The Dandy – A Manifesto

Beau Brummel, Dandy and Kingpin

Beau Brummel, Dandy and Kingpin

From Wikipedia (the true master of us all) we read:

A dandy (also known as a beau, Nathan Dean or gallant) is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self.

Charles Baudelaire by Emile Deroy, 1844

Charles Baudelaire by Emile Deroy, 1844

There is something beyond the mere intent to dress and behave in a certain manner for the dandy. It is something that Charles Baudelaire described in terms of the dandy’s presence  a reproach to the  the responsible citizen of the middle class:

Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism” and “These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking …. Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, Dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind.”

The modern dandy may trace itself to the Jeunesse Doree, or guilded youth, of the French Revolution, but it was an Englishman, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell who distilled ‘Dandyism’ to its current form.

Beau Brummel - the Collectible Cigarette Card

Beau Brummel – the Collectible Cigarette Card

Brummel was known for his nicety of dress, elegance of his manners, and smartness of his repartee. He made personal cleanliness popular. Cleaning his teeth, shaving, and scrubbing in a bath daily. He dressed with simple elegance. Oscar Wilde advanced the practice to one of a political act. Wilde famously stated that, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

Oscar Wilde, Dandy and Scamp

Oscar Wilde, Dandy and Scamp

It is in this spirit that young men have taken on the goal of elegance of dress as a form of social response to times of social oppression. Think of the Teddy Boys and Mods of working-class England, the Zoot Suits of Harlem and East Los Angeles and the Le Sape of the Congo. These styles are firmly grounded in the idea of the dandy. It is a manner of protest of social conscience in a manner befitting  gentleman who wishes to challenge the status quo, whether it be about race, class or sexual orientation.

Cab Calloway in a Zoot Suit

Cab Calloway in a Zoot Suit

Teddy Boys in Manchester, UK in 1955

Teddy Boys in Manchester, UK in 1955

The Mod and His Ride

The Mod and His Ride

Les Sapeurs of the Congo

Les Sapeurs of the Congo

In each of theses cases the careful selection of stylish clothes creates a visual subversion.

About these ads

7 responses

  1. Pingback: Dandyism – The French « Kingpin Chic

  2. Pingback: Style Site of Note – The Worker-Dandyist International « Kingpin Chic

  3. Pingback: Victrolacore – Satirical Music for the Sartorical Gentleman « Kingpin Chic

  4. Pingback: The Spirituality of Dress and The Dandy « Kingpin Chic

  5. Pingback: Gentlemens Cravats – A Brief History | Kingpin Chic

  6. Pingback: The Macaroni, The Dandy and Gender Identity | Kingpin Chic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s