Michael Boyle: On Canes


The most famous dandies of all time, whether those of the European persuasion, or the coat-and-hat American types reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, have always been prime examples of opulent fashion. Picture him now: his coat tight, but readily displaying the fine shirt beneath, whether the ruffled neck of a Victorian Era Dandy or the straight shirt and tie of a nineteenth century Southern American, his hair primed to the finest detail, a lace kerchief always at the ready and, of course, a finely crafted walking cane at his hip. 

As an accessory, walking canes are all but a must for the proper dandy, no matter which era he is from. As firearms rose in popularity, and decorative swords fell from use as fashion accessories and modes of self-defense among the gentry, a walking cane, made by the most skilled craftsman, became a symbol of wealth, power and standing in the community.

In choosing his walking stick, the proper Dandy is less concerned with its utility and more so with its appearance. This being so, a utilitarian handle, like a derby or fritz-style, is less likely to be chosen. Instead, a unique, carved or heavily detailed metal ball cane handle is likely to be the one for a proper Dandy. Like those seen depicted in the most famous images of Dandies, silver was a popular choice, although a highly polished brass also makes a splendid accent to any proper wardrobe. 

The shaft of the cane is also of great importance, and only the finest, most beautiful woods will do. No self-respecting Dandy would use an acrylic cane, or one made out of aluminum, but instead, would choose the exotic hardwoods to help amplify the look of opulent elegance. Today, exotic wood canes are often crafted of Kingswood, which was also, coincidentally, the shaft material of choice of the French aristocracy in the eighteenth century, thought by some to be the origin of the early Dandies.

In the Southern American States, where Dandies or gentlemen may speak with a rich Georgian accent, or offer a hand to a lady with a slow, Mississippi drawl, crook canes, or tourist handles were also quite popular. In this case, as there is less of a use for a decorative head, the material of the shaft was even more important. Look to this era to fine dark woods like ovangkol or ebony. 

No matter where you look, a cane is a very important part of the Dandy lifestyle and attire. As a symbol of the gentry or the affluent, and as an accent that adds a relaxed air of je ne sais quoi, No Dandy should be without his trusty walking cane.

by Michael Boyle