What Makes a Dandy Style?

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Nowadays, there are still well-dressed men with refined sartorial tastes or “metrosexual” guys who pay exaggerated attention to their physical appearance. Maybe you can refer to these men as modern dandies because they pretty much have the same characteristics as the dandies from the Victorian era.

a Victorian gentleman wearing eyeliner

But what really is a dandy? What makes a man dandy? 

Historically, the term refers to any man in 18th– and 19th– century Britain who placed particular – and yes, exaggerated – importance to his physical appearance. His language and manner of speaking were refined. He was always dressed in elegant clothes and would never go out unpowdered or unperfumed. He involved himself in leisurely hobbies and affected a nonchalant, world-weary, bored, and blasé demeanor. Dandies usually came from a middle-class background, had no noble blood, or didn’t have any innate characteristics of the aristocracy. They mainly were self-made men who strove to adopt an aristocratic lifestyle and build strong connections to advance themselves to the privileged society.

However, the reality behind the “dandyism” is that they lived in a world of pretentiousness and illusion. Or, more appropriately, delusions of grandeur. They were like actors living out their fantasies that could never come to reality, adopting and embracing outward characteristics that aided them in their personal and public deception.

Other terms for dandy include “beaus,” “exquisites,” “fops,” “macaronis,” and “mashers.” 

an 1805 caricature of Beau Brummell
An 1805 caricature of Beau Brummell the model dandy

The most obvious thing about being a dandy is, of course, the clothes. The choice of clothing reflects the dandy’s elegant (and often flamboyant) sartorial tastes. The model dandy was Beau Brummell (born George Bryan Brummell in 1778 – died in 1840). He was known for favoring understated but perfectly bespoke (custom-made) and tailored garments, such as immaculate linen shirts with high collars, elaborately knotted cravats, and beautiful dark coats. It’s said that Brummell took about five hours to dress every day, although he prided himself on appearing as though it didn’t take much time and effort at all. Through Brummell’s friendship with the future King George IV, he left a lasting mark on English fashion.

If you want to play a dandy for a day, you should definitely study what types of clothing that Beau Brummell and other historical dandies had. Dandies ardently followed the latest in 1700s and 1800s fashion.

But if you’d instead choose to be the modern dandy, here are the rules that you should follow to achieve the 21st-century dandy style.

Stylish man wearing a vest and sitting outside

  • A man should have, first and foremost, confidence in pulling off the “dandy look.” He also should feel comfortable in his specially coordinated outfit. While you love a particular suit or a fashion accessory, it’s also crucial that they should complement your overall features. Clothes are a form of self-expression. To be the classic gentleman, you should wear your clothes with pride and confidence.
  • A dandy goes for impeccable, tailored clothes. If it looks great and fits perfectly, then it’s acceptable. Anything that is poorly tailored and shoddily finished is considered “out.” It’s so much better when you have your clothing custom-made that fits you immaculately and is designed precisely according to your style.
  • Generally speaking, a dandy doesn’t “dress down.” For sure, he doesn’t want to be seen in public wearing simple T-shirt-and-jeans outfit or sweatpants. He will always go out exquisitely dressed whether he’s attending a black-tie event or he’s just off to a neighborhood café to have brunch with friends. It’s also improbable that he spends his time in casual clothing.
  • While dandies would rather be caught dead in public dressing down, they otherwise hate to overdress. A dandy’s flair for the fashionable doesn’t lead him to over-accessorize, nor does he not need to follow the latest fashion trends to stay “in style.”
  • Being a dandy is not just about the clothes. It’s also about grooming. Make sure that you pay careful and diligent attention to your grooming and always appear immaculately clean and fresh-looking. Any dandy gentleman cannot afford to be caught in public sporting disheveled hair or untrimmed, overgrown beard. He will maintain a clean haircut and hairstyle, as well as neatly trimmed facial hair. He should invest in quality grooming products like a signature cologne and fine facial and shaving creams – because, for a dandy, there’s no such thing as being too much invested in personal hygiene.
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