Buttoned Up: Clothing, Conformity, and White-Collar Masculinity



Who is today's white-collar man? The world of work has changed radically since The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and other mid-twentieth-century investigations of corporate life and identity. Contemporary jobs are more precarious, casual Friday has become an institution, and telecommuting blurs the divide between workplace and home. Gender expectations have changed, too, with men's bodies increasingly exposed in the media and scrutinized in everyday interactions. In Buttoned Up, based on interviews with dozens of men in three U.S. cities with distinct local dress cultures--New York, San Francisco, and Cincinnati--Erynn Masi de Casanova asks what it means to wear the white collar now.Despite the expansion of men's fashion and grooming practices, the decrease in formal dress codes, and the relaxing of traditional ideas about masculinity, white-collar men feel constrained in their choices about how to embody professionalism. They strategically embrace conformity in clothing as a way of maintaining their gender and class privilege. Across categories of race, sexual orientation and occupation, men talk about "blending in" and "looking the part" as they aim to keep their jobs or pursue better ones. These white-collar workers' accounts show that greater freedom in work dress codes can, ironically, increase men's anxiety about getting it wrong and discourage them from experimenting with their dress and appearance.

Product Details

Cornell University Press
Publish Date
December 01, 2015
6.1 X 0.6 X 9.2 inches | 0.8 pounds
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About the Author

Erynn Masi de Casanova is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cincinnati. She is the author of Making Up the Difference: Women, Beauty, and Direct Selling in Ecuador, winner of the National Women's Studies Association's Sara A. Whaley Book Prize.


"Buttoned Up evokes sociological thought through considerations of the embodiment of gender, social constructions of dress style, and differences across age, region, or workplace. The book reads like a well-rounded documentary on white-collar dress: delving into histories, uncovering biographies, exploring workplace habitats, pondering symbolic meanings, and comparing geographies.... Scholars can make use of this book in a myriad of interdisciplinary courses on fashion and identity formation, the body, gender, and masculinities."

--Culture, Society, and Masculinities

"Chiefly concerned with the embodiment of white-collar work.... Men shared with Casanova their thoughts on professional dress (workplace dress codes, where they shopped, and where they learned about fashion), their interactions with others at work, and their relationships with men and women."

--International journal of comparative sociology

"Buttoned Up is a compelling and engaging analysis of the ways that men in white-collar professions understand the significance of clothes."

--Adia Harvey Wingfield, Washington University in St. Louis, author of No More Invisible Man: Race and Gender in Men's Work

"I love this thought-provoking book; it is a pleasure to read. Erynn Masi de Casanova offers a nuanced and detailed exploration of a taken-for-granted and understudied topic: white-collar men's bodies. Buttoned Up attends to issues of ethnicity, sexuality, age, place, and company culture as they intersect in complex ways with masculinity and bourgeois class. It is a terrific example of qualitative social science research; Casanova's in-depth interviews support her theoretical insights."

--Susan B. Kaiser, University of CaliforniaDavis, author of The Social Psychology of Clothing and Fashion and Cultural Studies

"Office culture is full of passive aggressions and radical uncertainties. Buttoned Up is a delightfully firm hook on which to hang your hat, if hats are your thing. The author has a fun, personable tone. She's not heavy on numbers or footnotes or jargon. The language is not dry or overly academic, though academics are the obvious target audience. I hope Buttoned Up is read by a lot of regular people, because it's about regular people and more regular people could use some reassurance that they've been reading their work situations correctly."

--Megan Volpert "PopMatters "