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Hair, Authenticity, and the Self-Made Macaroni

From: Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 38, Number 1, Fall 2004
pp. 101-117 | 10.1353/ecs.2004.0063

Abstract

The image of the macaroni in the 1770s acted both as a cautionary tale and a secret exemplar for the rising middle classes, as they debated how to become urbane cosmopolites while remaining authentically British. The medium of caricature was crucial to this debate, since individual portrait caricature not only unmasked the macaroni's inauthenticity, but also, and paradoxically, made a desirable spectacle out of his eccentric individualism. In these caricatural images, the macaroni's hair functioned as a potent and multivalent symbol, representing both fashion and artifice, and blurring the boundaries of gender, class, and nationality. Thus, macaroni caricature in the 1770s was deeply implicated in the contemporary fascination with character and the evolution of the modern self.