Dandyism had its roots in the Macaroni Club formed in London, England, in the 1760s by a group of rich young Englishmen who had just returned from a tour of Italy. The Macaronis championed elaborate and exaggerated styles of dress. They loaded themselves down with layer after layer of lace ruffles and gold embroidery and wore knee buckles, striped stockings, and shoes with bright red heels. Some of them sported wigs that were at least a foot high, topped by a tricorne, or three-cornered, hat. In fact, the lyric from the famous American patriotic song “Yankee Doodle”: “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni,” refers to these early dandy fashions.
Accessories were critical to the dandy’s style. The typical dandy carried a long gold-knobbed, tasseled walking stick and was never seen in public without his bejeweled snuff box, in which he carried chewing tobacco. To ward off bad odors he may have carried an artificial nosegay, a small bunch of flowers, or worn powder or perfume.
Many dandies brandished swords with diamond handles and hung two fobs, or pocket watches, from their elegantly tailored waistcoats. These early dandies, many of whom adopted the name “Beau,” developed a reputation for grace and coolness. Before long, dandy styles popularized by the English macaronis began migrating to the European continent. In France the Incroyables (the Unbelievables) of the 1790s combined fashionable fantasy garments and English country clothes.
MOST FAMOUS DANDY
The most famous dandy of all, and the man who truly changed the course of men’s fashion, is the man pictured above, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840). The son of an English butler who was educated at Oxford, the prestigious university in England, Brummell inherited a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. He resisted some of the more flamboyant trends of his day. He dressed simply and plainly, preferring wool and cotton fabrics, carefully tailored jackets, and ankle length, loose-fitting trousers in dark or neutral colors worn with white shirts. A typical outfit for Brummell consisted of a blue woolen tailcoat with brass buttons, buckskin colored pantaloons (loose-fitting trousers), and immaculately polished boots. And he didn’t wear a wig or makeup. The only item of elaborate clothing he wore was his necktie—a large bow-tied cravat, a scarf tied around the neck.
THE BROKE DANDY
Brummell’s extravagant contribution to fashion (which partially led to his eventual financial downfall, along with his expensive tastes for imported goods, the finest Sevres china said to be the finest and purest ever imported into England) was to set a new standard of elegance and ideal of perfection in male dress. He stressed the importance of neatness and cleanliness, as well as refinement and restraint. Brummell took up to five hours to dress every day, though his goal was to make it appear as though he had not.
THE DANDY HYGIENE
He was one of the first to take regular baths (a custom which was catching on quickly in nineteenth-century Europe), priding himself on the fact that he did not need to wear perfume. It was said that he had three separate hairdressers: one for his forelock, or bangs, one for the hair at the back of his head, and one for his sideburns. He sent his shirts out of town to be washed because he didn’t think London laundresses could bleach them white enough.
Beau Brummell’s fame and influence long outlived him (He died broke in France, running from creditors and eventually dying in an insane asylum). Through his friendship with the future British king George IV (1762–1830), he left a lasting mark on English fashion. Though the dandies are long gone, and often mocked in comedies about the period for their excessive manner of dress, men in the West continue to wear trousers and somber colors and to dress themselves in the elegant style set by these fashion pioneers.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron ByronElisabeth Vigee-Lebrun George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron ( January 22, 1788 April 19, 1824) aka Lord Byron, was the most widely read English language poet of his day. His best-known works are the narrative poems Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan’‘. The latter was occasionally dressed the part of the fop, and helped reintroduce the frilly, lace-cuffed and collared “poet shirt,” and had his portrait painted in Albanian costume. left
Of his contemporaries, Lord Byron saw none as exceeding Brummel. When rating the great dandies of the period, Lord Byron said Brummel “was one of the three great men of the nineteenth century, placing himself third, Napoleon second, and Brummell first,” wrote William Jesse, The Life of George Brummel, esq, commonly called Beau Brummel, Volume 1.
Max BeerbohmSir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm ( August 24, 1872 May 20, 1956) was an English satirist and caricaturist. He was born in London, England, the younger half-brother of actor and producer Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Me in a lithographic portrait of 1893
Napoleon Bonaparte – Dandy