- Hardcover: 306 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (December 15, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226977935
- ISBN-13: 978-0226977935
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #736,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Ready-Made Democracy: A History of Men's Dress in the American Republic, 1760-1860 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"A marvelous work of history, imaginatively conceived, scrupulously researched, and gracefully composed." - Jean-Christophe Agnew, Yale University"
From the Inside Flap
Ready-Made Democracy explores the history of men's dress in America to consider how capitalism and democracy emerged at the center of American life during the century between the Revolution and the Civil War. Michael Zakim demonstrates how clothing initially attained a significant place in the American political imagination on the eve of Independence. At a time when household production was a popular expression of civic virtue, homespun clothing was widely regarded as a reflection of America's most cherished republican values: simplicity, industriousness, frugality, and independence.
By the early nineteenth century, homespun began to disappear from the American material landscape. Exhortations of industry and modesty, however, remained a common fixture of public life. In fact, they found expression in the form of the business suit. Here, Zakim traces the evolution of homespun clothing into its ostensible opposite—the woolen coats, vests, and pantaloons that were "ready-made" for sale and wear across the country. In doing so, he demonstrates how traditional notions of work and property actually helped give birth to the modern industrial order. For Zakim, the history of men's dress in America mirrored this transformation of the nation's social and material landscape: profit-seeking in newly expanded markets, organizing a waged labor system in the city, shopping at "single-prices," and standardizing a business persona.
In illuminating the critical links between politics, economics, and fashion in antebellum America, Ready-Made Democracy will prove essential to anyone interested in the history of the United States and in the creation of modern culture in general.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
Unfortunately, being completely disconnected from the trade, there isn't much to learn from THIS book.
Ready Made Democracy attempts to trace the development of the modern American capitalist society through a close examination of the men's ready-made clothing industry. In this respect, the book's subtitle, "A History of Men's Dress in the American Republic, 1760-1860, is distinctly misleading. More correct, I think, would be "A History of the American Republic in Men's Dress." The book looks at the difficulties American had in coming to terms with their country's rapidly changing identity. As Zakim writes at one point, "Clothing really did constitute a link between self and society." (125) The business suit represented, in its smart ubiquity, capitalism's promise of plenty and profit. At the same time, its sober monochromatic restraint affirmed the old republic morality. In this way, the crowds of identical men swarming Broadway each morning "constituted an industrial spectacle that brought social order to an otherwise disordered situation." (126)
Zakim argues that Americans struggled to come to terms with what their young country represented. Was it the abundance of the thousands of cheap, mass-produced items of clothing that poured out of East Coast cities-an abundance coming at the hands of the country's most exploited and unequally compensated workers? Zakim argues that Americans of the nineteenth century also struggled with this contradiction, wanting to restore the republican values of industry and equality represented by homespun, yet unwilling to give up the wealth and promise of capitalism. The conflict can also be seen in the concern over the plight of the waged seamstress, claimed at once by husbands and bourgeois women. Both were concerned with the breakdown of the gender roles of household industry, yet neither wanted to keep women from working. The contradiction of the early republican values and the crueler excitement of the capitalist system can be seen in the pioneers pouring into the western territories. For the first time, an abundance of cheap land and smaller lot sizes put the American yeoman ideal in the reach of most people. As professor Blackmar pointed out today, American cultural identity was very much still shaped by this agrarian ideal. Yet, as Zakim states, these new pioneers did not practice industry-in fact, the constituted on of the largest markets for ready-made clothing.
From the narrow slice of history that constitutes the nineteenth-century men's ready-made clothing industry, Zakim attempts to integrate economic, social, and cultural currents to present view of the early United States. In a large part, he succeeds. The picture he paints of a society deeply ambivalent about its own success and anxious about its repercussions is a compelling and convincing one. But in some ways, I think that Zakim is hampered by his own intelligence and politics. Looking at the clothing industry, Zakim burrows deeply into his topic, weaving a dense mass of interlinked ideas. He seems unwilling to let go of any one, even if it would make a clearer argument and allow his to pursue another idea more fully. His chapter on the seamstress is at once the books most interesting and its least compelling. The question of why the United States failed to form a real class consciousness is a huge one, and one that is not, in my opinion, satisfactorily resolved by attempting to psychoanalyze the wives of the middle class with little regard to primary sources, calling such charity hypocritical and "hackneyed." In the same way, it is somewhat shocking that an economic history which takes 1860 as its ending point contains little to no mention of the tensions leading to the outbreak of the Civil War, especially when those factors were so closely tied to the textile industry and cotton.
Perhaps I am being too harsh-but maybe that is a good thing. I really enjoyed reading this book. Its ideas were fascinating, provocative and fresh, if the organization was somewhat choppy and introverted.