Locating Menswear is an international network designed to investigate the cultural and industrial connections between London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Milan, Italy, and how they have influenced the production, display, and consumption of British menswear. It is led by Professor Andrew Groves, Director of the Westminster Menswear Archive, and Jo Jenkinson from Manchester Metropolitan University.
The network is framed by the concerns of the Westminster Menswear Archive (WMA), a unique teaching collection held by the University of Westminster. The collection holds over 2000 menswear garments from 1780 to the present day, with a primary focus on post-1940s British men's dress - clothing produced, designed, worn, or sold in Britain. It includes designer fashion, streetwear, everyday dress, sportswear, workwear, and uniforms. It receives over 800 visitors annually and is utilised for research purposes by students, academics, and designers in industry. It is modelled on Italian garment archives, particularly the archive created by designer Massimo Osti. Osti's collection was non-hierarchal, housing military, utilitarian, industrial, and fashion garments together.
The WMA takes a similar approach, aiming to directly overcome the gender and high-fashion biases inherent in the majority of fashion museum collections and fashion education. Menswear, relative to womenswear, is still underexplored in fashion research and exhibitions, despite an increasing number of menswear exhibitions such as Reigning Men (Los Angeles County Museum, 2016), Invisible Men (University of Westminster, 2019), Fashioning Masculinities (V&A Museum, 2022), and Dandy Style (Manchester Art Gallery, 2022).
However, scholarship on British menswear has tended to focus on tailoring and tradition; spectacular and dandy style; and London. This network seeks to challenge these preoccupations by interrogating the fashion practices of the inhabitants of four key cities. Through a series of workshops, the network will bring together academics, curators, designers, retailers, and fashion industry professionals to examine the connections, relationships, and interactions between the local (Liverpool and Manchester), national (London), and international (Milan) menswear industries and communities. These will enable the development of a framework for expansion into additional cities.
The network will innovate in its approach, diversify its collaborative partners, and engage with previously overlooked menswear communities and creators by involving non-academic participants and practitioners, including those outside the fashion industry, and utilising the network's social media platforms for dissemination, feedback, and dialogue. A multidisciplinary approach strengthens the project, with academics from several disciplines such as music, youth studies, fashion design, fashion communication, and history bringing their unique perspectives to light on the network's questions.
The international network, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will host a series of workshops and events in the United Kingdom and Italy over the course of the next sixteen months in partnership with C.P. Company and Sevenstore.
Locating Menswear is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation
Andrew Groves - Principal Investigator
Andrew Groves is Professor of Fashion Design at the University of Westminster, and the director of the Westminster Menswear Archive, which he founded in 2016. It is the world’s only public menswear archive, establishing a space where students, academics, and designers in industry are co-located to conduct object-based research. It houses over 2,000 examples of some of the most significant menswear garments from the last 250 years, including designer fashion, streetwear, everyday dress, sportswear, workwear, and uniforms. In 2019, Groves co-curated Invisible Men: An Anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive, to date, the United Kingdom’s largest menswear exhibition.
Jo Jenkinson - Co-investigator
Jo Jenkinson is Reader in Fashion, and Deputy Head at the Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research examines the relationship between dress, music, youth, memory and the self, using creative, participatory methods to reveal hidden narratives. In 2017 Jo co-founded Portrait Youth, a collaborative research project that continues to provide opportunity for young people to explore their personal and collective identities through self-styling and portrait photography. Recent collaborations with the Menswear Archive and Manchester Art Gallery have focused on how young people define and use menswear to explore and express their identity.
Dr Susan Atkin is Deputy Division Head of Fashion Design at Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University. Susan’s research considers Manchester’s cultural identity through exploration of the links between the city’s music and local fashion culture, with concepts of sub-/youth culture, identity, and local fashion dialects key areas of her work. Susan is co-editor of the Bloomsbury Academic title Memories of Dress: Recollections of Material Identities, due for publication in early 2023. Her research has led to lecture requests and talks beyond academia, including at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UK.
Dr Danielle Sprecher is the curator of the Westminster Menswear Archive at the University of Westminster, London. She is a historian whose research focuses on the history of British menswear and men’s fashion, exploring the industry from design to production and final consumption. As a curator, she has worked with several historical dress collections across the United Kingdom. In 2019, Sprecher co-curated Invisible Men: An Anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive.
Paul Owen is a practice-based researcher at Liverpool John Moores University. He is currently exploring a number of research projects that seek to redefine and challenge the existing notions of fashion identity. He seeks to investigate tribes, subscribers and cohesive socio groups who are defined by their obsessions with symbols of value, status, individuality within community and the sense of belonging. His projects ‘'The Fashion of Counter Culture’ (menswear 1977-2002) and ‘SoleZine’ (British Trainer Culture) have a focus on working class men and their interest in vintage sportswear labels and in particular sports footwear, documenting how their obsessions, style and dress codes evolved and informed a sub-culture, starting with the birth place of Terrace Casual phenomena: Liverpool.