Men's Manifesto: Conceptualization of Sports and Visual Representation in the Media Culture of Yugoslav Socialism, 2017

Sportsman, Ilustrated Vjesnik, 1947

As part of a project collectively called the Men's Manifesto that the Center for Research of  Fashion and Clothing (CIMO) has been implementing since 2014, we focused our attention on the character of athletes as the protagonist of a new concept of men's looks and leisure culture. In this phase of scientific research, the forms and meanings of visual media representation of male identity in individual and mass sports are questioned, namely: body, appearance, sportswear, markings, stereotypes, masculinity, typology, habitus understood as a wider (clothing) personal and collective space. visible in the representation in media culture (magazines, brochures, manuals).

The focus is on exploring the visual representation of the social function of the male body, sport, health, leisure, consumerist practices and everyday culture, as well as the industry of creating and mediating the image of clothing and appearance (group and individual sports) in the ideological context of early socialism since 1945. 1953

The research was conducted in the journal Illustrated Journal (Ilustrirani Vjesnik) in order to record and index the presence of sports topics, texts and photographs, which present the appearance of athletes. In this period, the view is mostly focused on mass manifestations where athletes appear as part of a social, "collective body". In this sense, the athlete as an individual is subordinated to the pattern of mass presentation as part of the power and strength of the general social condition. Thus, the man is only an element, the protagonist of a larger social "machine" with an emphasis on the propaganda, political message.

Gradually, an athlete appears who, although slowly, individualizes and representations increasingly respect the individual, so we can observe the affirmation of the male sports appearance of the body and the appearance of sportswear (jerseys, labels).

In the continuation of the research, the focus is turned to manuals that represent a new cultural phenomenon, and have a noticeable educational function, through instructions on how to exercise the body and how to master individual sports skills. In such an atmosphere, the individual body avoids general patterns by developing a kind of "self-awareness" of its own appearance, gaining knowledge and skills that the individual subject seeks to move away from the context in which he functioned as an "object" in the function of ideology.

The brochures introduce, in addition to textual instructions and drawings, which offer the concept of a schematized and thus idealized body and appearance, paving the way for the visual construction of a kind of stereotype of the "new" masculinity.

Drawings drawn in this way and the massiveness of brochures represent a deceptive investment in a powerful body whose appearance and message masculinize the appearance of a new man who thus fails to avoid the construction that previously came directly from political propaganda offices. Now, indirectly through the mass production of sports manuals, the new sports "hero" is entering the process of investing in his own body. The result of "chosen" individualization, the development of the consumer context, but also the growing presence of media influence (print, TV, advertising) is the construction of a new stereotype of an athlete who gains the place of a new strong hero with all the attributes of masculinity.

Propagating the concept of free time, investing in body health, strong individualization develops, but also commodification of the body where socially coded supervision turns to individualization, self-confidence, development of individual strength, individual training, but which through such instructions adopts a recipe leading to a new pattern , a pattern of self-control. 

Working on the project Men's Manifesto: Conceptualization of Sport and Forms of Visual Representation in the Media Culture of Yugoslav Socialism (2017) problematizes a number of cultural dimensions of a broader project, which seeks to put together several theoretical and scientific papers to complete the picture of masculinity in the period of early socialism. This is actually intended to explore and record the social context and influences of the social ideological matrix on the male habitus in this period.

This becomes a multi-layered picture of the existence and development of the male stereotype in the context of politically coded reality, where in the tension of the social ideological program and the development of consumer needs the character of a man is established who is increasingly individualized as the protagonist of new clothing practices. Through appearance and clothing we can read the inscribed social dictate, but also the elements of resistance through the forms of individualization of the "new" man.


Project leaders: Tonči Vladislavić, Sonja Briski Uzelac

Researchers: Lea Vene, Ivana Čuljak


*The research project Men's Manifesto was launched by CIMO - Center for Research of Fashion and Clothing in 2014, when it was supported by the City Office for Culture, Education and Sports of the City of Zagreb and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, 2014-2019.

* The work within the project Men's Manifesto in 2017 is focused on scientific research on the topic of sports and athletes, entitled: Men's Manifesto: the conceptualization of sport and forms of visual representation in the media culture of Yugoslav socialism

* The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the City Office for Culture, Education and Sports of the City of Zagreb, for 2017.

* Copyright © cimo - a center for research of fashion and clothing. All rights reserved.

* Photos: private archives t.v.