MEN IN BLACK

Shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Livre de Mode, Paris 1995

Over the last 1000 years there have been successive expansions in the wearing of black – from the Church to the Court, from the Court to officials and the merchant class. Though the fashion was often smart and elegant, the growth and expansion of it were fed by several dark currents in Europe’s history: politics; asceticism; and religious warfare. It was only in the nineteenth century, however, that the black fashion fully came into its own. The most telling witnesses constantly saw connections between the taste for black and the forms of constraint with which European society regimented itself

Although the twentieth century has aimed for new colours and a new direction, black has retained its authority as well as its associations with strength and cruelty. At the same time black is still smart, and fashion keeps returning to it. It is, perhaps, the colour that has come to acquire the greatest, most significant range of meaning in human history.

'A brilliantly sustained, illuminating and subtle disquisition on the malaise of nineteenth and twentieth-century English society – you will probably never put on a black garment again, man or woman, without resonating like a tuning fork with the memory of what you have read.'  Literary Review

 

'The best contribution to the growing body of literature on the meaning of clothes and colours.'  Library Journal

‘A lively and informative history’ New York Times

 

Editions: Reaktion Books, 1995, 1997; Chicago University Press, 1995. Translated into French (Editions Abbeville, 1998), Japanese (Kenkyusha, ), Portuguese (Brazil, Editora Unesp, 2001), Russian, Turkish (Yari Kredi Yayinlari, 2007).

© 2019 by John Harvey, jrh49@cam.ac.uk 

Novelist, art critic, literary critic and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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