No Longer Frock Coats and Top Hats, but still Gentlemen

Appearances and Identities among Travelling Salesmen in Britain

Mike French (University of Glasgow)


The commercial traveller or travelling salesman was a central component in the sale of goods and collection of payments, whether working for wholesalers, agencies or manufacturers. French and Popp have explored how the self-image and wider social perceptions of travelling salesmen developed from the early nineteenth century to the 1930s, highlighting substantial continuities in the qualities that they exhibited, laid claim to and were assigned. These elements of continuity suggest that their appearances and identities were intertwined with particular features of selling as an occupation as well as to social and cultural attitudes to commerce. This paper extends this analysis by considering a variety of images of salesmen, particularly from the confectionery trade, and how these developed in the 1940s and 1950s.


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