Clothes make the man

By GREG COOK  |  May 13, 2013


ROYAL FINERY A banyan belonging to George, Prince of Wales, 1780s.

Out of this London emerges the dandy, first in the form of George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, who was remarkable not for ostentatious decoration but for "his perfectly tailored woolen broadcoat, form-fitting buckskin breeches, and faultless cravat," for the "exceedingly correct," elegant, and restrained cut of his jib.

But dandies really are a sort of counter-reformation, refusing to relinquish some of the flamboyance that defined their forefathers. And they're direct descendents of extravagantly fashionable 17th century English fops of and macaronis of the 18th century. The line "he stuck a feather in his hat/And called it macaroni" in the 18th-century song "Yankee Doodle" was apparently authored by English troops to both mock disheveled colonial American soldiers and insult them as girly men.

As early as 1818, cartoonist Robert Cruikshank caricatured dandies as sissies fainting from their tight corsets. Amidst the new modern vision of manhood, dandies quickly came to be defined as preening, superficial, effeminate, eccentric, vulgar, himbos. But for dandyism's champions, it unified life, art, and elegance, challenged class distinctions, and mocked earnest industriousness. "Dandyism is the last spark of heroism," Charles Baudelaire asserted in the mid-19th century.




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