The outfit of the 18th Century gentleman, an elaborately decorated ensemble
George "Beau" Brummel in his famous "suit"; revolutionry simplicity.
The question is asked often enough, especially by those who love to dress well and are chided because some consider them "over dressed", Beau Brummel's famous [or infamous] phrase is oft thrown at them "if John Bull turns to look at you, you're not well dressed". The question remains, did Brummel fit in to his society, or did he stand out? This is a difficult question, and frankly it would be easier to explain Einstein's theory of relativity, than exactly what The Beau meant by that phrase. Did Beau Brummel fit in to his society? Was he truly only conspicuous by his perfection of subtlety? Well yes, he fit perfectly into society after he revolutionized it. He was a model of discretion after everyone began to follow his bold, elegant, indiscreet example.
So again let's pose the question...what would Beau Brummel look like today? Today men's fashion has all but gone the way of the Dodo. Men, if they pay attention to their looks are either using it as a tool for business, and too much attention is seen right away as "affected" or gay; what's a Dandy to do? The key element that makes a well dressed man a Dandy [as opposed to just a careful professional), is elegance; and that was the Beau's trademark.
Can you be overdressed? Yes! Can you be eccentric? Only if your eccentricities add to the elegance of your ensemble.
So what is elegance? Well, let's consider elegance as the reaction the eye experiences when looking at a fine painting. The eye catches the the main focus [let's say it's a portrait, and the main focus is the face]. The eye notices the face, the hair and how it accents the face. Hair too long, or too short gives the face an either gaunt eccentric "romantic" look, or else a "pugilistic" rough look in the case of too little. The eye then drops to the chest and notices that the color of the necktie compliments the outfit, and the skin tone. Then the eye notices the clothing, it's color, cut, and fit. If the clothes don't fit, are of a shade that is too dramatic, or if the cut lacks definition, the there is no way the man can be thought of as well dressed. Next the eye notices the accents and jewelry, gloves or hat. These add a formal aspect, but not a gaudy one. Finally the eye notices the pose, carriage and surroundings. The ensemble is thus achieved and the look is either elegant, or nor. If not the look may be called affected, dramatic, retro, or eccentric, but it all stems from the outfit being inelegant: an elegant ensemble is seldom, if ever mocked.
So what did the Beau do to revolutionize the fashion of his day and yet be known for his discretion? In a word, he added a certain elegance to it. Gentleman's dress of the late 18th Century was still deeply influenced by the fashion sense of the Baroque age; a very decorated and fancy age. Macaronis, Fops, and Precieux we're still frequenting salons all across Europe with their high powdered wigs, jewel encrusted waistcoats,and bold colors; elegance was seen more as by language and manners that dress in the absolute sense. For the gentleman of the 18th Century, elegance was more understood as meaning decorative, and fancy, than meaning clean lines, good fit, and complimenting the body and accenting the manners. Beau Brummel was to introduce this sense to style.
When Brummel dropped the wig, dressed in smooth fabrics, and paid his attention to the fit of his coat, the meticulous tying if his neck cloth, and the shine on his shoes. When he removed the jewelry form his coat and waistcoat, and added it as simply bottons and a watch chain, he gave a new meaning to elegance: simplicity, and propriety. This was to be revolutionary, but it was sort of high time. Brummel's age was in fact one of revolution. The French had, less than a generation before, killed their king. Napoleon was only recently defeated, and Europe was thinking about change. England was quickly replacing France was the dominate nation and culture in Europe, and in that atmosphere, Brummel effected his fashion revolution. His revolution was as bold as the political movements in motion att he same time [only definately less bloody], and left Europe with a new look to accompany it's new philosophy.
So what would Brummel have looked like to day? Well, are we in need of a revolution? I'm sure I would get a variety of answers to such a question. At any rate we today are in need of new inspiration, new direction: can the Dandy offer that? Well if he cannot, he's no Dandy! So what would he look like [our original question]? A Dandy would look like a Dandy always has. He would look elegant. Whether he be in a dark suit and subtle jewelry, a light suit with hat and loafers, or summer wear with perfectly fitting long shorts and a light oxford shirt, he's inspiring men everywhere to be refined, polite, and above all elegant; That is the look for the Dandy.