Dandys, fops and swells

KeskusteluThe Chapel of the Abyss

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Dandys, fops and swells

elokuu 31, 2008, 11:02 am

My favorite book on the subject of dandyism (the only one I've read so far), is Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's The Anatomy of Dandyism - which, starting as an appreciation of George Brummel (who was buried, penniless and forgotten in a cemetery in Caen - in Barbey's native Normandy. The Goncourt's express some entertainingly nasty views in their journals of Barbey's own fopperies), expands into a sort of mystical philosophy of life. Here is a link that provides a list of the canonical works (and much more) on the subject of dandyism:


elokuu 31, 2008, 2:16 pm

In an age when most adult American males dress like 12 year olds, I'm afraid the aesthetics of dandyism are dead.

Still, I think of one of my favorite authors, Paul Bowles, always immaculately dressed, who was reputed to have travelled into the Sahara with no less than 24 pieces of luggage, one of which no doubt held only his ties. Bowles may have been one of the last literary dandies. Although a case could be made for Gore Vidal.

elokuu 31, 2008, 2:45 pm

> 2

I think the case is arguable for lots of American subcultures. It may just be that their aesthetics are different.

But, to take a less ambiguous case, how about Congolese sapeurs?

elokuu 31, 2008, 3:23 pm

Pardon me - my crankiness was tongue in cheek. Yes, there are a variety of subcultures, many of which could by their own aesthetics be considered dandy.

tammikuu 22, 2009, 5:16 pm

Don't forget the Mods and Bowie-era Glam Rock. The style was different, the attitude was the same. See Velvet Goldmine

tammikuu 22, 2009, 7:26 pm

I am chagrined to have proclaimed Gore the last literary dandy up there (post 2), while Tom Wolfe is still alive and selling ice cream. Although the appellation "literary" might raise arguments.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 22, 2009, 10:24 pm

Members of the group interested in dandyism might enjoy these books:

Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender and Performance in the Fin De Siecle (I particularly recommend this book as it deals explicitly with the fin de siècle.)

The man of fashion : peacock males and perfect gentlemen A picture book. Pretty, if not very detailed.

Men in Black This book examines the gradual move away from color and ornament in European men's clothing after the 18th century.

Dandies: Fashion and Finesse in Art and Culture I don't own this and haven't read it but it does look rather interesting. The wonderful cover image of Una Troubridge in her smartest suit (painted by Romaine Brooks) is quite enticing.

(Note: none of the links above are LT "touchstones" but all should actually take you to the correct page and the appropriate book.)

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 2009, 2:37 pm

Playboys in Paradise is a good exploration of the playboy (vs. the dandy) in 1950s - 1960s US culture. And where would that put early Hugh Hefner, since his stylish aestheticized hedonism makes him a combination Alfred Jarry-esque Supermale meets a Huysmans-like dandy.

tammikuu 23, 2009, 2:41 pm

What about the female version of dandies, fops, and swells? Are they divas? Uberwenches? Something else?

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 2009, 3:33 am

In Monsieur de Phocas by Jean Lorrain, the character Claudius Ethal refers to decadent females and males as "larvae". I like that. Non-gender specific.

No one has mentioned David Bowie. Ziggy Stardust was an intergalactic dandy.

tammikuu 24, 2009, 11:09 am


Larvae? No way! I'm uberwenching it until someone presents me with a better term :-)

tammikuu 24, 2009, 12:43 pm

Uberwench sounds like something Alfred Jarry would come up with. A female counterpart to the Supermale

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 2009, 3:20 pm

Nietzschean uberwench works for me on some levels. We could use Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's title Les Diaboliques(She Devils).

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 2009, 12:04 pm

Too bad the term "She Devil" has so many negative connotations:


tammikuu 25, 2009, 12:06 pm

Too bad the term "She Devil" has so many negative connotations

I was about to dispute your comment, then I clicked on the link...

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 25, 2009, 10:50 pm

I was blissfully unaware of that film. There was another film by the name Les Diaboliques(1954) directed by H.G. Clouzot. One of my faves.

Am I the only person who thinks Ziggy Stardust was a dandy? Marc Bolan was also quite dandyesque. One of his best albums was called Dandy in the Underworld. If Beau Brummel had been around in the 1970's, he would have started a band.


tammikuu 26, 2009, 12:07 am

Glam rockers are total dandies. Like that contemporary glam group, the Dandy Warhols.

What's cool about Bowie is that he's such a chameleon. He's done almost every musical and fashion style. I'm still waiting for his sequel to "Outside."

tammikuu 26, 2009, 3:50 pm


Women in that class are natural dandies and fops, or they can hardly expect to be considered "women". So, no special designation for the stylish and style-obsessed ladies, no.

tammikuu 27, 2009, 10:17 am

We shouldn't forget that dandies, fops, and swells were also blurring the gender lines, both in dress and behavior. So a female dandy could also be a dandy. Like the T. Rex lyrics, "Girls will be boys / and boys will be girls / it's a mixed up world, etc."

Besides the classic Decadent period, we should also include Weimar Germany, especially the naughty Berlin scene, with its transvestism, sex clubs, and other interesting activities.

tammikuu 27, 2009, 10:30 am

The lyrics are from "Lola", by Ray Davies/The Kinks. A fascinatingly ambiguous ditty.

Not dissing Marc Bolan in any way....

tammikuu 27, 2009, 10:48 am

>18 LolaWalser: "no special designation for the stylish and style-obsessed ladies, no"

What about "clotheshorse"? "fashionista"?

tammikuu 27, 2009, 1:00 pm

> 21

The distinction would be that (modern Western) women are expected to be fashion-obsessed, but (modern Western) men are not. In this culture, men who are obsessed with fashion are considered feminized, which is culturally dangerous. A woman concerned about her appearance, even if very concerned with it, is still considered in the range of normal.

Where women cross into dangerous territory is when they reject female norms, as with cross-dressing and gender-bending. Which takes it full circle, as that is the cultural danger zone for men that the dandies, fops and swells explored.

tammikuu 27, 2009, 1:01 pm

Oh. So that's why we even have those words.

tammikuu 27, 2009, 3:47 pm

I think the Gothic types picked up the perfumed hanky of dandyism after Glam dropped it. Too old to know where that hanky is in today's youth culture. Hip hop?

tammikuu 27, 2009, 4:02 pm

Ok, dammit, I have to say it: Everytime I read the topic line, I hear the voice of CHER in my head!

Dandies, fops and swells
We heard it from the people of the town....

It will surely drive me to drink this evening around 5 p.m.

tammikuu 27, 2009, 4:07 pm

But I guess if I have a choice, I'd rather be a swell.

I'd do reasonably well as a dandy, but a complete washout as a fop...

tammikuu 27, 2009, 6:17 pm

Anyway, let us not forget the inestimable Mr. Stephen Tennant, the prototype of the early 20th century fop and the purported original for Anthony Blanche* in Brideshead Revisited, for whom the epithet "effeminate" was far too mild. His story is told entertainingly in Serious Pleasures.

*"Anthony Blanche, the "aesthete" par excellence, a byword of iniquity from Cherwell Edge to Somerville...ageless as a lizard, as foreign as a Martian. He had been pointed out to me often in the streets, as he moved with his own peculiar statliness, as though he had not fully accustomed himself to coat and trousers, and was more at his ease in heavy, embroidered robes...I found myself enjoying him voraciously, like the fine piece of cookery he was.""

tammikuu 28, 2009, 11:10 pm

Tim Gunn? Clinton Kelly? Two modern dandies if there ever were. More power to them. A female equivalent, maybe Stacy London? (The co-host, along with Kelly, of What Not to Wear) Granted, WNTW has more practical and utilitarian goals, but the snark from Clinton and Stacy is priceless.

tammikuu 29, 2009, 9:47 am

Well, the dandy, with a bit of gender bending is alive and well in the Victorian Gothic scene, as I know from personal experience.

What about Marilyn Manson, BTW

tammikuu 29, 2009, 9:52 am


We're talking no later than 19th century.

Dandies and fops weren't "gender-bending" any more than the earlier hose-and-plumes wearing men. These anachronistic views are tiresome...

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 2009, 11:50 am

Speaking of female dandies... and of crossing gender lines, here is a portrait of Zinaida Hippius entitled "The Page":


tammikuu 29, 2009, 11:46 am


I agree to the 19th C. (extremely early) 20th C. limit.

However, gender-bending is a function of violating what is considered "normal" at any given time. If hose-and-plumes are the norm, wearing them is not gender bending. If they are not the norm (I'm thinking 1966ish when "can't tell the boys from the girls!" caused cultural hysteria, if you are of the age to remember that), it is. Thus, if the cultural norm is that women, but not men, should be obsessed about their appearance, then men who are so obsessed might be, to use our term, gender-bending. Women dressing as men, George Sand or Marlene Dietrich, for example, at times when that was amazingly scandalous, were gender bending.

(Historical side note: one harassment tactic used against hippie women in, I believe, SF of all places, was arresting those wearing men's jeans. There was a law on the books against cross-dressing.)

Marilyn Manson and such, besides being from a different era, I would regard as expressing an extreme of an existing sub-culture norm, one that is considered more annoying than dangerous to the culture at large.

Class, of course, is a big issue. Marginalized groups can get away with a lot more, with a lot less attention, than people who are perceived to be part of the ruling class. Hippies were dangerous because they represented college-educated youth, when going to college was still an elite exercise.

Go back a century, and no one cared much about cockney fops. We're still looking at the excesses of the upper classes.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 2011, 2:49 am

I agree with the late 19th century (extremely early 20th Century limit). What I was trying to say was that the cultural revolutions of the late nineteenth century were progenitors of the cultural revolutions of the twentieth century in many ways.

The cultural rebels of the late nineteenth century were an elite group of privileged individuals. They opened the pandoras box from which sprang the cultural and sexual revolutions of the twentieth century.

In some instances twentieth century artists have deliberatly played on the myth of Dandyism. In the instance of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie and Mick Rock created a character that was a lampoon of the myths of the dandy and of the poet maudit.

32. Phaedra, thankyou for mentioning Marlene Dietrich and George Sand. I keep thinking of that wonderful scene in the film Morroco where Marlene performs in male drag and kisses a girl in the audience.

30. Ben, Wonderful portrait of Zinaida Hippius. Thanks.

We haven't mentioned Judith Gautier yet.

tammikuu 31, 2009, 1:36 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

tammikuu 31, 2009, 1:36 pm

No one has mentioned the Lucifer Box series by Mark Gatiss. The main anti-hero, Lucifer Box (an Edwardian dandy and secret agent), is based on a combination of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Oscar Wilde. So far, the series consists of three books: The Vesuvius Club, The Devil In Amber and Black Butterfly. It's a wonderful, if very tongue-in-cheek, series.

helmikuu 2, 2009, 2:24 pm

How about Rachilde's book Monsieur Venus? A mannish female turns a young male flower store worker into her feminine plaything.

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 3, 2009, 5:23 pm

36. It's time for me to read Rachilde. Thanks for inspiring me. Monsieur Venus seems an ideal place to start.

35. Lucifer Box looks really fun. You have tempted me to read a graphic novel series. Shame on you.

helmikuu 5, 2009, 11:09 am

Be sure to put Velvet Goldmine on that list. Todd Haynes draws the line from Oscar Wilde to Chuck Berry to glam rock. Well, it's a bit more complicated and decadent than that.

helmikuu 5, 2009, 11:48 am

37. The first Lucifer Box book, The Vesuvius Club, is available as both a graphic novel and standard novel (the graphic novel came later). I haven't seen the graphic version yet.

helmikuu 5, 2009, 10:28 pm

39. Appropriately the cover is yellow and looks Beardsley-esque. Thanks again. Both formats look like fun.

38. I see your Velvet Goldmine and raise you a Blood and Glitter.

helmikuu 6, 2009, 2:25 pm

Love the title. How decadent can you get?

helmikuu 6, 2009, 2:34 pm

Has anyone picked up the new book, The Hellfire Clubs by Evelyn Lord. I'm wondering if If I should add it to my shopping list.

Blood and Glitter is a collection of Mick Rocks photographs of the glitter era, when all the young dudes carried the news.

helmikuu 6, 2009, 3:00 pm

Got it, but it's been on my TBR pile. Must give it a look.

heinäkuu 7, 2009, 11:47 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 7, 2009, 2:45 pm

Thank god. I thought I'd never hear his name mentioned again.

huhtikuu 21, 2010, 7:08 pm

This is exactly what is wanted: http://www.lordwhimsy.com/companion/index.html

huhtikuu 21, 2010, 8:30 pm

There is some great stuff in there.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2010, 7:36 am

... and then I received this message from a friend more knowledgeable than I in these matters: "--is it the Affected Provincial's Companion?

if so don't buy it. DANDYISM.COM refuses to acknowledge the existence of it, refutes it in toto.

i may have two copies, can send you one. it's mildly amusing, only mildly. How To Be A Complete Dandy: Guide for Rakes, Swells, Beaus is a better book along similar lines and with more literary leads/quotes/bios, etc."

huhtikuu 22, 2010, 4:28 pm

That Lord Whimsy thing sent me lurching for the classics.....

Some links to works pertaining to dandyism and available on Internet Archive:




heinäkuu 30, 2011, 10:05 am

Hilobrow makes an interesting case for Richard Linklater as a cinematic neo-flaneur:


Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 30, 2011, 6:30 pm

Re: "Slacker"
in which Austin, Texas, is portrayed as a noncoercive utopia dedicated to jawboning

As someone who lived in Austin for close to 20 years, and had some acquaintance with at least a couple of the persons in the film, I'd have to say that what "Slacker" (and its subsequent buzz in River City) revealed to me was the tremendous anxiety that goes along with staying (or at least with being perceived as) laid-back and hip.

One of the few truly "laid back" people I ever met in Austin was the fellow that ran the head shop near Inner Sanctum records. That dude was so relaxed, I'd swear he must had to have worn Depends.

heinäkuu 30, 2011, 6:36 pm

Or, as David Bowie sang in Brecht's "Baal's Hymn", on an EP purchased at said Inner Sanctum Records:

Slackness, softness are the sort of things to shun
Nothing can be harder than the quest for fun
Lots of strength is needed and experience too
Swollen bellies can embarrass you

heinäkuu 31, 2011, 11:49 pm

Being laid back only requires a few things: a bottle of absinthe, some opium, a comfy sofa, and a lot of extra time.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 1, 2011, 1:22 pm

I remember reading a book several years ago, by Nick Tosches, I believe, in which he goes in search of an actual opium den, or at least some actual opium. Apparently the stuff is incredibly hard to find.

ETA: Must have been The Last Opium Den.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 16, 2011, 2:34 am

It is a very good thing that opium is so hard to find. I tried it a couple of times back in the eighties. I remember feeling very euphoric and experiencing a sensation of weightlessness as if my feet were floating several inches off the floor. If it were easy to find I would do nothing else but chase the dragon.

elokuu 12, 2011, 12:50 pm

After reading Black Opium, I think I'll pass on the dragon and stay with the potent weed that's readily available.

elokuu 12, 2011, 1:10 pm

You are a wise man and Black Opium looks like a fun read.

I've found that absinthe and cannabis compliment each other very nicely.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 14, 2011, 1:47 am

56: How readily? :) Out of the loop in the inner loop.

I took a walk a month or so back in a park I used to haunt as a teen in the late 1970s (Robert Hanssen, it turns out, stalked the same territory). It had just stormed a day or so before and I noticed as I walked along the creek a crude homemade bong lying in a pile of residue left behind by the floods. It had been years since I had seen a bong - and I had last seen one there (I saw it there a lot, actually; it was mine). I was genuinely happy to know a tradition of sorts was still observed. It made me nostalgic for certain activities.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 14, 2011, 1:42 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

elokuu 14, 2011, 5:22 pm

Pot clubs proliferate like bunnies out in the wild west. My local club has the best chinese restaurant in the world next door. Stock up and chow down!

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 1, 2011, 12:49 am


I recommend quality pot with great music on your computer running on winamp
with milkdrop visualization full screen, especially with a big screen.

Psychedelic, man! ;-)

Your choice of beverage.

lokakuu 1, 2011, 1:07 am

There's some really nice kif around. Mellows out a smoke.
"A little kif in the morning..."

lokakuu 1, 2011, 1:27 am

... checking airfare now....

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 1, 2011, 1:15 pm

If memory serves, which it probably doesn't.

"A little kif in the morning makes a man as strong as a 100 camels in the courtyard."


A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard
by Paul Bowles

lokakuu 2, 2011, 3:29 pm

The narrative voice of Pot Pourri: Whistlings of an Idler is that of an Argentine dandy. I began it a couple weeks ago, but I'm not in the mood for such insouciance, so I've laid it aside for the present...

lokakuu 2, 2011, 4:29 pm

66 - PP looks interesting and amusing.

65 - A recent story said the same about CA growers. Why don't more states pass
med. pot laws? Too many red neck, tea-partyers?

lokakuu 4, 2011, 10:07 am

Began watching the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited -- I read the book a couple years ago -- and it is littered with dandys, fops, and swells, albeit those of Interwar vintage. Sebastian Flyte is a bouquet of dandified eccentricity and in the TV version, the Brideshead estate is played by Blenheim Palace It seems Waugh's late work is a piece of decadent nostalgia, since it was written in the 1940s.

lokakuu 5, 2011, 7:12 pm

Blissful Brownies ain't too bad either. Maybe I'll save one for you, B? Nah.

lokakuu 6, 2011, 9:42 am

70: I could sorely use one or two.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2011, 9:56 am

69: My particular favorites are Vile Bodies, A Handful of Dust and Decline and Fall (It reminds me of Darconville's Cat - the young hero, bounced from Oxford, takes up a position at a boy's school in the Welsh hinterlands. His impression of the locals is as amusing as it is uncharitable).

As for the fops and dandies, etc. - have you got a copy of Children of the Sun A Narrative Of "Decadence" in England After 1918? It's a good source book on "the bright young things" and their milieu.

lokakuu 29, 2011, 5:18 pm

The latest craze from England, "chap hop":


Muokkaaja: marraskuu 15, 2011, 7:45 am

Being intelligent is such a burden! ;-)

High IQ linked to drug use


"My high IQ made me do it, officer."

marraskuu 15, 2011, 11:06 am

74: So what explains the rampant use of crystal meth in US Red States?

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 15, 2011, 11:31 am

We called it "crank" in the 70s. It was cheaper than coke and better than the "freeze-dried" coffee our parents bought.

marraskuu 15, 2011, 11:45 am

Re: 66 - missed that one. Thanks! Just grabbed a copy.

huhtikuu 18, 2012, 8:14 pm

"The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.'" -- Susan Sontag, On Photography

elokuu 19, 2012, 5:37 pm

The Look: adventures in Pop and Rock fashion by Paul Gorman is an amazing guide to the fashion and the boutiques of London from the rock'n'roll era through mods, glam and punk to the eighties and nineties. He runs a couple of regularly updated blogs where you will find such fascinating items as the definitive history of the Chelsea boot:



Muokkaaja: syyskuu 11, 2012, 3:34 pm

Revolt into Style should be mentioned here. George Melly, no mean dandy himself, provides vivid and insightful reportage of the early mod era just as London started to swing.

joulukuu 2, 2012, 11:54 am

toukokuu 22, 2013, 12:21 pm

Here's a story on the cultural history of the dandy from Slate.

tammikuu 12, 2014, 11:32 am

It was either here or the "Pimps and carnies" thread:

"5 Bum Wines Reviewed":


Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 16, 2014, 2:27 pm

There was a story on dandies today on CBS Sunday Morning which referenced I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman by Nathaniel Adam. Back later with the link to the video.

eta: Here it is. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-dandy-celebrating-the-exquisite-gentleman/

kesäkuu 15, 2014, 6:19 pm

My wife and I saw Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer at CONvergence in Minnesota last year. It was quite ripping. What, what?

Here he is, as the old chaps at Eton say, kickin' it in the old school manner:


heinäkuu 8, 2014, 10:43 am

Re: OutKast and the irreversible decline of hip hop:

"The Love Below, on the other hand, was hardly recognizable as a rap record—it was an emotional, often campy, concept album about the search for love, delivered by Andre, who at this point in his career was dressing like a mid-century British dandy and whose music had started to sound like the diametric opposite of traditional rap: vulnerable, expressive, and willing to explore new things."


Also, Andre 3000's song "Dracula's Wedding" would make for a great soundtrack to a vampire movie.

joulukuu 4, 2014, 4:08 pm

"An Aesthete's Lament": http://aestheteslament.blogspot.com/

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 4, 2014, 10:51 pm

Men's Style: a thinking man's guide to dress by Russell Smith


A perfect handbook for the aspiring fop.

joulukuu 4, 2014, 11:42 pm

The Popinjay, the Rake, and the Dandy should be stylistic models.

joulukuu 5, 2014, 4:45 pm

90: I heard Christopher Hitchens described as a "Trotskyist popinjay," although he may be accurately described as a dipsomaniacal atheist fop.

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 5, 2014, 4:45 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

joulukuu 5, 2014, 11:14 pm

Neil Patrick Harris, zombie fop:


... and riding a unicorn:



All right, let's get this discussion back on track:

"Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad." -- The Inimitable Jeeves, by PG Wodehouse

tammikuu 1, 2015, 9:56 pm

HD Thoreau compares a good book to fungus:


Granted Thoreau could hardly be called a dandy or a fop, but he was a kind of rugged flaneur.

helmikuu 2, 2015, 8:16 pm

I'm curious about the possible overlap between Saki, Wodehouse, and Ronald Firbank There's a matter of chronological overlap and aesthetic deportment; Saki wrote his stories before the onset of WW2, Wodehouse wrote from the 20s to the 60s, and Firbank wrote in the Teens and 20s but wrote about the 1890s aesthetes. Whereas Huysmas presented the aristocracy as a withered branch, these writers populate their works with comic fops and loveable aristocratic dingbats. Evelyn Waugh falls somewhere within this trio, albeit with a more astringent satirical bite (a dry martini to Wodehouse's gin fizz) overlaid with Waugh's trademark Anglo-Catholicism.

lokakuu 25, 2015, 12:21 pm

tammikuu 17, 2016, 7:43 pm

My review of Wilberforce by HS Cross, about the shenanigans of an English boarding school in 1920s Yorkshire:


toukokuu 17, 2016, 8:01 pm

Just received The Pocket Square by A.C. Phillips Looks like a great little volume for the aspiring Beau Brummel

toukokuu 17, 2016, 8:18 pm

>99 kswolff::

(your link doesn't work...)

toukokuu 18, 2016, 8:48 pm

What the hell? I admit, sometimes the links on Librarything are best appreciated as Theater of the Absurd

lokakuu 11, 2020, 9:26 pm

"Defining Masculinity in Fin-de-Siècle France: Sexual Anxiety and the Emergence of the Homosexual" by Michael D. Sibalis at Journal of the Western Society for French History.


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