I recently enjoyed reading two articles in The Rake and 1843 that took a number of robust swings at the concept of modern dandyism. The new mecca for this is “the wall” at the biannual menswear trade show, Pitti Uomo in Florence.
I say ‘dandyism’ very loosely because the articles in question were actually ridiculing the type of clothes horse that many proponents of true dandyism would recognise as not being a dandy of any stripe.
Pitti Uomo – a mecca for Absurd Poseurs
The critics had set their rifles on the big-game peacocks of Pitti Uomo – the practically luminescent layabouts who loll about on the wall at the Fortezza di Basso during the menswear event – while reserving their binoculars and deserved appreciation for authentic creatures like Mickael Loir.
Amongst some general despair regarding the nature of the event – and how it has morphed from being a trade show with well-dressed industry representatives dashing from shows to suppliers into a pageant of the preposterous.
There was particular ire reserved for the iridescent idlers that select the loudest most outrageous outfits they can in order to attract attention, a photographer and maybe a few thousand more Instagram followers.
A group loosely alluded to as dandies.
WHen a dandy is actually a fop
Now, I am no dandy (though others have occasionally referred to me as one) and nor am I much of a scholar on the subject. However, one thing I do know is that standing around in ridiculous plumage – which you never dare to wear anywhere else except Pitti Uomo, and you only do to lure in lens snappers – is not dandyism.
Actually, it’s closer to is ‘foppism.’ The Cambridge Dictionary defines a fop as “a man who is extremely interested in his appearance and who wears very decorative clothes.” It defines a dandy as “a man dressed in expensive, fashionable clothes and very interested in his own appearance.”
You will have noticed the subtle difference between the two definitions. The dandy is ‘very interested’ – but the fop is ‘extremely’ so.
The dandy wears ‘expensive’ (though with this point I disagree somewhat), ‘fashionable’ clothes – the fop ‘very decorative’ clothes.
This is important. The fop decorates himself; the dandy just wears clothes.
Though both are simplistic definitions, they point to the fact that dandies and dandyism should not be the overarching, all-encompassing ‘issue’ where condemnation of the Pitti peacocks is concerned.
Beau Brummell – who is to dandyism what Karl Marx is to Communism – was possibly the least ‘decorative’ gentleman in the neighbourhood when he began striding about St James’s in boots, trousers and a riding coat.
The fops of pitti are not pioneers
He was outrageous because he was different to the burgundy brocade frock coats and lemon coloured silk pantaloons – and he created a new fashion. Fops created outrage by copying the fashion of the day and making it more outrageous, more attention-seeking.
The ‘fops’ of Pitti Uomo are not pioneers – neither were the fops of the 18th century. They see such clothing as theatre, not a lifestyle, and treat it in a manifestly different way to dandies, confining it to a few days in January and June.
The Rake and 1843 were right to lampoon them. Their desperation to be recognised ‘accidentally’ is risible. But they are no dandies. ML