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“These Guys Came Out Looking Like Movie Actors”: Filipino Dress and Consumer Practices in the United States, 1920s–1930s

by Mina Roces

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This article analyzes the dress and consumption practices of the first generation of Filipino male migrants to the United States who arrived from 1906 until the end of World War II. It argues that Filipino migrant men used dress and consumption practices to fashion new identities that rejected their working selves as a lower-class marginal group. The contrast between the utilitarian clothes worn during working hours and the formal suit accentuated the sartorial transformation from lower-class agricultural laborer or Alaskan cannery worker to fashionable dandy and temporarily erased the stigma of manual labor. Two groups of well-dressed Filipino men behaved in contradictory ways: as binge consumers and as anti-consumers. Collectively, Filipino consumption practices that included dress challenged the parameters of social exclusion.

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