King of the deck : sartorial extremism of Hull’s distant-water trawlermen, 1950-1980

Day, Claire Louise

May 2021

Thesis or dissertation

© 2021 Claire Louise Day. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

During the third quarter of the twentieth century, Hull’s distant-water trawlermen pushed the boundaries of acceptable menswear with the collective creation of the ‘shore suit’, a highly distinctive off-duty uniform. Invariably flamboyant, shore suits were tailored in pastel shades with extreme detailing of Spanish waistbands, half-moon pockets, back pleats and exceptionally wide trousers.
Little research has hitherto been undertaken into this subject. This is largely because evidence relating to the trawlermen’s lifestyle ashore is relatively scarce, with an almost apocryphal discourse materialising due to the lack of documentary and visual evidence. The aim of this thesis is to construct a comprehensive appraisal of the design, fabrication and meaning of the shore suit in the social and cultural contexts of the trawlermen’s two domains—on the vessel’s deck at sea and on land.
Oral history interviews with trawlermen, witnesses and those involved in the tailoring trade, together with object analysis of the shore suit, form the core research methods deployed in this investigation. Interpretivism explores the performativity of the men. The findings highlight the many variations of style within this self-regulated uniform, and its conformity, or otherwise, with contemporary fashion trends. The shore suit was not a singular genre, but plural shaped by the experiences of trawlermen, which were diverse due to the precariousness of their occupation. A device for visual recognition, the shore suit projected both the individual and the collective, beyond the local community of Hessle Road, Hull.
The thesis contributes to knowledge and understanding of two fields of enquiry. First, it adds depth to scholarly debates on the development and meaning of subcultural dress. No other subcultural style was embedded within a specific workforce, the trawlermen’s shore suit offers an unusual and revealing perspective on working-class fashion and design in Britain from 1950 to 1980. Second, focusing on those who worked in the most dynamic and industrialised sector of Britain’s fisheries, this study instils precision and perception into previous interpretations of Hull’s fisheries, and thereby enhances the trawling dimension of the field of socio-cultural maritime history.

Department of History, The University of Hull
Starkey, David J. (David John), 1954-; Gwilt, Alison; Halbert, Jade
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