- The manners and dress of a dandy.
A dandy (also known as a beau, gallant or dude) is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies. Historically, especially in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain, a dandy, who was self-made, often strove to imitate an aristocratic style of life despite coming from a middle-class background.
Given these connotations, dandyism can be seen as a political protestation against the rise of egalitarian principles — often including nostalgic adherence to feudal or pre-industrial values, such as the ideals of "the perfect gentleman" or "the autonomous aristocrat".
Though previous manifestations, of Alcibiades, and of the petit-maître and the muscadin have been noted by John C. Prevost, the modern practice of dandyism first appeared in the revolutionary 1790s, both in London and in Paris. The dandy cultivated skeptical reserve, yet to such extremes that the novelist George Meredith, himself no dandy, once defined "cynicism" as "intellectual dandyism"; nevertheless, the Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the great dandies of literature. Some took a more benign view; Thomas Carlyle in his book Sartor Resartus, wrote that a dandy was no more than "a clothes-wearing man".
Charles Baudelaire, in the later, "metaphysical," phase of dandyism defined the dandy as one who elevates æsthetics to a living religion, that the dandy's mere existence reproaches the responsible citizen of the middle class: "Dandyism in certain respects comes close to spirituality and to stoicism" and "These beings have no other status, but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons, of satisfying their passions, of feeling and thinking .... Contrary to what many thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind."
EtymologyThe word dandy first appears in a Scottish border ballad, circa 1780, but probably without its more recent meaning. The original, full form of 'dandy' may have been jack-a-dandy, (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911); it was a vogue word during the Napoleonic Wars. In that contemporary slang, 'a dandy' was differentiated from 'a fop' in that the dandy's dress was more refined and sober than the fop's.
In the 21st century, the word "dandy" is a jocular, often sarcastic adjective meaning "fine" or "great", while "a dandy" refers to a well-groomed, well-dressed, and self-absorbed man.
Beau Brummell and early British dandyism
The model dandy in British society was George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778-1840), an undergraduate student at Oriel College, Oxford, and an associate of the Prince Regent: ever unpowdered, unperfumed, immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain, dark blue coat, perfectly brushed, perfectly fitted, showing much perfectly starched linen, all freshly laundered, and composed with an elaborately knotted cravat. From the mid 1790s, Beau Brummell was the early incarnation of 'the celebrity' man chiefly famous for being a laconically witty clothes-horse.
By the time Pitt taxed hair powder in 1795 to help pay for the war against France, Brummell had already abandoned wearing a wig, and had his hair cut in the Roman fashion, "à la Brutus". Moreover, he led the transition from breeches to snugly tailored dark "pantaloons," which directly lead to contemporary trousers, the sartorial mainstay of men's clothes in the Western world for the past two centuries. In 1799, upon coming of age, Beau Brummell inherited from his father a fortune of thirty thousand pounds, which he spent mostly on costume, gambling, and high living. In 1816 he suffered bankruptcy, the dandy's stereotyped fate; he fled his creditors to France, quietly dying in 1840, in a lunatic asylum in Caen, just before age 62.
Men of more notable accomplishment than Beau Brummell also adopted the dandiacal pose: George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron occasionally dressed the part, helping re-introduce the frilled, lace-cuffed and lace-collared "poet shirt." In that spirit, he had his portrait painted in Albanian costume.
- Barbey d'Aurevilly, Jules. Of Dandyism and of George Brummell. Translated by Douglas Ainslie. New York: PAJ Publications, 1988.
- Carassus, Émile. Le Mythe du Dandy 1971.
- Carlyle, Thomas. Sartor Resartus. In A Carlyle Reader: Selections from the Writings of Thomas Carlyle. Edited by G.B. Tennyson. London: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
- Jesse, Captain William. The Life of Beau Brummell. London: The Navarre Society Limited, 1927.
- Lytton, Edward Bulwer, Lord Lytton. Pelham or the Adventures of a Gentleman. Edited by Jerome McGann. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972.
- Moers, Ellen. The Dandy: Brummell to Beerbohm. London: Secker and Warburg, 1960.
- Murray, Venetia. An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England. New York: Viking, 1998.
- Nicolay, Claire. Origins and Reception of Regency Dandyism: Brummell to Baudelaire. Ph. D. diss., Loyola U of Chicago, 1998.
- Prevost , John C., Le Dandysme en France (1817-1839) (Geneva and Paris) 1957.
- Stanton, Domna. The Aristoicrat as Art 1980.
- Wharton, Grace and Philip. Wits and Beaux of Society. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1861.
- "Bohemianism and Counter-Culture": The Dandy
- The Flâneur Blog: 'modern hypertext, fin de siècle flair'
- Charles Baudelaire, essay on dandyism from "The Painter of Modern Life", about the artist Constantin Guys.
- Dictionnaire International des termes littéraires: "Dandy" Extended definitions and analysis (French)
- Dandyism: Beyond Fashion (.pdf file)
- "The Dandy"
- Dandies and Dandies by Max Beerbohm
- Refinement (forum)
- Il Dandy, in Italian
- "Duchamp is Dandy" by Michael Beyer
- Shubow, Justin. "The Prince and the Dandy": a review of Nicholas Antongiavanni's The Suit: A Machiavellian Approach to Men's Style. The Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2006.
dandyism in German: Dandy
dandyism in Spanish: Dandi
dandyism in Esperanto: Dando
dandyism in French: Dandy
dandyism in Italian: Dandysmo
dandyism in Dutch: Dandy
dandyism in Japanese: ダンディ
dandyism in Russian: Денди (щёголь)
dandyism in Finnish: Dandy
dandyism in Swedish: Dandy