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  • Cited by 11
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Clark, Jessica P. 2016. Buying Beauty: Female Beauty Consumption in the Modern British World. History Compass, Vol. 14, Issue. 5, p. 206.

    Wildman, Charlotte 2016. Miss Moriarty, the Adventuress and the Crime Queen: The Rise of the Modern Female Criminal in Britain, 1918–1939. Contemporary British History, Vol. 30, Issue. 1, p. 73.

    Janes, Dominic 2015. The Scene of The Crime: Police Photographs, Visual Culture and Sexuality. Legal Information Management, Vol. 15, Issue. 01, p. 15.

    Lorimer, Hayden 2015. Standards of Beauty: Considering the Lives of W. A. Poucher. GeoHumanities, Vol. 1, Issue. 1, p. 51.

    Meek, Jeffrey 2015. Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland.

    LUNAN, JOHN 2013. PROBATION OFFICERS, SOCIAL ENQUIRY REPORTS, AND IMPORTUNING IN THE 1960s. The Historical Journal, Vol. 56, Issue. 03, p. 781.

    Brickell, Chris 2012. Queens Gardens, 1949: The anxious spaces of post-war New Zealand masculinity. New Zealand Geographer, Vol. 68, Issue. 2, p. 81.

    Slater, Stefan 2012. Lady Astor and the Ladies of the Night: The Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the Politics of the Street Offences Committee, 1927–28. Law and History Review, Vol. 30, Issue. 02, p. 533.

    Deslandes, Paul R. 2010. The Male Body, Beauty and Aesthetics in Modern British Culture. History Compass, Vol. 8, Issue. 10, p. 1191.

    Bland, Lucy 2008. The Trials and Tribulations of Edith Thompson: The Capital Crime of Sexual Incitement in 1920s England. The Journal of British Studies, Vol. 47, Issue. 03, p. 624.

    Hale, Matthew Hawkins, Richard and Wright, Catherine 2008. List of publications on the economic and social history of Great Britain and Ireland published in 2007. The Economic History Review, Vol. 61, Issue. 4, p. 949.



  • DOI:
  • Published online: 13 February 2007

This article explores the historically specific use of cosmetic commodities as evidence in prosecutions for importuning in interwar London. Taking as its point of departure the story of ‘the man with the powder puff’ told in the journal John Bull in 1925, it moves to consider the discrete but intersecting histories within which cosmetics came to function as a material sign of deviant masculinity, illicit sexuality, and de facto criminality. The process through which a powder puff could be deployed as evidence in court depended upon a particular understanding of sexual difference. It was embedded in the emergence of a vibrant consumer beauty culture in the 1920s. It took shape within the operational practices of the Metropolitan Police, particularly the explosive politics of law enforcement after the First World War. It emerged, finally, in response to profound anxieties about the war's disruptive impact on British culture. In understanding the story of ‘the man with the powder puff’, I argue, we might more fully understand the cultural landscape of post-First World War Britain.

Corresponding author
School of History, University of Liverpool, 9 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 7WZ
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Thanks to Katie Ankers, Peter Bailey, Lucy Bland, Sam Caslin, Andy Davies, Laura Doan, Peter Mandler, Selina Todd, and Chris Waters and the two anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this article.
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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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