Dandy is the name for a man who attaches great importance to clothing, fashion and often has an unique and extravagant style. The term was first used in the late eighteenth century, but did not really emerge until the early nineteenth century. After the term and the style of clothing associated with it, had disappeared for a long time, it is revived today.
Initially, the term “dandy” referred to a group of pioneering young aristocrats in England. Even then, in the 19th century, a dandy stood for an extravagant chest of drawers and a man with a carefully selected style. So even today, in the 21st century, a “dandy” is still someone with a sophisticated or an extravagant chest of drawers.
Dandyism had its roots in the Macaroni Club in London in the 1760s. The Macaroni Club was founded by a few wealthy young Englishmen who had just returned from a trip to Italy. The Macaronis represented elaborate and unique clothing styles. They invited themselves layer by layer with lace frills and gold embroidery and wore knee buckles, striped stockings and shoes with bright red heels.
Some of them wore extremely large wigs, surmounted by a tricorn or a triangular hat. The text from the famous American song “Yankee Doodle”: “Put a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” refers to this early dandy fashion.
The world of a dandy
Accessories were and are the decisive factor for the dandy’s style. The typical dandy wore a long, gold-buttoned, cup-shaped walking stick. He also had to wear a snuff box with jewellery and chewing tobacco. To always smell good, he had an artificial bouquet, a small bouquet of flowers, powder or perfume.
Many dandies also swung swords with diamond handles and had two pendants or pocket watches on their elegantly cut waistcoats. These early dandies, many of whom took the name “Beau”, developed a reputation for grace and coolness. Soon the dandy styles popular with the English Makaronis began to become popular in Europe. In France, the Incroyables of the 1790s combined stylish fantasy clothing with classic English fashion.
The most famous Dandy
The most famous dandy of all, the man who changed men’s fashion, was George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840). As the son of an English butler trained at Oxford, his own style defied some of the more extravagant trends of his day.
He dressed plain and simple and preferred wool and cotton fabrics, carefully cut jackets and ankle-length, loose-fitting trousers in dark or neutral colours worn with white shirts. A typical Brummll outfit consisted of a blue wool coat with brass buttons, cotton pantalons and immaculately polished boots. The only extravagant garment he wore was his tie – a large tie tied with a bow and a scarf.
The new standard
Brummel’s contribution was to establish a new standard of elegance and timelessness in men’s clothing. He stressed the importance of cleanliness and timelessness, as well as refinement and restraint. It took Brummell up to five hours to get dressed every day. The clothing was perfectly coordinated, although his aim was to make it look as simple as possible.
He was one of the first to bathe regularly (a custom that quickly established itself in 19th century Europe) and was proud not to have to wear perfume. It was said that he had three different hairdressers: one for his forelock or pony, one for the hair on the back of his head and one for his sideburns. He sent his shirts on journeys to wash them especially because he didn’t think London washerwomen could bleach them white enough.
Beau Brummel’s unique style and influence survived him for a long time. Through his influential friendships, among others with the later British King George IV. (1762-1830), he had a lasting influence on English fashion.
This combination of extravagance and timelessness is what today’s dandy tries to combine and revive.
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