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Tropical Whites: Hegemonic Masculinity and Menswear at the Crossroads of Australia and Asia, 1900–1939
journal contributionposted on 2023-07-28, 04:43 authored by M Bellanta, L Cramer
This article explores the social and gender history of ‘tropical whites’ – all-white men's suits worn with pith helmets in tropical societies colonised by European powers – between c.1900 and 1939. Focusing on two northern Australian ports with multiple connections to Asia, the article shows that tropical whites helped to sustain inequities of race, gender and class in the colonial tropics. The fashion did this by helping to produce hegemonic masculinity in the region. Tropical whites served this function by symbolising racial whiteness and imperial mastery, but also because of their material dimensions: who made and maintained them, and the bodily influence they exerted on their wearers. Underlining the embodied dimensions of hegemonic masculinity, the article explores the multidimensional relationship between menswear and power in the Australian tropics; at the same time showing that racially subordinated men transformed aspects of the fashion for their own ends.