Annalee Newitz digs up a bizarre relic:
In the late 1920s, a peculiar confluence of fashion and fascism came together in England. The Men’s Dress Reform Party, an outgrowth of the eugenics movement, agitated for men to dress in more beautiful, flowing clothing reminiscent of what they wore during the Elizabethan era. Mostly, this seemed to mean wearing shorts and kilts.
Simon Carter has more:
Today it might seem comical that the MDRP urged men to adopt a more feminine style of clothing. However the underlying project was more sinister in its efforts to interweave masculinity with the social hygiene and eugenic movements. Articles supporting dress reform in the New Health Society journal argued that changes in men’s fashion would bring out a male beauty – one that celebrated masculine grace and physique. The idea was that if middle class men could, through reformed clothing, become more beautiful then they would inevitably also be more attractive to women (i.e. potential mothers) and thus reverse the perceived evolutionary decline of the middle classes:
…a renaissance of beauty for men – true masculine beauty of the body and mind, the bloom of a joyful spirit – might mean happier marriages, well-born and beautiful children, a healthier and more beautiful race (Dion Byngham, New Health Journal, 1932).
(Dress reformers on their way to the MDRP Coronation competition in 1937, via Carter)