Menswear Archive

Invisible Men: An Anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive


AMBIKA P3 London

Curated by Professor Andrew Groves and Dr Danielle Sprecher


Drawing exclusively from the Westminster Menswear Archive, Invisible Men covered the last 120 years of predominately British menswear through the display of over 170 garments, the majority of which have never been seen on public display. This four-week exhibition was arranged into twelve sections, presenting designer garments alongside military, functional, and utilitarian outfits. It explores the design language of menswear, which predominately focuses on the replication of repeats archetypal functional garments intended for specific industrial, technical or military use.

Invisible Men will illustrate how designers have disrupted these conventions through minimal, yet significant modifications to produce outcomes that both replicate and subvert their source material. Through this approach, the language of menswear has developed an almost fetishistic appreciation of the working man in all his heroic iterations, referencing the clothing of seafarers, soldiers, athletes, firefighters, road workers, and explorers. 

The endless replication, appropriation and interpretation within menswear has meant that the meaning and function of the original archetypes has faded through each reiteration.

This design strategy has, for the most part, allowed men and what they wear to avoid scrutiny: these garments have remained invisible within fashion exhibitions in favour of presenting menswear largely as the story of the dandy or the peacock male.

This exhibition aims to shine a light on these invisible men.

Invisible Men Conference

Both in museums of the decorative arts or dedicated fashion museums, menswear, and the history of menswear are significantly underrepresented. Despite the explosion in fashion exhibitions over the last 45 years, menswear is still comparatively marginalised or excluded from the history of dress. Its inclusion often framed only in the well-worn tropes of the ‘dandy’ or ‘peacock’.

Why has menswear been ignored for so long? Why is menswear absent from the museums of fashion and the decorative arts? What is it about the aesthetics and design process of menswear that makes it resistant to investigation in comparison to womenswear?

This one-day conference coincided with the exhibition Invisible Men: An anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive.

A Cold Wall

Speakers included:

• Professor Alistair O’Neill, Central Saint Martins
• Professor Jonathan Faiers, Winchester School of Art
• Dr Jeffrey Horsley, London College of Fashion
• Professor Andrew Groves, University of Westminster
• Dr Danielle Sprecher, University of Westminster
• Dr Shaun Cole, Winchester School of Art
• Ben Whyman, London College of Fashion
• Mairi MacKenzie, Glasgow School of Art
• Nick Sellars, Northumbria University
• Joe Hunter and Adam Thorpe, Vexed Generation

Download the conference programme