Peak Dandy

I know an awful lot of people who will be upset with this pugnacious little article, but I’m not one of them.

My own brief stay in Dandyland (2004-2007) was an exercise in persona, a foray into the performative, oratorical side of writing (or in my case, carefully-crafted bullshit), which to my mind had been neglected in writerly circles where a strange fixation on authenticity–whatever that means–still holds sway.

I’ve largely kept my distance from the neo-dandy demimonde for almost a decade now (I’ve never been to the Jazz Age Lawn Party events: I’d moved on by the time they came around, and nostalgia was never more than a dirty weekend for me, anyway). However, I do think these kinds of articles are going to become more frequent, because the media probably hit “Peak Dandy” about a year ago. My own early efforts in this realm are all but forgotten (thank goodness), but a few of my friends have helped raise the profile of this trend. And I’m very happy for them: they’ve worked very hard on documenting the denizens of this little world, and have created a beautiful artifact. Their accomplishments are well-deserved.

But this “scene” has probably now reached everyone that could possibly give a damn about it, and I think this passing interest in neo-dandyism is on the far side of the bell curve now–which of course is great news for the real dandies. The general public, who are distracted by petty things like survival, will be oblivious to this momentous rise and fall.

Some rare hothouse flowers will doubtlessly stick with the trend as it declines, in hopes of another ascendancy in the future. The romanticism of such a gesture is somewhat touching, but personally I’ve never been interested in living out my life as a pumpkin growing inside of an empty bottle. There’s a self-amputating severity to dandyism that continues to fascinate me, though. (Not that this article I’m talking about is really about dandyism, mind you. I’m just making hay, as usual.)

I’m hoping for too much out of our beleaguered times, but I’d still like to see alternatives to modern male frumpiness that offer something beyond barbershop quartet costumes, “men’s magazine” luxury douchery, and Pee Wee Herman gear. It’s all good fun, but as a lifestyle it’s all pretty hard to take seriously.

Behind the harsh tone, this article makes a sensible point: express yourself, but don’t wear a costume because it’s corny. Unless your living depends on the continuation of this fad, there’s no need to be defensive. She’s right: it would be nice to have a long-term, everyday alternative to the clownwear on either end of the spectrum (thug chic vs. fop chic). To me, both extremes of this spectrum are expressions of childish decadence.

True-blue eccentrics and practitioners of the grand tradition of Camp should completely disregard this article (you’re glorious), but normal guys wearing an eccentric’s uniform should probably listen up. This article is a bit of tough love: big boy pants are the hot item this year.

Alright: back to things that actually matter. I wish you all a great summer.

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