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Deco DandyDesigning Masculinity in 1920s Paris$
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John Potvin

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781526134790

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7765/9781526134806

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Silhouette and movement

Silhouette and movement

(p.68) 3 Silhouette and movement
Deco Dandy

John Potvin

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores, to borrow from Marcel Mauss, ‘the techniques of the body’, specificallythe different ways male bodies suggested silhouettes through movement and crystalised the debates that raged around masculinity (re)establishing the iconic pairing of ephebic and virile types reproduced extensively in various media. In their own unique ways, the two types represented the divergence of the art deco aesthetic not as mere rivals but as integral to post-war consumerist rehabilitation. Through a sustained discussion of effeminacy, muscles and physicality in selective examples, the chapter interrogates the complicated and often fraught relationship between athletics/aesthetics and effeminacy/muscularity as expressions of a tension, overlap, contradistinction and synthesis wherein the post-war cultures of decorative masculinity resided and flourished. The entry point is purposefully varied: tailored fashion and form, the decorative gestures of boxing and physique culture, the rhythmic acting of Jaque Catelain and, finally, the exotic posesplastiques of ballet dancer Jean Börlin. Catelain and Börlin were protean queer celebrity figures whose identities vacillated between effeminacy and physical prowess. The chapter also challenges the effeminophobia that remains endemic to the historiography of the period and compels us to rethink the steadfast conceptualisation of masculinity as either only virile or only effeminate.

Keywords:   dance, film, art deco, effeminacy, empathy, fashion, physique culture, fitness, Jaque Catelain, Jean Börlin

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