|Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel's 1898 selfie.|
Facial hair is the first thing that comes to mind about how Victorian men looked. Men styled their facial hair as elaborately as women styled their hair. As it is today, hair was important to Victorian men, and the market knew it. Men could buy elixirs to prevent or cure hair loss, to make their mustaches and beards grow faster, or to hold them in place. Special tea cups and spoons were designed for mustaches. Contraptions were being invented to curl a man's mustache; others were intended to hold it in place after it was curled. Lead combs promised to get rid of grey hairs by dying them black.
|From the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 1884.|
|Eugen Sandow's feats of strength.|
|For men who wanted to perform feats of|
strength, but didn't believe they could do it.
|Mary Arniotis in the 1890s.|
Clearly, Sandow didn't invent the 'classical' male form. In the late-18th and early-19th centuries, men wore corsets to artificially achieve the ideal shape. By the 1890s, they were using electric belts, though the tone in advertisements for these belts emphasize fitness, health, and as a cure for "weakness."
|Ad dated 5 January 1900.|
|All three of these images are from the Zander Institute.|
Doctors, who studied obesity in the 19th-century, were already beginning to acknowledge the problem of medical professionals refusing to treat obese patients. Doctors, like Horace Dobell, Isaac Burney Yeo, and John Ayrton Paris were already making the connection between obesity, diet, and a sedentary lifestyle. As early as 1825, those struggling with their weight were warned against trusting fad diets, but people were still doing whatever it took to get the ideal shape, even when their efforts were in vain.
|Smartly dressed fat man sitting in a chair.|
If he couldn't lift a family of six, a gentleman could still demonstrate his ability through his status, indicated through the number and quality of coats he wore. A man's coat could indicate his interests, his social status, and his ability to provide for a family. As illustrated by the photos above, clothing played a huge role in gender, and they knew it!
Cross dressing happened in literature, and theatre, where the clothes defined the person's gender. In stories, a woman could put on her brother's clothes, and make everyone think she was him.
So it was the clothes and ability to pick things up that made the man in terms of body image. Soon, I will follow up with a post about who Victorian men wanted to 'pick up.'
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