Dandies in Decay

in Features by

Sebastian Horsley:

Dandyism is a form of self-worship which dispenses with the need to find happiness from others – especially women. It is a condition rather than a profession. It is a defence against suffering and a celebration of life. It is not fashion; it is not wealth; it is not learning; it is not beauty. It is a shield and a sword and a crown – all pulled out of the dressing up box in the attic of the imagination.

Wilde and Brummell are usually held up as the progenitors of dandyism but neither of these men was a dandy, in my not very humble opinion. Mr. Brummell was aspirational and no real dandy is aspirational. As for Wilde? What a phoney he was! And not even a real phoney! He bred for a start, and no dandy worth the name breeds. He must defeat the species role of his body at all costs.

Mr. Brummell was aspirational and no real dandy is aspirational. As for Oscar Wilde? What a phoney he was! And not even a real phoney!

This misrepresentation continues in modern times. The idea that David Beckham is a dandy is absurd. Dandyism is social, human and intellectual. It is not a suit of clothes walking about by itself. If Mr. Beckham’s IQ had been two points lower he would be a tree.

Russell Brand is called a dandy. He practices Yoga, vegetarianism and other diseases of the soul. Worse, he recently took part in Earth Aid! This is unforgivable. The dandy remains deaf to the call of social justice. The depletion of his hairspray is more important to him than the depletion of the ozone layer. Convictions are for dullards, whose earnestness – the worst crime in the dandy’s book – is there to be mocked.

Tracey Emin has been called a dandy! The idea that a woman can be a dandy is preposterous. There are no female dandies for the same reason that there is no female Mozart or Jack the Ripper. The key attribute of dandyism – detachment – cannot come from someone with a womb.

when his sergeant asked him what should be done about the advancing enemy troops, Roger, who liked to wear rouge even with his khakis, replied, “When in doubt, powder heavily.”

So who are the real dandies? Baudelaire, Quentin Crisp, Bunny Roger, Tintin, Marc Bolan, Johnny Rotten, Robin Dutt and me – not in order of importance, I hasten to add. All these dandies are roped together like mountaineers heading for the summit of beauty. You see, my darlings, true dandyism is rebellious. The dandy is part warrior, part stargazer, part gambler, part crusader, part plunderer, part violator, part martyr. He is fit for the highest and the lowest society – and keeps out of both.

Baudelaire
Baudelaire

During the Second World War, Neil ‘Bunny’ Roger went to battle wearing a chiffon scarf and brandishing a copy of Vogue. When his sergeant asked him what should be done about the advancing enemy troops, Roger, who liked to wear rouge even with his khakis, replied, “When in doubt, powder heavily.” When he ran into an old friend in the hellish, bombed-out city of Montecasino in Italy he responded to his pal’s incredulous “What on earth are you doing here?” with one word: “Shopping.”

To be a dandy is to aspire to the sublime and isn’t that just sublime! Dandyism isn’t image encrusted with flourishes. It’s a way of stripping yourself down to your true self. You can only judge the style by the content and you can only reach the content through the style.

Dandies are a brotherhood of higher types. The true princes of the world. The true priests of the world. Like precious stones, their personalities derive their value from their scarcity. Oh, I’m so clever! I wish I could sleep with myself!

MORE NON-DANDIES

Jarvis Cocker

Was a great dandy for about a year. And then married, mortgaged and babied to life. Worse still, he grew a beard. Once you have completely lost your nerve you grow a beard.

Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen

The fop from a shop. You are not a dandy if you think you dress individually. He went to a fancy dress shop and asked for the King Charles Spaniel.

Vivienne Westwood

She is a peacock in everything but beauty. Women have but one task in dandysport, that of crowning the winner with garlands.

Henry ConwayHenry Conway

Dandyism oscillates between narcissism and neurosis, vanity and insanity, Savile Row and Death Row. Conway doesn’t have a mind to go out of. Too light even to make the badminton team.

Nick FoulkesNick Foulkes

The dandy has no obligations, no attachments, no wife, no child, no occupation, no possessions, no obvious means of support, visible or invisible. Basically no use whatsoever. Mr. Foulkes has all of the above. I can make no more of him than I can of a hedgehog. He is too dull to be ridiculous.

The Chap was founded in 1999 and is the longest-serving British magazine dedicated to the gentlemanly way of life, with its own quirky, satirical take on a style that has recently entered the mainstream.

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