The history of male refinement is a long and proud one, stretching from Beau Brummell to Andy Warhol to CeeLo Green. Joe Dandy sets out to decode men of style who pursue elegance as a calling.
Doug Henderson (left) accessorizes with a gilded cigarette case and a gold-tipped 1880s cane, both acquired at swap meets (though the case was later gilded by Van Isle Jewellers). Iain Russell pairs his Needles jeans and Viberg Boots with a shawl, shirt and apron from Engineered Garments. Photo: Derek Ford
Faithful reader, you would be surprised — no, shocked — at the comments Joe Dandy gets when he introduces himself. “Dandy, what an unusual name, is it <insert ridiculousness here>?” No, not randy or candy and no, definitely not Welsh.
A dandy is often defined as a man with a cultivated devotion to style, neatness and fashion. You now know your name.
An apt definition of dandyism comes from Charles Baudelaire, a mid-1800s-era French poet: the dandy is “one who elevates æsthetics to a living religion.” In the recent past, we might have called men of style metrosexuals, a term with none of the sophistication that dandy has. Dandyism is the whole man, from brain down.
Dandyism strongly influenced the Bohemians in France, helped relax social barriers in England, led to the rise of men’s fashion and institutions such as Savile Row. Famous dandies from life and literature include: Oscar Wilde, Salvador Dali, Hercule Poirot, Andy Warhol and Lucius Malfoy.
But is dandyism relevant among modern men? These are the questions that keep Joe Dandy awake at night.
Iain Russell is creative director and designer at Eng•lish, an international menswear design company with Victoria beginnings. Style is top of mind for Russell.
Is dandyism still alive? “In the true era of dandyism,” Russell says, “it would be found on the streets of London or Paris. However, we need not look any further than profile images on social media to see dandyism is thriving at an international level.”
Russell describes how he embraces dandyism: “From 2008 to 2014, I have shared [on social media] close to 20,000 images of my daily wears. I see the process as more than my attire and attitude. It is all encompassing of my life. The garments I wear reflect spaces I pass through, people I confide in, cultures that inspire me, like that of the dandy.”
This, too, begs a question. If dandyism is alive, what can the modern man take from it? To be honest, we can’t all be true dandies (dear reader, it is exhausting), but there are take-aways from this discipline.
“First and foremost,” says Russell, “the modern dandy is prepared for any and every challenge. They own several camouflage jackets for peacekeeping missions for the grocery store. The highest level of performance sports garments for a sport they don’t actually do. It’s important to know the difference between white tie and black tie, and more importantly, be the best dressed at both.
“Dandyism,” adds Russell, “centres on being the best dressed in one’s environment. It is not about over-dressing as it is about being able to place oneself in the immediate future.” Wise words indeed.
Here are a few other tips for the modern man, gleaned from dandyism:
• Quiet elegance and discriminating tastes always trump peacock feathers.
• Build a wardrobe of elegant classics; they will serve you well and look great over the long haul. Trends will come and go but if you must partake, mix them with your standard garments.
• Be the whole package.
• Hold yourself to a higher standard: not one that society dictates, but one that you dictate. Modern dandyism is not just wearing the clothes; it’s attitude, curiosity and refinement. Be a gentleman; inspire others with your style and take a risk.
• Individuality is strong.
• Just because someone else is jumping off a fashion cliff (leather sweatpants, I’m talking to you) doesn’t mean you have to. Not all fashion is great; make your own choices and create a look that is intrinsically you.
Do the Dandy
Dear reader, dandyism is more than style, quiet elegance or being a leader. It is far more than an antiquated term, a belief from bygone days. It is as essential to modern-day living as it was for pioneers a couple of hundred years ago. It is the counterbalance to our throwaway trends and culture.
The stylish man starts with dandyism as the core. Everything else is window dressing. To quote Iain Russell, “traditional dandyism is completely a lifestyle.” So, go ahead, embrace your inner dandy.
By David Alexander