaving process namely: James Hargreaves and his spinning jenny, Sir Richard Arkwright’s spinning frame; the spinning mule by Samuel Crompton and Edward Cartwright who introduced steam powered weaving machine. The introduction of machines which allowed for the mass production of goods led to the industrial revolution in the 1800’s.
Incidentally in mid-18th-century England, a group of men who went beyond the regular boundaries of fashion has emerged called the Macaroni club. (Steele, V., 1998, p28)The group was marked by its fashion extravagance and was famous for looking like women. Charles James Fox was the leader of the Macaroni and was considered as the leader of fashion. Today, the term macaroni is derogatively used to describe men who are lavish in clothes and vices.