Dandies and~



Like Hellenic and Hellenistic ,  can those who follow a movement hold the torch as high as the founders.

"Beau" Brummel: the first dandy

Lord Alvanley: A rival to Brummel's throne, a man of singular elegance

 "Golden Ball" Hughes: A wealthy and affluent dandy

 The Count d'Orsay: Sometimes called the "last of the dandies", possibly the only Frenchman to truly be ranked among the dandies

There is generally  a difference between a movement and the individuals that start it, and it is to those originators that every follower must cast their regard to see that they measure up.  A movement is begun, from either a philosophy, style, or other impetus and those who first start the movement become the standard for those to follow. The Greeks created a culture via a style of dress, architecture, linguistic style and philosophical rigor, and this culture spread throughout the Mediterranean. However once the style was taken up by those Greeks living away from the Peloponnese, or non-Greeks who adopted Greek culture, the style changed name: it was no longer called Hellenic, it was called Hellenistic. This name change denoted the movement  rather than the original style.

Dandyism has undergone a similar change. When "Beau" Brummel first created the  Dandy by starching his neck cloth and wearing trousers instead of breeches [among other stylistic elements], many men followed his example and a movement was born [one might very well say a "culture"]. These dandies [esp. Brummel himself] were the archetype  and  lived by a strict set of rules that admitted them into the ranks of dandies. These men were men of leisure, whose sole occupation was the pursuit of elegance. They frequented tailors and haberdashers, racetracks and gambling houses, theatres and show halls; but had no lucrative occupation.  These men set the pace for society, and society was made by them.

There were many admirers of these dandies who continued to pursue the dandy ideal however not all of them were men of leisure, or perhaps they did a modest occupation which permitted them frequent periods of leisure.  These men continued to dress well, to pursue elegance, but were not able to dedicate themselves to it to the extent of the first dandies. This started the movement of "Dandyism". No longer was a man a Dandy or not, it became a matter of degrees, How Dandy are you became the question not "are you a Dandy". So are the men who practice dandyism truly worthy of the name, and are they heirs at least in some respect to the legacy of Brummel? that's what we're going to look at.  

The men of the Victorian era admired dandyism quite a bit, and many a man who was not able to live in complete leisure worked as a writer, artist, or other occupation so as be able to live the elegant life of dandyism. These men frequented cafés, salons, and the parks and fine spots throughout London, Paris, and New York and would pen their works in between sips of their favorite beverage. Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton  would do just that writing [among other works] "Pelham" giving posterity an excellent portrait of a dandy gentleman. Others played with dandyism and then "got serious" as they aged. Benjamin Disraeli was a very elegant young man who wrote and played in the elegant world of early Victoriana, only later did he somber down to wearing black and pursuing his career in politics.  Some men took dandyism a little far. Oscar Wilde dressed flamboyantly and collected dandy-like witticism in the plays he wrote. his style however was a bit too flamboyant; he remained more of an Aesthete than a Dandy.

The 20th Century saw a continuation of the trend of dandyism. 20th Century men were frequently even less leisurely than their Victorian counterparts partly due to the growing belief in the need to work and be profitable preached by the United States who, after two world wars, was now the dominate force both economically and culturally. Men like Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, and Clark Gable brought dandyism to the silver screen. Lucius Beebe wrote and traveled giving his dandyish opinions and commentaries on American high life and high cuisine.  There were of course many others, but the trend of men pursuing elegance, practicing dandyism, and yet pursuing occupations had, for the most part, taken over the field. 

The 21st Century has seen a continued appreciation of the art of dandyism, although today we have a very different world form the one "Beau" Brummel inspired. The internet has made it such that men can work and yet cleave to a certain leisure, however since the internet is anonymous, the bar on elegance can [and does] slip. There are nevertheless many forums in a variety of languages that tout dandyism, such is the information available to day about the elegant life.

The quest goes on for the elegance that Beau Brummel inspired 200 years ago, and where the men of leisure have been replaced by men of activity [with notable exceptions] the quest for elegance and the ideal the Brummel inspired remains alive.


Yours truly at an afternoon picnic

Gregg: a man of unique grace

Jeffrey: A very elegant modern man