Clothes make the man

By GREG COOK  |  May 13, 2013

 0517_art_banyan_top.jpg

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.

 

 

 

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY GREG COOK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   OUTWARD AND INWARD  |  August 06, 2014
    A couple years or so back, Samuel Denoncour spent a year traveling alone across these United States.
  •   BEAUTY AND RUIN  |  July 30, 2014
    You’ve surely seen Providence painter Agustín Patiño’s work.
  •   EVOLVING PERSPECTIVES  |  July 23, 2014
    Somewhere around the 1950s, Florence Leif drastically changed her style.
  •   DOODLES, LIGHTS, AND DREAMS  |  July 16, 2014
    Gibson Prouty has found a muse — classic yellow pencils with pink erasers on the end.
  •   SEEING ANEW  |  July 09, 2014
    The aim of the RISD Museum’s eight newly renovated galleries for its permanent collection of fashion and Egyptian and Asian art seems to be “quiet contemplation.”

 See all articles by: GREG COOK