Suits and Subcultures

Timeframe: 2019

This article combines an analysis of the fabrics, surfaces and styles chosen to dress Pedro Almodóvar’s male characters with an exploration of how those codes might be read with respect to the specific and significant shifting historical contexts of 1980s and 1990s Spanish society. Through focusing our interdisciplinary analysis upon Labyrinth of Passions (Almodóvar, 1982) and The Flower of My Secret (Almodóvar, 1995), we will identify the multifarious ways in which the male subject mirrors societal and cultural trends in a rapidly changing Spain during the years following the country’s emergence from isolation after the Franco years, its subsequent return to democracy and the emergence of a high-living, fashionable cosmopolitanism. In examining the tensions that emerge between pairings of key male figures in the Spanish director’s work, we will pay particular attention to their costuming as central to the construction and performance of masculine identities. We will argue that in the films under examination, a series of binary oppositions are offered in which the suited male (whether a doctor or a military general) is self-consciously contrasted with representations that connote shifting bohemian, subcultural (or ‘alternative’) identities that destabilize and reconfigure the construction and performance of masculine identities and their more ‘traditional’ counterparts.