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The Dandy: Peacock or Enigma? Hardcover – May 1, 2012
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The 1960s plunged headlong into its own Romantic movement, but left behind the elegance of tailored suits (think Gary Cooper or Fred Astaire), replete with hats and gloves, giving way to hippie beads, patchouli perfume, the Nehru shirt, denim jeans (made from the cloth of the French workers of Nimes, or "de Nimes"), and the caftan. One was hard pressed to be fashionable in something from Savile Row, which smacked of The Establishment.
Historian Nigel Rodgers' latest entry into the enquiry on dandyism expands the definition of what it means to be a dandy. The book is lavishly illustrated with color pictures throughout. Ellen Moers' seminal work from 1960 has been expanded by Mr. Rodgers to include the last 100 years, as the dandy now has many temporal and cultural permutations. The dandy as a Regency, post-Macaroni figure has grown and morphed into other things, beyond the Aesthete of the 19th century Fin-de-Siecle and the Belle Epoque, personified by Oscar Wilde and Count Robert de Montesquiou. We can now find him (or her) in the most unexpected places-even in Africa-very far from Mayfair.
Bravo to Nigel Rodgers for picking up where Ellen Moers left off. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the phenomenon of dandyism.
The famous figures are there: Beau Brummell; Byron; Oscar Wilde; Nöel Coward etc. But even more interesting are minor figures, the unknown dandies. Among them are Count d'Orsay who `wowed Paris by riding around in a sleigh shaped like a dragon and covered in tiger skins', and James Jimmy `Beau' James, the `dandy-mayor' of New York in the 1920s who was known as the Night Mayor because he was so often seen in night clubs or at the first nights of Broadway shows.
The book starts with the ancient Greeks & Romans; continues with the precursors to the dandy including the Macaronis and it ends with Sebastian Horsley, a top-hatted dandy whose flat in Soho was filled with skulls - suitably, as he died young. Still very much alive are the `Chaps', who call themselves `Anarcho-Dandies' and only wear tweed, and the Sapeurs, amazingly colourful peacocks from the Congo who smoke cigars and wear cream or candy-pink suits.
The book is light-hearted and amusing, with witty illustrations but has serious undertones as the author defines a dandy, examines carefully whether the dandy is merely a peacock or something more enigmatic and whether the dandies have any influence on the world other than fashion. I would recommend this book to everybody as it has something of interest and wit for all.