Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style & the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s & 1970s. By Betty Luther Hillman. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
Pp ix + 252, illustrations, introduction, notes, bibliography, index.
In Dressing for the Culture Wars: Style & the Politics of Self-Presentation in the 1960s & 1970s, Betty Luther Hillman opens an area of investigation that has been neglected by many scholars in the fields of political activism and cultural conflicts: fashion. This book gives a glimpse into the changing styles of self-presentation that shaped the politics, culture, and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, while illustrating how culture and dress contributed to the conflict and turbulence of these decades. For those interested in the culture wars and the counter culture of these decades, this manuscript highlights changing style, self-presentation, and their political implications. In six concise, tight, well-organized chapters, Hillman employs a fashion lens to explore the political uses of popular hair and dress styles by participants in that era's culture wars.
Hillman makes the case that beards, jeans, afros, colorful clothing, etc. became subversions against American sexism, racism, imperialism, materialism, and conformism. These cultural tactics were able to unite many of these social movements and Hillman successfully shows readers how self-fashioning became a central symbol during the political conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s. While other scholarly texts allude to the importance of cultural, social, and political movements of this time period, this is the first text to do so seriously through the lens of fashion and style as the main focus. Other scholars, such as George Cotkin, delve into the cultural history of the same time period, but through a consumer culture lens. Hillman, on the other hand, engages with a population that rejected consumerist practices. In this way, she brings a fresh aesthetic to old cultural and political studies, forging her way through the politics of style.
This 2015 text includes full photographic illustrations and extensive notes and bibliography sections. Hillman uses primary sources like grassroots newspapers, magazine articles, advertisements, periodicals, court papers and cases, photographs, and memoirs to fill her chapters with true accounts and examples, which help accomplish her purpose of demonstrating that fashion influenced the politics of the time. This...