Who’s The Dandy?

This above all: A dandy must dress like a dandy. Ah, but how does a dandy dress?

It has always been hard to pinpoint, and it certainly changes over time. The great dandies started as innovators and ended as fossils. It is only with hindsight that we can judge who is timeless.

But what identifies a dandy has become even harder to pinpoint today. General attire has gotten so casual, standards so relative, change so rapid. Who’s a dandy and who is merely well dressed, who is innovative and who is eccentric, who is classic and who is bland, who is dashing and who is ostentatious, who is stylish and who is slavish — who’s to tell?

You, of course.

Below are three men. Use the leave-a-comment feature and tell us who’s the most dandyish and why. Don’t criticize the minutiae of the outfits: Nobody cares that you would have worn checked socks instead of solid. Focus on the overall issue: does he look like a dandy or not?

Here are the candidates:


The first gent adheres to Brummell’s dictum that “If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed, but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable.” He is understated in a solid navy suit and a squared-off white pocket handkerchief. While John Bull may not turn around to look at him, is he still too stiff or too tight? Especially in a society of track suits, flip flops and trucker hats, dressing up may suffice to look like a dandy, but does he have enough pop?

The man in the second photo reeks of cigarette smoke and spezzatura. His attire is relaxed and informal — polo shirt, jeans and wide belt — but tailored. He has carried the Beau’s principle of simplification into the new millennium, but is he elegant enough?

The boulevardier in the last photo believes in color and a flourish of individual touches. He enlivens the standard-issue navy pinstripe with a pink hat, pocket handkerchief and tie, and further accessorizes his ensemble with spectator shoes and two pairs of glasses, one perched on his nose and one dangling from his jacket pocket. Attention to detail or accessory overload? Modern-day dandy or retro gangster?

If your comments are especially canny (or nasty), we’ll make this a regular feature. That means we’ll run another trio for you to pick apart when we‘ve run out of fresh material, and a post about Willard’s preference in shoelaces has been the lead story for two weeks.

Pictured are Robert Burke and Lino Ieluzzi (via The Sartorialist), and an ad for Marc Guyot (via A Suitable Wardrobe).

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56 Responses to “Who’s The Dandy?”

  1. Benedict Says:

    The man on the far left has far too brash a smile and shirt to be a dandy; in fact, his cuffs seem to have retreated up his arms in shame.
    The gentleman in the centre, meanwhile, seems to be more studied as he on the far left; the undone cuffs and carefully-folded pocket square show a self-conscious deliberation, especially with the appearance of the casual polo-neck shirt and wide belt.
    However, he on the far left has the appearance of a man whose eclecticism is not a pose but a development of the individual; the colonial panama and the Jazz-Age spectators are items which would not be out of place in any but the most slobbish or conservative wardrobe – welcome touches of individuality, along with the respectable modern/trad suit, which elevate his outfit from the arriviste boulevardier to the sublime.

  2. Gothic Dandy Says:

    Frankly…none of them are dandies.

    #1 is well dressed but has added a pink shirt which draws too much attention to his very red face…bad taste. Also with white collar and solid blue suit [with no hint of design] he looks like an American flag. He needs a pattern or something break up the very strong colors

    #2 Is simply not elegant enough for a modern dandy. When everyone is uber casual, a certain formality distinguishes the dandy.

    #3 Too much! He has the right idea, but there’s too much there. Get rid of something [the hat, one of the pairs of glasses, the two-tone fancy shoes, lose the dog…something]

  3. Andre LeFarr Says:

    Let us start with Aspiring Dandy Number One. I have dubbed him “Dr. Lavender” Technically the shirt isn’t LAVENDER, but Dr. Pink just doesn’t sound right.

    Alright. Doctor Lavender, here’s my evaluation. Firstly, don’t look so happy. Please, you’re… You’re just embarrassing yourself. Dandies have a certain quality that you, for all your custom-tailored clothes, simply do not have. Speaking of the clothes, let me begin by telling you about your coat. There are times, my friend, when it is appropriate to dress as you are. These times are relegated to those when one is playing Wesley on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A character, by the way, CALCULATED to appear completely overdone and posh, and in general what all Americans THINK the brits are. This is something you have succeeded completely at. If you are attending a Buffy convention, then your costume is, I assure you, most convincing. Otherwise, you look awful.

    So, I shall now address our second Aspiring Dandy. This would be the gentleman on the far right, who I have dubbed “Gums” because of the afore-mentioned association with the 40s. This is, in fact, something I don’t see, as I am of the belief that one can wear pinstripes and a hat without having just walked out of a noir movie. He seems to resemble the sort of person who has read about dandies in a book, but doesn’t quite know how to be one yet. He simply has too much. Perhaps if he removed his hat, or lost one of the pairs of glasses. Possibly worn less showy shoes. Maybe he could give his dog a quick way riverboat ride, sans boat. This would, in my eyes, make the look look far more dandy.

    The reason I have not called our friend in the middle yet, is simply because I find him to be the dandiest. Perhaps a different belt and no watch chain, but of the three I find him certainly the dandiest of all.

  4. nicethingsthatlookgood Says:

    Left Man: while he appears to dress more fashionably than your average man, he doesn’t look comfortable. And I’m seriously questioning the white collar tips.

    Middle Man: Out of the 3, The Dandy of the group. He looks good, he knows he looks good, he hasn’t “tried to hard”, and as M. Möhling states, his face indicates a life having been lived. And though this doesn’t “make” a dandy, #3 is the only one who appears to not care about money in it’s tangible form, but more about THE THINGS money can buy him…and that is the mark of a dandy.

    Right Man: Is having some sort of identity crisis, and i sincerely hope he works it out in the near future.

  5. Henley Regalia Says:

    The commentary offered here has been incredibly educational. I echo Laguna Beach’s sentiment regarding the wit and writing style of Sobriquet and R.W. Wittinslow, as well as their insight regarding the question at hand.

    Yet, I struggle. Not a single one of the three candidates strike me as being worthy of the award. Perhaps Miguel Antonio’s observation that “…the dandy is an anachronism…” offers up the explanation. However, the whole point of all of this is to make a decision given the pictures of the three candidates offered up.

    I can only reflect upon those “icons” (forgive me!) of dandyism who are perhaps closest to our own time — Fairbanks, Coward, Astaire, et.al and attempt to liken one of the candidates to a very vague and subjective definition that comes from my reflection.

    Given this, the gentleman in the middle gets my nod — only because I was able to imagine him, not in his Ralph Lauren attire, but “dressed up” as are the other two candidates. It is my sense that our denim-clad friend would come across far better than his two competitors…

  6. Bob Says:

    Its is clear, having scrutinized these three photographs carefully, that the cute little dog in photo 3, wearing not only a fine leather collar, but has chosen to complete his look with a pink, white and pinstripe-adorned cigar smoking accessory, that the dog is obviously the biggest Dandy of them all !

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