Dandy of the Year: Lapo Elkann

head-shot.jpgHe’s young, good-looking and extremely wealthy. He’s fluent in six languages and the very definition of cosmopolitan, having been born in New York, raised in Brazil, educated in England and France, and now once again living in Gotham. He’s the scion of Italy’s preeminent family (the Agnellis, not the Mafia), and is quintessentially Italian. Style and fashion are in his blood, thanks to his aunt Diane von Furstenberg. He’s linked with sleek cars and even sleeker women. Perennially named to the world’s best-dressed lists, he’s officially a GQ style icon.

But that’s not why Dandyism.net has chosen Lapo Edouard Elkann its first-ever Dandy of the Year.

D.net salutes Elkann because this year he returned from exile. All good dandies must go into exile, either to escape gambling debts or arrest. Brummell and Jimmy Walker did it. Oscar Wilde did it, but too late. The Duke of Windsor did it, but for love. Celebrities and wannabes like Sebastian Horsley don’t go into exile, they merely go to rehab or jail or — worst of all — don’t go away at all.

cadillac-fins.jpgIn 2005, Elkann left his job as Fiat’s head of worldwide brand promotions and retired from the public eye. In 2007 he returned in a carefully choreographed public-relations campaign that nicely coincided with the launch of his latest venture, high-priced Italian sunglasses.

But more impressive is why Elkann went into exile in the first place.

One of Fiat’s two largest shareholders, the paramour of Italian starlet Martina Stella, the handsome face of the revival of the Fiat brand, and the hero of world fashion press, Elkann almost tossed it all away with a near-fatal overdose of cocaine and heroin downed with an alcoholic chaser while partying with Patrizia, a fifty-four year old transsexual hooker, plus two of her business associates, at her apartment in what passes for Turin’s red-light district.

Elkann’s irresponsibility, even if he were desperate for Laposuction, ranks right up there with abdicating the throne for a mannish double divorcé, and dashing your literary career by dallying with rent-boys while you have two smash plays on the boards.

Of course screwing up magnificently doesn’t make a dandy. A dandy must also have elegance and the proper demeanor, and Elkann fits the bill on both counts.

young-lapo.jpgHe looks like a dandy should. The 30-year-old’s personal style is eclectic. One day he will be precisely dressed in a blue double-breasted suit, spread-collar white shirt, solid tie and puffed pocket square, or a navy blazer and stripped pants with red socks and brown shoes. On the next, he’ll wear a bold-check suit with scarf, or he’ll spice up one of the impeccably cut suits he inherited from nonno Gianni Agnelli by wearing sneakers with no socks. For daywear he quirkily favors tuxedo jackets in bold and unlikely checks. He’s commissioned a Mediterranean-blue suit from the prestigious Rome tailoring house of Caraceni, executed to his specifications, accented by grosgrain lapels with the proportions of a 1959 Cadillac’s tailfins and a built-in cummerbund waistband, which he’ll wear with velvet slippers.

And increasingly Elkann’s slim frame — the product of the gym, bicycling and skateboarding — will be clad in something creatively casual that discreetly exposes tufts of chest hair and several chains and pendants, such as a double-breasted tweed jacket with an unbuttoned lime shirt, or an unbuttoned pinstriped royal-blue Oxford shirt, with sleeves rolled up, tucked into a dark blue pair of trousers cinched, a la Astaire, with a rope. On his best days, he pulls off a brilliant combination of the classic and relaxed with such combinations as a linen pinstripe suit paired with a denim shirt, thereby achieving that elusive sprezzatura.

casual-lapo.jpgAs for his lifestyle, Elkann pursues such dandy hobbies as chain smoking and drinking a dozen espressos a day. He’s an accomplished sailor, winning the 2003 Fastnet trans-ocean sailboat race with his older, more responsible brother, aboard Stealth, their ultra-modern yacht. His preferred mode of transportation, when he isn’t forced to drive a Fiat-affiliate Maserati or Alfa Romeo, is a very fast, very big motorcycle.

Elkann is charming and social, though perhaps a bit voluble for a dandy. He exhibited a wry, self-deprecating humor by hanging in his studio a poster for “I Was a Man,” a film about a hermaphrodite that bears the tagline “The Body of a Man, The Feelings of a Woman.”

We especially admire Elkann’s dandyish sense of superiority. Although he made his mark as Fiat’s promotions manager by splashing the Fiat logo on everything from clothing and accessories to comestibles and potables, today he disdains such vulgar display — at least for himself. When it comes to his own clothing and accessories, Elkann says, “No logo, and you don’t advertise for anyone. I don’t believe in imposed luxury. I believe in built luxury. Something you refine with your own taste. Mass luxury is not my luxury.”

Lapo’s luxury makes him a dandy deluxe and has earned him D.net’s acclaim as 2007 Dandy of the Year.

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132 Responses to “Dandy of the Year: Lapo Elkann”

  1. The Nouveau Edwardian Says:

    I believe that you either missed or are ignoring my point. I wasn’t trying to establish who is more dandy, Lapo or Whimsy, but only wished to point out to you that you are guilty of what you are criticizing D.net for and that is sitting in judgment of who is or isn’t a dandy. I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways, so if you are going to keep writing that Lapo isn’t a dandy than why can’t I or whomever say what we wish regarding someone like Whimsy, or others. I have no issue with you criticizing Lapo and in fact I agree that he wasn’t a very good choice, but I do have issue with your assertion that D.net is somehow wrong to make the same judgments which you appear to make. I disagree that you are more qualified than anyone at D.net to make such judgments, and I disagree that Whimsy didn’t deserve the criticism he received here at D.net. Most criticism here is based on the opinion of the forum which is a consensus of opinion from people who are well versed with regards to dandyism. There are a wide variety of people in the forum here from distinguished professors, to tailors, to students, to entrepreneurs, to journalists, and so on and so on.

    Now, just for the sake of Quid pro Quo, “Does this look like a dandy to you?” http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2376/2174696721_9761fcbca6_o.jpg , Is this a dandy or a pimp? http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2103/2175500584_69d4d137b1_o.jpg .

  2. Bricology Says:

    Nouveau Edwardian — I’m not trying to establish who is *more* dandy either. I _am_ trying to demonstrate that it is oxymoronic for a slob to be considered a dandy in the first place. I presume that you agree that there is a threshold below which a person cannot sensibly be considered a dandy. A man who lives in filth, who wears only stained tee shirts and sweatpants is simply out of the running, agreed?

    So if you will agree that it is possible to establish fairly objective _minimum_ requirements for being a dandy, then the question is, what are they? D.net attempts to establish them, but its criteria are riddled with illogic and contradiction. For example, here’s what D.net asserts “…are the (twelve) qualities that comprise the anatomy of the dandy, ranked in order of importance: 1. It is impossible to cut a dandy figure without being tall, slender and handsome, or having at least one of those characteristics to a high degree while remaining at least average in the other two.” Does this sound reasonable to you? That a man who is of average height, average build and average handsomeness is automatically precluded from being considered a dandy? –no matter how sophisticated and daring his taste and character? But let’s play along for a moment and accept this as true. What then of Max Beerbohm? D.net considers him to be an arch-dandy, yet he had _none_ of those physical characteristics! No, I believe that this is reverse-engineering. The Lords of Dandyism.net think themselves to possess these qualities, and so they declare them normative. (And full disclosure: I’m 6’3”, thin, and reasonably handsome, so I don’t have a vested interest in excluding those who are different than I.)

    Now consider the other eleven required characteristics cited. In descending order, they are as follows: “Elegance, Self-Mastery, Aplomb, Independence, Wit, A skeptical, world-weary, sophisticated, bored or blasé demeanor, A self-mocking and ultimately endearing egotism, Dignity/Reserve, Discriminating taste, A renaissance man, and Caprice”. I will readily agree that all of these are virtues that dandies would do well to possess. But there are two immediate problems. First, this list was subjectively compiled and ordered (and incomplete, in my opinion) and second, one may find examples of failings in every potential candidate. Standing bare-chested in Lederhosen at BuringMan? Surely that’s an egregious lapse in at least “Elegance” and “Dignity”, if not “Discriminating taste”. Does that mean that M is not a dandy? I wouldn’t go that far.

    It also begs the question as to whether or not the arbiters at D.net actually possess the same qualities they demand from others; it’s one thing to claim a quality, but another to demonstrate it. To my mind, driving a Miyata disproves “Discriminating taste”, given that it is a mass-market Japanese rip-off of the 1960s Lotus Elan (despite Mr. Chensvold referring to it rather obliquely as a “custom roadster”). Of course, Mr. Chensvold is free to disagree with my opinion and to argue in his defense, if he cared to. If the debate was observed with a critical eye by informed arbiters, I believe that I could prove my point. Would that disqualify Mr. Chensvold from being a dandy? I wouldn’t say so. I believe that it would merely show that his particular dandyism isn’t as refined as that of an identical man who drove the original Lotus, or some other vehicle that demonstrated more discriminating taste. Does this not seem reasonable to you? Dandy by degrees, over the threshold.

    So my position is fundamentally different from D.net in the nature of the judgments I put forward. D.net says that people — let’s say Whimsy, for example — are *not* dandies because they lack, I presume, “Dignity”, due to the playfulness he exhibits in his persona. But Whimsy clearly fits the rest of the requirements at least as well as any other living exemplar. “Elegance, Self-Mastery, Aplomb, Independence, Wit, A skeptical, world-weary, sophisticated, bored or blasé demeanor, A self-mocking and ultimately endearing egotism, Discriminating taste, A renaissance man, and Caprice”? Yep – I’ve noted all of these qualities in him. Whither Lapo Elkann? The case against him is, I believe, fatal. Yes, he’s reasonably handsome, and he has enough money to wear whatever luxurious clothing he wants. But he often seems to want to wear slobbish clothing, he’s frequently unkempt, he has abandoned “Dignity” and “Aplomb” on an epic scale, more than once. And yet, D.net declares him a dandy, and Whimsy, not. Does this seem even remotely consistent to you? Can you feature Beerbohm or Brummell ever appearing in public in an undershirt, with their hair a mess?

    Finally, in response to your last question (“Does this look like a dandy to you?”), I would honestly answer “Yes, it looks like a dandy, goofing off.” I’ve been known to goof off at times as well, although I shun cameras at those times. However, I would _never_ appear in public looking like a slob, and I would not wear advertisements for second-rate econoboxes; I certainly have no plans to shoot heroin and party with tranny hookers. There must be a threshold below which one cannot be considered a dandy with any fair defense. Mr. Elkann is demonstrably on the far side, and Whimsy remains on the near.

  3. M Says:

    So… No drink?

  4. Christian Says:

    My Dear Scooooter Rider:

    Quote: “The Lords of Dandyism.net think themselves to possess these qualities.”

    In no way do we claim to be the arbiters of dandyism. We are simply dandyism’s critics, not its practitioners. I’m nobody’s idea of a dandy, though I may be my own idea of one.

    You see, the dandyism of which we speak is not within ourselves, but lives and breathes within Dandyism.net.

    If we actually suckered you into believing that the Anatomy and Quiz were descriptions of ourselves, rather than elaborate ruses we laughed hysterically as we wrote, we’re more clever than I thought.

  5. Bricology Says:

    Mr. Chensvold — claiming that your website’s assertions were all “elaborate rouses” is neither convincing nor particularly clever. It certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to take your current professions of disagreement seriously. So, you now expect us to believe that the twelve “qualities that comprise the anatomy of the dandy” were a pointless confection, and far from the truth, eh? If this were your intention, then why do you praise most of those same qualities in Mr. Elkann, and criticize the supposed lack thereof in Whimsy? Indeed, if none of it were intended to be taken seriously, why bother discussing it with me in this thread? Are you the trolling variety of dandy? Or is this is all just an attempt at the (nonexistent) rules #6 — “Wit”, and #12 — “Caprice”? No, the veneer of farce is its own farce.

    M: what would the purpose of having a drink together? If you find my opinions disagreeable on the page, surely you’d find them more so in person.

  6. M Says:

    “M: what would the purpose of having a drink together? If you find my opinions disagreeable on the page, surely you’d find them more so in person.”

    It’s my sporting nature. You give me a righteous hard time and I invite you for a drink. I’d certainly rather share a drink with someone I disagree with than some slavish little yes man. Come on. It’ll be a lark.

  7. Bricology Says:

    By the way, M — I found your column from two months ago (“The Fake’s Progress”) ironically perspicacious:

    “Similarly, a self-destructive, speedballing sleaze in a t-shirt is just that. But let him pimp his personal bents and character flaws clad in a velvet suit and music-hall version of a gent’s shirt and tie, nail him to a cross (and make sure those cameras are rolling, darling), and he’s suddenly the new Montesquiou.”

    Now, who do we know who’s fond of self-destructive speedballing, sleeze and t-shirts? Ah yes — that would be Mr. Elkann.

  8. the new edwardian Says:

    “Mr. Chensvold — claiming that your website’s assertions were all “elaborate rouses” is neither convincing nor particularly clever. It certainly doesn’t encourage anyone to take your current professions of disagreement seriously. So, you now expect us to believe that the twelve “qualities that comprise the anatomy of the dandy” were a pointless confection, and far from the truth, eh?”

    Maybe you should have read the last line from his “Anatomy of the Dandy.”
    “For in the end there is not a code of dandyism, as Barbey writes. “If there were, anybody could be a dandy.” Get it???

    As to what you wrote in response to me, I’ll let you have the last word and we must simply agree to disagree.

  9. M Says:

    Nice catch, Dr. Derrida Jr.

    Will you drink with me or not?

  10. Christian Says:

    And will you take a ride in my roadster or not?

  11. the new edwardian Says:

    Don’t trust them Mr. Bricology. They are being far too nice, so something is awfully fishy. I think the plan is to get you drunk with M, then into Christian’s roadster and then over to La Brea Tar Pits to liquidate you. Be wary!

  12. Miguel Antonio Says:

    The dignity and reserve of Mr.Bricology won’t allow that to happen.

  13. Laguna Beach Trad Says:

    This discussion is taking a toll on my health. The emotionalism is almost unbearable. I’m afraid I was forced to down two more G&Ts simply to get through his last few posts.

    Carry on, Mr. Bricology.

  14. Bricology Says:

    M: I’ll say “perhaps” on the matter of drinks. When do you move to “Frisco”? (And I do hope you’re using that nickname ironically. Natives have even less a sense of humor than do I.)

    Mr. Chensvold: I’ll take a ride in your roadster if you’ll “ride bitch” on the back of my scooter (as M so incisively wrote)

    New Edwardian: I generally don’t trust people who appear nice but have gone out of their way to ridicule people whom I know to be kind and harmless. In my calculation, such people are worth more than the even the most elite of snobs. And coming from an elitist snob such as myself, that’s significant!

    LBT: Better mix yourself a pitcher — a withering post of overwhelming emotion is coming this way soon. Very soon. Wait for it…

    all: I’ve contributed to the Technorati ratings of this site enough. Please, ye gods! Let it end.

  15. M Says:

    I am a native. I worked at Enrico’s, was friendly with Herb Caen and an investor in Cafe du Nord. Ever go to the Ellington Supper Club Wednesday nights at Cafe du Nord? That was my show.

    Anyway, I always thought “‘Frisco” was charming and used it when I wanted to tweak the nose of some City snob. I think you know what I mean. Caen, who wrote a book called “Don’t Call in ‘Frisco,” even came around to it in the end.

    But never mind. How does Bourbon & Branch (I know Todd Smith, one of the owners), Thursday January 17 sound? I should be settled in by then. I can meet you there and afterward you can take me home on your scooter. I’ll ride bitch.

  16. Bricology Says:

    “I am a native. I worked at Enrico’s, was friendly with Herb Caen and an investor in Cafe du Nord. Ever go to the Ellington Supper Club Wednesday nights at Cafe du Nord? That was my show.”

    Ah. My wife’s a native too, a fact she never lets me forget. I’ve only lived here since ’85; an arriviste, by her standards. No, I never went to du Nord for anything but the occasional concert; the space makes me a bit claustrophobic.

    “Anyway, I always thought “‘Frisco” was charming and used it when I wanted to tweak the nose of some City snob. I think you know what I mean. Caen, who wrote a book called “Don’t Call in ‘Frisco,” even came around to it in the end.”

    I have no problem with “Frisco” in the right context, but I have met people from far outside of the city who’ve called it that in my company, and I always cringe, waiting for the withering put-down from natives. I miss Herb Caen. I didn’t know him personally, but just seeing him around town and reading his column were reassuring. I do have most of his books, tho’.

    “But never mind. How does Bourbon & Branch (I know Todd Smith, one of the owners), Thursday January 17 sound? I should be settled in by then. I can meet you there and afterward you can take me home on your scooter. I’ll ride bitch.”

    Riding wouldn’t be necessary for me; I live just a couple of blocks away. I can’t guarantee the 17th; I likely have to be up at 4 o’clock Friday morning; I’ll know more definitively within a few days. You can reach me directly at bricolage at mail dot com (note the proper spelling of my e-mail versus my screen name).

    Oh — and pistols or foils?

  17. M Says:

    Just being your rapier wit.

  18. G~ Says:

    Bricology…
    So you’re a dandy, and you live in the S.F.area? Come out and play! http://www.peers.org http://www.gaskellball.com .
    Despite your tendency for long, rambling, self important posts, we might get along. I would be curious to meet you, and happy to have another dandy to chat with. You’ll recognize me, look for another dandy ;-]

  19. Bricology Says:

    G~ wrote “So you’re a dandy, and you live in the S.F.area? Come out and play! http://www.peers.org http://www.gaskellball.com .

    We’ll have to see. I admire the Gaskell scene and have friends who have been in and out of it over the years, but my era of interest is the mid-20th century (‘twixt Swing and Disco), so I’m not sure how much I could get into earlier styles. But I thank you for the invitation, and will consider it.

    Despite your tendency for long, rambling, self important posts, we might get along.

    You must’ve missed Anatomy of the Dandy Rule #13: “Persuasion — A dandy will spare no words in order to make his point be known to all. ‘The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.‘ –Oscar Wilde”

  20. habitually chic Says:

    I’m not sure I agree with your choice. Lapo is the BFF of an artist friend of mine and every time I see him, he looks a bit disheveled. Maybe it’s because all the time he spends downtown or maybe the equally dishelveled artist has rubbed off on him. Whatever the reason, he needs a haircut and a mirror nowadays.

  21. The Cad Says:

    Lapo clearly has far more money than taste. An excellent choice.

  22. hel Says:

    “He’s fluent in six languages” … but ITALIAN! really awful. and laughable.

  23. Louis St.Lewis Says:

    What real dandy would even read this drivel without vomiting?

  24. Decadent Says:

    This thread has provided me a chuckle of the month. Exactly what we need: thrusts, parries and ripostes.

  25. Enzo Says:

    Hmmmmm
    Caraceni suits come from Milan, Patrizia the tranny whore’s real name is Luigi, he was found in the turin Trannies appt wearing a dress and makeup.

    He suffers from herpes.

  26. Patricklehman Says:

    I know I’m a few years late to this party. But I met Lapo in Paris a few weeks ago and found him to be completely charming. I think the young should be allowed the stylistic transgressions of youth. I think being found in a coma with a trannie is about the most glamorous thing in the world, but that’s just me.

    I like that he turned his life around, and is an active participant in a huge, and profitable business, not just a parasite sucking money from his family. I don’t share his style, it’s a bit flashy for me, but I appreciate it. It’s fun, and embodies the color, energy and exuberance of Italy. I think Dandyism implies a splash of vulgarity to cleanse the palette, and jolt the eye into seeing something new. And I suspect a lot of a lot of these “dandies” have a stick up their asses. We’re not curing cancer darlings. Lighten up!

  27. Lord Brummell Says:

    Lapo Elkann is just a stupid hunky that apperas on our gossip reviews for using cocaine, trannies, spaeking in a strange way etc.

  28. Style Inspirations – Lapo Elkann « Alex Donald's Multiverse Says:

    […] rare for a man not directly involved in fashion and he is certainly one of the 21st century’s notable dandies. (The […]

  29. Silvia Siqueira Says:

    Ho bisogno di parlare via mail con Lapo Elkann.
    Fiat questione seria in Brasile.
    Nessuno si risolve nulla alla Fiat Brasile, e vuole
    offuscare l’immagine di Fiat in Italia.
    Ho bisogno di aiuto da Lapo Elkan, di dire tutto
    Lo so.
    Grazie .
    Silvia Siqueira Gomes da Silva
    São Paulo – Brasil
    telefono : 55 11-9408-3794

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  31. Lapo Elkann – English | Who's Your Dandy? Says:

    […] man is part of most lists when the subject is stylish men. Mr Elkann also was Dandyism’s first Dandy of the Year in 2007 and dubbed ‘Lapo of Luxury’ by Vanity Fair. GQ also likes talking about Italy’s king […]

  32. Lapo Elkann – Nederlands | Who's Your Dandy? Says:

    […] statements staat hij op bijna elke lijst met stijlvolle mannen. Dhr. Elkann was Dandyism’s eerste Dandy van het Jaar in 2007 en hij werd ‘Lapo of Luxury’ genoemd door Vanity Fair. Ook GQ schrijft regelmatig over […]

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