The Dandy and Society


Society....a Dandy's true home 

"Other people are quite dreadful, the only real society is one's self, to love one's self is the start of a life long romance". 

Thus states Lord Goring the dandyish hero of Oscar Wilde's "An ideal husband", and while a love of one's self and the cultivation of a perfect self image is an essential element to dandyism, it is only by trying that image in the fires of society that one can be certain to have achieved perfection.

Society is a dandy’s natural habitat, in fact it is his ability to be sociable and command a presence in society that distinguishes him from other men, This he does in two ways:

The first is obvious; dress. A dandy’s love of clothes makes him the best dressed man in any arena; not the most over dressed, nor the fanciest, most especially not the flashiest, but the most elegant. His clothes and the way he wears them say is a fashionable man who understands leisure, even if he cannot always be at leisure.

The other thing that defines the dandy is his society. Associating with a dandy should always be a pleasant thing, in fact a man who cannot be pleasant in society…regardless of who comprises it [dandyism. net’s N. Willard writes how he presents himself at a Rolling Stones concert]. This is a touchy thing because the dandy has always had the name of being a wit, even a caustic wit. How can a man be an arbiter elegantiae, a man for all societies while being a sharp wit? Therein lays the secret to true society. A true society man that can speak with wit and charm regardless of what kind of society he is in. Obviously he would prefer good society, but a true dandy should be able to charm regardless of the society he finds himself in.

 How then does he remain elegant, charming and perfectly polished when he finds himself in a society which recognizes none of these; and perhaps even despises them? There are several possibilities, but the one that works best is what is called sprezzatura.  This art of making it seem as if you aren't trying to be witty, charming or refined takes the edge out of your presentation; it even has a fancy Latin name "ars est celare artem". Not being offended by the language/manners of the society you're in makes you seem more at home; Perhaps even peppering your language with some of the tame usages of the society you're in. This also means by deduction that if you find yourself in the company of the Hoi Poloi you're not going to want to pepper your speech with words of Greek origin [also known as "speak Geek with the Geeks, and Greek with the Greeks]

Knowledge of the society you're in is also an excellent means. If you know the lingo, buzz-words, and allusions used by a particular society, you're bound to blend in well, even if you are better dressed and a quicker wit.  Obviously if you're going to be in good society, knowledge of its rules is a sine qua non but this also applies to any society if you want to be able to mix and be charming - this also, by inference, means that if you find yourself in poor society, and want to still be charming, your going to have to "speak a little dirt", which may preclude you from certain activities given that disagreeable prospect.

Nevertheless , the command of society, being sociable, and being able to remain charming in varied levels of society is the true mark of a dandy.