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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61 Responses to “Who’s The Dandy?”

  1. Beau Brown Says:

    I would have to vote for the gentleman on the far right. He is not quite as plain, tight, blank or even dirty-looking (relating to the gentleman in the center), but instead has taken the modern-day suit and has added his own personal flairs, and a good combination of colors and patterns (lutz, anybody?). So basically, out of all of these men, the gentleman to the far right is probably the most dandy of them all.

  2. Mr Thompson Says:

    I almost hate to say it, but I’m in for Cigarette Smoking Guy. Casual without being rumpled, he looks at ease in his surroundings. His outfit looks naturally put together, but is obviously well thought out. Most importantly, he looks as if he isn’t trying–and that wins the dandy prize for me. CPA Guy and Street Fop look self-conscious, stiff, and studied by comparision: “My, don’t I look nice today!”

  3. the new edwardian Says:

    Oh What Fun! The gentleman on the left has a jacket which is too tight fitting although I like his shirt, but otherwise fairly average. The gentleman in the center is rather too casual with the look of a weathered writer, but does possess a certain something in his look that does stand out, or he is put together well if only he would lose the wallet chain. The guy on the right with the dog has some very classic elements that are not too retro-eccentric, so work in today’s enviorment. I do like his shoes, but find his tie a little odd. Although I’m not a hat person, his hat works well and again isn’t giving off any 1940’s vibes which hats like that quite often do. I would say of the three the gentelman with the dog is perhaps the most dandy.

  4. maggie Says:

    I suppose the man on the far right, even though I detest that hat (why couldn’t he just wear a flat-cap?) and the cigar looks stupid.
    The man on the far left, while using nice colours, just isn’t enough… he need just one more thing to make it cool.
    And I could never choose the man in the centre. He looks fine from the waist up but he has one of those bloody chains on which I dispise. :^)

  5. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    The chappie on the right really is full of himself, isn’t he?

    But all three of them miss the mark in different directions. A quick look at The Sart reveals plenty of better dressed men: any of these guys, for instance. Even this retro guy shows more substance.

  6. RJ Sauls Says:

    The dog is, of course, the only Dandy in the examples given. Natural and perfectly relaxed in fur.

  7. Miguel Antonio Says:

    All three are well dressed but I’m afraid there is no dandy here.

  8. M Says:

    Curious, Michael A., to hear your reasons why.

  9. Miguel Antonio Says:

    The first gent is plain and the gent in the far right is a parody of the dandy. So the guy in the middle could be an aproximation of a modern day dandy, however he is not one. I think the idea of the dandy is an anachronism and perhaps impossible to make real in this era of minimalism, informality and triviality.

  10. Walter Says:

    The gentleman in the center is the only one that has the “I dont give a damn what you think” look. That is more essential than any accessory.

  11. M Says:

    Miguel, so the one on the left is too cold and the one on the right is too hot and one in the middle is just right but the dandy is dead so he’s not, so there? Hmm…

    Walter’s comment hits on something. Demeanor counts. Can you tell a dandy (if the dandy is not dead) by a picture alone? I think not. I think any one of these men could be dandies but I’d have to meet each for lunch, go out for drinks, perhaps take in a show or shoot skeet before I could make such a judgment.

    The other thing left out is context. The chap on the left could be an investment banker or an attorney, in which case I’d have to say his ensemble stands out while fitting in rather perfectly. The old boy on the right’s outfit would a nice compliment to a springtime picnic in Golden Gate Park, or watching a croquet match with a $20,000 purse at Meadowood (even if he is a bit heavy with the pink). The Laurenesque chap in the middle would look great during a weekend at Somerset Farm, my friend’s horse ranch in Northern California.

    But again, dandyism is a whole package with range of attributes. I don’t think you can tell just from one photo.

  12. the new edwardian Says:

    I concur with you M however, as you point out there simply is no way to determine any characteristic other than looks. With this in mind, which of three do you find the most dandy?

  13. Ryan Oakley Says:

    I’d have to give it to the fellow on the right. He would fit in and not fit in to the same degree no matter where he went. That outfit, though not to my liking, would be equally foreign and equally at home in high society or the dirtiest punk bar. That’s freedom and movement and individualism.

    The fellow in the center looks like he has money but hates clothes. He’s slumming and drinks beer to make a point. The fellow on the left looks like a lawyer. Enough said.

  14. ian Says:

    None of the above. The gentleman on the left is well dressed for work and no more. the gentleman in the center is certainly not spezzatura. He like the gentleman on the right is trying too hard. Each of these men seem very affected in their own way.

  15. R. M. Wittingslow (literary syphilis) Says:

    The gentleman in the centre. Part of dandyism is also doing informality well, and (with the exception of the wallet chain) he does. The one one the right looks like an affected prig, and the one on the left looks far too fucking eager to even begin to qualify.

  16. Miguel Antonio Says:

    I concur with RJ Sauls. The only true ‘dandy’ in the above photos is the dog.

  17. Laguna Beach Trad Says:

    May we have a new selction of photos, please?

  18. HRH The Duke of Windsor Says:

    I must agree with Miguel’s reasoning that none of the three are dandies. I like the chap in the centre for his nonchalance though I join in the opprobrium over that ridiculous chain.

  19. Verve and Panache Says:

    The one on the far right, surely. All three, as Mr. Mattis said, are well-dressed and might qualify under the right context, but as much as I am opposed to too much anachronism, I think he pulls it off the best. The other two just don’t have an extra something in their look that qualifies them above the mere “well-dressed” label.

  20. M. Möhling Says:

    The most dandyish? Sorry, I don’t know. There’s a vague whiff of foppiness circling the gents on the left and right. Mr. Left might want do deflate before wiggling into jackets too tight and having photographs taken. As for accessorially challenged Mr. Right, I’m missing a pooper scooper, which should make for a good dandy and a poor citizen. Anyway, let’s make up for inept vacillations by being anal about sprezzatura. As Wikipedia says, “an Italian term, […] the art of making the difficult look easy”, which didn’t grace spelling, here. No need to worry overly, though, as there is spezzatura indeed: a term related to blazonry. Close, but no cigar for the resident Dandy of the House.

    …so I don’t know? Maybe I know something: the gentleman in the middle is the only one with a face that seems to indicate a life having been lived – and thus is worth being remembered. Does that make a dandy? Not necessarily.

  21. Petronius arbiter Says:

    I personally choose the middle candidate. The one on the left seams to have too much of a business like quality in his attire and the one on the right is too retro-eccentric and a satire of Pelhams maxims to say the least. Even though the one in the middle is not perfect atleast his general appearence is one of casual elegance; one must never appear to be trying hard to dress well.

  22. scott Says:

    I don’t have a vote for any of them, but a comment on the man in the middle. Unbuttoned jacket cuffs smacks of effort. You actually have to go out of your way to do that, and the only reason to do so is to show people that you can. It may not be affectation, but it always comes off as ridiculous to me.

  23. jason Says:

    I’d have to say the middle guy. The one on the left is a bit pedestrian. The one on the right is ridiculous.

    From a distance, Mr. Middle is someone that John Bull would not notice, but up close the details reveal themselves.

  24. Laguna Beach Trad Says:

    Very well then. I have seen the chap on the left in other photographs. He is not a dandy; he is merely well-dressed. While I admire the studied casualness of the man in the middle picture, I detect something dirty about him. The look in his eyes hints at dark deeds with young girls. Plus, his hair is much too long. The outfit on the chap on the right is far too contrived. It seems unnatural on him. Plus, the hat and shoes give him a sinister look, a feeling no doubt shared by the little dog who has one of those “Get me the fuck away from this nutcase” looks on his face. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Nevertheless, in my opinion, none of these gentlemen is a dandy.

  25. Veblen Says:

    The fellow on the left, Robert Burke, was the erstwhile P.R. man for Bergdorf’s, and now runs a “Luxury Goods” consulting firm in New York. Mr. Center, Lino Ieluzzi, owns Al Bazar, a men’s clothing store in Milan. As far as I can tell, the person on the right is just a model in a fashion shoot for Marc Guyot. I think this is why he seems contrived and artificial to me. He is. The other two men are living real lives.

    Anybody know who Mr. Far Right is?

  26. Christian Says:

    I spent some time editing this story, as I do with all the posts; however, it was Nick who chose the candidates. Initially I would agree with many of you that neither is particularly interesting (#3 becomes more hilarious the more I look at him). But I think that Nick was very clever (I’m sure he’ll say it was intended) in choosing more or less extreme examples of certain ways of dressing, presented in the context of what dandyism looks like today. Forget the individual outfits for a moment: What we really have here is Simple/Understated Guy, Fashion/Casual Guy, and Retro-Eccentric Boulevardier Guy. So your answers reveal which camp you’re in. Do you think dandyism is or should be timeless elegance, up to date and fashionable, or anachronistic? Not surprising, we have a range of opinions on that.

  27. Walter Says:

    Mr Far right is Marc Guyot. (a very nice man I would add)

  28. The Nouveau Edwardian Says:

    Walter, is it the Marc Cuyot of this website? http://www.marcguyot.com/1.aspx . If so, then some nice items even if they have a retro touch.

  29. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    I suppose that’s a fair enough summation, Christian. However, I would like to add that in addition to hating his wallet chain, I’m not a huge fan of the middle fellow’s jeans or belt either. The high-end jacket + polo combination is certainly nice, but it is his easy, vaguely disreputable and rumpled quality that is truly worthy of admiration.

  30. Ferrando Says:

    Here’s another look at Sr. Leluzzi:

    I’ve got to give him the nod over the other two fellas. He’s Continentally channeling that relaxed Bill Blass bespoke look. I’m not too crazy that he can’t seem to keep one set of buttons per outfit fully closed, though, but he carries it off. When I see a white-collared shirt like Mr. Left’s I’m reminded that a London banker friend told me how his collegues used to mock the guys from the New York branch who showed up in the City togged out like Gordon Gekko. And there’s something simply too stiff and studied about M. Guyot here, so he’s not my dandy Mr. Right.

  31. M Says:

    I can only hope to look that good when I’m Leluzzi’s age. Which is in about 4 years, I reckon. I’ve got a lot catching up to do, on my clothes and my tan.

  32. Miguel Antonio Says:

    (I’m a person, not a spam script). It’s nice to see the men on the photo collection are real and ‘discreetely famous’ people.

  33. M Says:

    Welcome aboard, non-spam-script Miguel. Do you ever post in the forum?


    – Who now has comment envy because this post has gotten more than Fake’s Progress. Damn you, Nick Willard!

  34. Morley Says:

    Funny how these seem to correspond to, from left to right, Chensvold (imagine this fellow with hair and no glasses, and you’ll see it too), Mattis, and Doran Wittlesbach.

    As to who is the most dandyish, I must say that #3 has the best suit, but has ruined it by over-accessorizing. I would vote for number one, but his particular lack of attention to detail and inability to downplay his less positive traits (the man has head the size of a watermellon) has done him a great disservice. Both ought to keep in mind when dressing each morning that there is fine line between being anal-retentive and banal.

  35. Miguel Antonio Says:

    I don’t post in the forum, maybe it’s because I have not been allowed to do that. I don’t care because I’m just learning. It is an excelent site.

  36. sobriquet Says:

    Each can be disqualified simply, by the presence or lack of subtle yet all-important details.

    The first gentleman has his hand in his pocket, obviously with a jacket that lacks side vents. To put one’s hand in one’s pocket without the intention of immediately retrieving something related to smoking or paying a check or shooting a mugger is bad enough, but to do it without side vents… And anyway, I tend to believe that dandies – historically – simply don’t smile as much as he is, at least not in front of cameras.

    The second gentleman comes nearest being dandy of the three, and yet doesn’t make the cut, as he’s smoking with his entire face instead of just his mouth, which is vulgar because it betrays exertion, and, again, just take a look at that pocket, stuffed to capacity with half the man’s arm. The belt-and-chain, as part of the uniform of generation-xers and punk teenagers, just seems silly here.

    The third is furthest removed from dandyism, primarily due to his pocket square. Had he made a puff of it, or even just a small puff behind the three exposed corners, or anything with some verve – he would rocket from third place to first – but, as it is, it resembles the sort “pre-folded”, as sold to highschool prom-goers. It’s just too timid to take the rest of him seriously – and in fact, from it, one can deduce all manner of conclusions regarding his deportment, very few of them favorable. Additionally, the waistline obvious through his jacket suggests a poorly fitting suit, or perhaps his having gained weight since first purchasing it. There’s something of the flamboyant fop in this fellow – but very little of the dandy. If the cigar he’s holding is particularly tasteful, however, my judgement could be altered entirely. Though, unfortuantely, the wrapper seems a bit too light and the ash a trifle too short for that to be likely.

    Forced to pick between them – which is, I guess, the point of all this discussion – the first in the series takes it, because at least he appears confident without employing blatant artifice, which seems less true in the other two cases, where each gentleman appears to be trying much harder than the first for their “image” – while failing, ultimately, to be aesthetically appealing fellows.

  37. rodrigo Says:

    In posts like these, only commenters with their pictures should be allowed to post. Then we should see if these dandy masters so difficult to please would please anyone themselves.

  38. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    “Only necrophilic pederasts can truly judge the actions of other necrophilic pederasts.”
    “Ah yes, fascinating thesis, Rodrigo. Please, tell me more.”

  39. rodrigo Says:

    If you say so, Wittingslow, but I mean something simpler: some people using the easy device of trying to prove their own (supposed) dandyism simply by criticizing others’.

  40. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Rodrigo, I believe you don’t need to be a dandy to be able to judge one. As it’s not requiered of a film critic to direct films. In fact being a dandy could be an obstacle to be able to judge other dandies, because of personal prejudices and worldviews. Philosophical inquiry comes in mind, as it needs detachment.

    On the other hand Mr. R.M. Wittingslow I think dandyism is a virtue, ceirtanly inferior to wisdom or even prudence, but it’s not a crime or inmorality like the actions of ‘necrophilic pederasts’.

  41. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    The respective criminalities of dandyism and necrophilic pederasty are irrelevant given the nature of the logical phallacy that Mr Rodrigo is committing; viz.: that in order to judge something, one must do that thing.

    Specifically: the fact that one activity is legal and the other is illegal is not at all germane in the specific context of this debate given that a) Rodrigo did not introduce legality as a variable in the logical equation he presented and b) even if he had, the question of legality does not provide an objectively qualifiable measure of value, but merely a simulacrum of a measure of value.

    Going back to his original beef re whether or not the dandies are dandies; having met an embarrassing number of the gents in person, I can vouch for their uncommon style and aplomb (not to mention their manly stories and ability to hold a drink).

  42. LB Trad Says:

    Brilliant. Very nice, Sobriquet and R.W. Wittingslow. It is for comments such as yours that I visit this site.

  43. Christian Says:

    Not the stories that inspire the comments?

  44. Miguel Antonio Says:

    It seems the people in charge of this site got scared with the large number of posts, and implemented an anti-spam solution. I think the fault may lie on my shoulders as people tend to come in droves when I decide to do something, even the fashion world think dandyism is the ‘in’ thing right now ;).

  45. Christian Says:

    Wrong, especially considering we asked readers to comment. The post just happened to have coincided with a deluge of spambots.

  46. Nick Willard Says:

    We always have had an anti-spam filter in place or otherwise we’d be deluged — over 40 a day — with spam. All posts must await approval by C. or me before they appear on the site. That has always been the practice since we added the comment feature over a year ago.


  47. M Says:

    *I can vouch for their uncommon style and aplomb (not to mention their manly stories and ability to hold a drink)*

    Hold a drink?

  48. Laguna Beach Trad Says:

    Christian – I was admiring the wit and writing style displayed by Sobriquet and R.W. Wittingslow. But yes, I should have added, the essays here are very inspiring and informative too. Both this site and FNB are very useful in that regard. I prefer the essay format over message boards.

  49. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    Michael: Those of us from the colonies take great delight in the art of gross understatement.

  50. Kouros Says:

    I don’t even understand how one can attempt to give an answer to this with only one dimensional picture of all three individuals. We can maybe attempt to make statements about their personalities but being a dandy is a bit more complex than being sharp, hip/cool or eccentric. Oops!

    None of the following words individually; sharp,cool,stylish,elegant,eccentric,dapper or playboy equate to dandy.
    A combination of some or all of the aforementioned words stated right above can possibly have a better chance. Gents, one must not forget, it takes a lifetime of constant display of the art to be remembered as the arts formed prized artist.

    The 1st picture displays a sharp business like fellow, I can’t seem to separate him from his work, whatever that is, from Balzac perspective it would be a no, the 2nd one displays a hip man in his 50s who is not yet done with dating models and/or the international eurotrash bar scene, so clearly a no for him. Finally the last one displays a certain amount of eccentricity but requires a better tailor. The mid section separations below both sides of his chest are unacceptable!!

    If we are forced to give an answer it should be the 1st one because the 3rd one’s tailoring mistakes are unforgivable and unforgettable.

    Mr. Sobriquet I like your response. It’s brilliant!

  51. 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.

  52. 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]

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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…

  56. 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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