Abstract: Appearing Patriotic: The Application of Nationality to Chinese Men's Fashions

Karl Gerth


How and why did "Chinese product" begin to become a meaningful term applied to men's clothing in early twentieth-century China? This paper examines the creation of links between consumption and anti-imperialism in the battles to ascribe meanings to Chinese appearance surrounding the collapse of the Manchu Qing empire (1644-1912). The first half of the paper examines how highly politicized interpretations of dress and hair put appearance at the center of both Qing empire-building and anti-imperial rebellions throughout the entire history of the dynasty. The second half of the paper uses Chinese archival sources of silk trade organizations to demonstrate how silk producers immediately began to fight the emerging orthodoxy by linking the future of their industry, and therefore, silk clothing, to the fight against new imperial powers, Japanese and Occidental. By examining how these links were made in one industry, this paper establishes a framework for understanding a much broader social and economic movement in which Chinese economic interests sought to use the rhetoric of anti-imperialism to compete against foreign companies in Chinese markets.