(pictured left, the first dandy George Brummel)
According to Webster:
- Main Entry: 1dan·dy
- Pronunciation: \ˈdan-dē\
- Function: noun
- Inflected Form(s): plural dandies
- Etymology: probably short for jack-a-dandy, from 1jack + a (of) + dandy (origin unknown)
- Date: circa 1780
- 1 : a man who gives exaggerated attention to personal appearance
- 2 : something excellent in its class
1. a self-made person, who rejected bourgeois values, adapting a carefree, indolent lifestyle while emulating aristocracy
2. a person of middle class background, who imitated aristocratic style
3. a refined, elegant man
I find that, historically, most dandies were either very wealthy or middle class. The wealthy ones would dress extravagantly and were either flanuers- men who wanted to quintessentially experience life and observe beauty and art -OR- men who played many games (billiards, hunting, etc), lived at the cafes, dined at the inns, and were seemingly idle. The middle class dandies were often men who were innately stylish, causing them to be fawned over by the aristocrats, and their elegance and style made them extremely influential in their societies.
A famous dandy, Baudelaire, commented that the dandies had “no profession other than elegance…no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own persons….The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror.”
So elegance is his job? Hmmm… let’s have a closer look into “dandyism”.
(excerpt from thedandy.org)
Okay, so we’ve covered the definition, history, and modern adaptions of dandy philosophy, now I think it’s appropriate to figure out who the modern day dandies are.
Alright, so I did a well-rounded best-dressed list back in June 2008 that included- Kanye West, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Pharrell Williams, Andre Benjamin, Fonzworth Bentley, Johnny Depp, etc. And I think all of these guys could possibly be dandies, depending on the definition given. But obviously everyone can’t be a dandy… here’s my dandy check-list:
A dandy must:
1. place importance on being well-dressed
2. be well-mannered and elegant in speech and living -OR- be flamboyant in his “acts” of elegance.
I think there are two types of dandies: the traditional dandy and flamboyant dandy or maybe I should say the intrinsic dandy and the extrinsic dandy. I find that many people these days are moreso extrinsically dandy than intrinsically dandy, either one is okay, but I have a preference for those who are intrinsically dandy.
Okay, so if I had to categorize the gents of today, then who would be what… well from the best-dressed list two guys instantly stand out- Kanye and Fonzworth. These are the main two guys from the list that I feel places great importance on being very well-dressed, and from those two I’d have to say Fonzworth Bentley is the intrinsic dandy, while Kanye West is an extrinsic dandy. Mr.Bentley doesn’t over do it, he doesn’t wear “loud clothing” or proclaims himself best-dressed, atleast I don’t think he does. And he, much like George Brummel and other traditional dandies, wasn’t born into an elite family, but rather found favor with the wealthy elite because of his style and mannerisms. Bentley was a maître d‘ at a New York restaurant and was “discovered” by Diddy… the rest of the story you know. Mr. West on the other hand, though I love his style, he can often go overboard and places Too much emphasis on designer labels, when that is Not what style is about. The perfect example of the two types would be Kanye’s emphasis trip to Paris earlier this year…
I honestly think it’s hard to place celebrities in one of the dandy categories because many of them dress nice, ONLY because of their fame. It’s hard to figure out who just has “it” and would still have “it” if they were working a regular 9-5. For that reason, I feel photographers, writers, artist and such are better people to give such a title too. Scott Schuman, the Sartorialist himself, is a given traditional dandy to me… he observes people, beauty, style and (from what I can tell) is an intrinsically elegant man. I’m sure many of you have atleast one person in mind that could be either of the two types of dandies….
It’s easier for me to group celebrities of the past as dandies… Fred Astaire is often categorized as a dandy, I think the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) were dandies of their time, I’d have to be candid and say a good amount people of color in entertainment in the 50s, 60s, were intrinsic dandies- being extremely elegant was the only way many of them would even be given the opportunity to entertain despite their musical genuis (so Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, etc etc).
Perhaps in a decade or so we’ll look back and call Michael Jackson a sort of dandy- who knows… I think dandyism is still very much in play today, it’s just a little harder to point out. Who would you all consider a (modern) dandy?