NORMA | VOL. ahead-of-print
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Ambiguous gaze: masculinity and the male body in Dirk Bikkembergs’ fashion and photographic production

Publication Date Jun 22, 2022

Abstract

ABSTRACT The study of masculinity has recently become relevant to the field of fashion studies. However, fashion is still underrepresented in the field of men’s studies, which hardly takes into account its importance in the cultural construction of masculinities. This article aims to build a bridge between these two fields through the analysis of fashion designer Dirk Bikkembergs. Known as part of the internationally established ‘Antwerp Six’ and for his strong representation of masculinity and the muscular body, Bikkembergs’ imagery is interesting to any scholar wishing to reflect on the cultural definitions of the male body, especially when that body is being presented on the border between normativity and homoeroticism. The article explores the evolution of the visual representation of the male body in photography, and particularly fashion photography, demonstrating how the relationship between masculinity, the male body and the gaze changed over time. We then use the proposed framework for a critical investigation of the visual imagery of Bikkembergs’ world, which revolves very much around masculinity and the male body, to pinpoint an ambiguity at the base of the brand: despite the brand’s normative narrative and orientation, we posit that its photographic production leaves space for a queer reading.

Concepts

Male Body Fashion Photography Normative Narrative Photographic Production Muscular Body Representation Of Body Normative Orientation Fashion Production Study Of Masculinity Representation Of Masculinity

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