Pity in Pink

pink-flannel-suit.jpgOften criticized as Dandyland’s Grand Inquisitors, Dandyism.net has taken a bold step toward coming to terms with dandyism in the new millennium by forging an international alliance with the pink panther pictured at left.

Or rather, he’s formed an alliance with us.

The chap in question is John Dodelande, the 18-year-old French wunderkind (if a Frenchman can be a wunderkind) who has taken le tout Paris by storm with his audacious fashion designs, as well as stylish furniture, retail boutiques, restaurants, yachts and literary publications.

That’s if you believe his publicist.

Doodles (our term of endearment for him) loves pink suits: He not only designs them, he actually wears them in public, including on the cover of his revolutionary magazine-cum-book, and all over his website, which includes periodic posts about dandyism.

Doodles has also invented Doodism, a sort of 21st-century combination of dandyism and dodos, along with the innovative concept “Wo Wi Wo,” which stands for “World With Words.”

With his youthful good looks, flamboyance, enterprising creativity, and Dada penchant for jabberwocky, Doodles has just eclipsed former Dandyland exile Doran Wittelsbach as frontrunner for 2008 Dandy of the Year.

Despite his sartorial judgment, Doodles’ dandy acumen is rapier-sharp: His website describes D.net as “Le meilleur site américain sur le dandysme.”

So when his factotum sought out an interview with us, we could hardly refuse. The French version appears here, while the English version follows below.

During the course of the interview, D.net’s Junta opined on a variety of subjects of interest primarily to ourselves. We also discovered that when translated into French, our dry understatement becomes riddled with exclamation points, the punctuation equivalent of Gallic gesticulations when speaking.


Here’s the English version:

Christian M. Chensvold, you launched Dandyism.net in June 2004. Did you get up one morning and decided to share with the world your views on dandyism? What gave you the idea to create this website?

I had written a few articles on dandyism before, and had noticed there was no central resource on the Internet for dandyism — in any language. Reluctantly I decided to launch the site, and continue to maintain it as a painful duty. —CMC

I was very impressed by the quality of the articles on your website. Articles are very well written and all the contributors seem very well read. Does one need a college major in 19th- century Western literature in order to qualify as a dandy?

You only need a degree in Western literature if you want to write about dandyism. A degree in literature, or indeed any college degree, is a distinct disadvantage for a dandy, unless it’s from a state university, which in the United States is the equivalent of a lycée professionnel.

Dandies, you see, would rather go to the casino than to a concert, visit their tailors rather than the theater.

But don’t get the wrong impression. Dandies are not philistines. They love to go to the opera, to see their mistresses dance in the chorus, and they hold artists in the highest esteem, since their models are often nude. — NW

I have counted no less than 17 people as members of The Junta, i.e. the team behind Dandyism.net. Would you say that your site is a company, a brotherhood, or a club? How does one become part of The Junta?

Becoming a member of the Junta requires the ability to miss our strict editorial deadlines, which are currently 8 months in advance. Many lesser dandies have actually turned in their articles on time, at which point we’ve been forced to fire them. — CMC

You make a distinction between artists and dandies. When I read your site, I sometimes feel that one cannot be both. Why is that so?

Every contributor to Dandyism.net has great respect for the arts. Chensvold runs another website, FineArtsLA.com, where he covers opera and ballet. Robert Sacheli is a member of the Arts Club of Washington, founded in 1916. I once read a poem, and when Nick Willard was a child, he used to make sculptures with his mashed potatoes.

But not all artists are dandies. That is not an insult, it is merely a fact. In history there are many examples of dandies who are also artists. These include Beau Brummell himself, who was a very clever draftsman, Max Beerbohm, who as well as being a talented theater critic also wrote many insight short stories and character studies, as well as novel, and Saki (H.H. Munro), who was also a writer of great wit and charm. Certainly the English cartoonist, set designer, painter, draftsman and writer, Oswald Lancaster, was a dandy.

Dandyism.net has occasionally objected to some artists being called dandies. This is because some people confuse dandyism with dressing outrageously in order to draw attention to onself. There is nothing wrong with dressing outrageously in order to garner attention if you wish to become a famous artist. But that is not dandyism. It is part of a strategy in a marketing campaign. If dandyism has an object, it is to be as elegant as one can – in dress, in deportment and in conversation – for its own sake.

Dandyism can never serve a practical purpose. — M2

You track down the roots of dandyism to Beau Brummell, and 19th-century British and French dandies are often quoted on your site. As a historian of dandyism, how do you explain that Italy did not provide its fair of dandies at the time, even though we all know how stylish Italian men can be nowadays?

As the sole member of the Junta of Italian descent, I think a better question might be “Why did it take so long for the British and French to catch up?”

Consider the vibrant images of masculine style that still speak to us in the sculptured curls of the Roman nobility or in the richness of Renaissance portraiture. The merchants and explorers of the age of discovery opened up not only new trade routes but also brought some of the opulent influence of the East into the men’s styles of their day. Generations of popes have used the splendor of costume as one of the signs of their earthly as well as spiritual power. The young gentlemen who embarked on the Grand Tours of the late 18th century often found the fashions of their Italian counterparts among the most spectacular of souvenirs. And remember, this is the land that gave us one of the prime tenets of dandyism, sprezzatura.

Dandyism in England, and to some extent in France, grew out of a reaction to cultural trends and prevailing social attitudes. I’d suggest that in Italy dandyism — or perhaps more properly, masculine stylishness — was a concept that found a more historically welcome niche in the national character. Nineteenth-century Milanese who exercised their prerogative, if not their obligation, to present themselves as tastefully turned-out gents were admired. Do the same in Victorian Manchester and you’d likely be branded a bounder or incite some nasty whispers about your preference in bedmates.

Until the emergence of widely recognized and influential dandies such as d’Annunzio and Carlo Bugatti we may not have known many of the names of those Italians of fashion, but we certainly can recognize the heritage of the men who made their country a land where being un dandy naturale is a birthright. — RS

Italian men are too passionate and sexual to be dandies. Dandies are cold, detached, and sexually dysfunctional — like the English. — NW

The forum on Dandyism.net is very active. What do your forum members talk about?

The forum is a salon where contemporary dandies may put their coruscating wit on display. It is moderated with a very light hand. The only rule enforced is “Don’t be boring.”

As a result, as you can imagine, sometimes the discussions become outré: members reveal perversions, such as wearing spats or ascots. — NW

Where do you like to shop in Paris?

The venerable Charvet (28 Place Vendome, 1er) is my idea of shirt and tie heaven. The Italian textile firm Voghi has a small shop where I’ve found some of the most beautiful scarves and pocket squares (33 rue Jacob, 6e). Dyptique (34 blvd. Saint Germain, 5e) makes one of my favorite scents, the fig-based Phylosykos. For inexpensive everyday style, you can’t beat Monoprix; I like the branch on the rue des Rennes. A scarlet satin-finished silk waistcoat was my find among the well-edited stock of shirts and accessories at Ray Club Paris (76 rue Turenne 3e). Because gentlemen are not defined by clothes alone, I can’t think of a better combination than a Partagas Serie D robusto from Casa del Habano (169 blvd Saint Germain, 6e) accompanied by an exquisite 50-year old argmanac from Ryst-Duperion (79 rue de Bac, 7e). And raising a toast to the spirit of Oscar Wilde in the chic bar of L’Hotel (13 rue des Beaus-Arts, 6e) is required for any dandy, since died upstairs when the establishment was known as the Hotel D’Angleterre. — RS

One of the great men’s stores in the world is Arnys – a beautiful store with a grand staircase. Its garments are divine. I own six of their signature Forestière coat in a variety of fabrics, including a demi-mesure made in chinchilla. For shoes I go to Aubercy: their ready-to-wear shoes are dashing yet classic. Their custom made styles, however, are strictly for pimps. We’ve highlighted on our site Marc Guyot’s Cape Cod, which carries very dandy accent pieces inspired by Jay Gatsby and American Trad. Just don’t buy your entire wardrobe there — you’ll look like a gangster in a grade B 30s movie. — NW

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29 Responses to “Pity in Pink”

  1. AQG Says:

    He can’t be French. I thought only Americans wore lapel pins. In any event, shame about the belt on the jacket. Rather a detail too far.

  2. the new edwardian Says:

    A well done interview full of wit and insight. I particularly enjoyed the take on Italy and dandyism. Kudos!

    P.S. Is it wrong of me to hate his pink suit???

  3. ferrando Says:

    We’ve found ourselves to be even more delightful in another language, so for the next month, all of the Junta’s editorial meetings will be conducted en francais, which our interns will translate into English, inserting Laban notation to indicate shrugs, hand gestures, and disdainful postures. I’m even going to propose “I Love Paris” as the theme of this year’s D.net staff talent show.

    QuestGent, give young M. Dodelande a bit of a break. The photo is a perfect illustration of Sartre’s (or was it Prof. Emile Flostre’s?) theory of Dandy Relativism. He’s a pup, and in Paris, ergo the belted pink suit comes of as youthful and refreshingly exhuberant. A 40-year old American steps out of customs at JFK dressed like this and he’s simply pathetic or angling for a shot in the NYTimes “On the Street” roundup.

    I encountered a practical application of this philosophy yesterday. Trying on a jacket in two different sizes,
    I asked a sales clerk to take a look and weigh in. “Well, if your’re wearing it in Paris, go with the smaller one.”
    (Who knew? Retail wit at Filene’s Basement.) Though a return to France is looking unlikely soon, I took his advice. I’ll simply hum “La Vie en Rose” when I wear it.

  4. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Is it wrong for me to love his pink suit?

    PS. I’m impressed by the mention of Charvet by RS and Arnys by NW, both superlative stores.

  5. AQG Says:

    I am cutting him some slack, Ferrando. I’ll admit to liking the pink suit. I couldn’t wear the thing now, but at M. Dodelande’s age I probably could have done it justice. My objection to the belt is that it breaks the clean line. If you’re young and trim, as is the specimen under consideration, wear clean, sleek clothes. Similarly, I probably wouldn’t have gone for all of the prominent stitching at the seams and edges. Let the color and clean lines speak for themselves. I’ll say this for the lad, he’s no retro-eccentric though there might be just a touch of Don Johnson about the outfit.

  6. ferrando Says:

    It is neither right nor wrong to love or hate a pink suit. What is indeed wrong is to be indifferent to it.

    Glad you’re impressed by our Parisian shopping knowledge, MA. And by impressed I take it to mean that this is the simply kind of essential information you’ve come to expect to find here at D.net,, not that you’re surprised that Nick and I don’t scout the boulevards for T-shirts that proclaim “J’aime Paris” or feature visual double entendres (double vus?) involving the Eiffel Tower and a couple of rounds of Boucheron.

    I actually did not include one of my favorite boutiques because I could not verify if it’s still open. It’s a button shop called Iris, which supplies high-end fasteners to some of the fashion houses. They’ll take any of their buttons and convert them into cuflinks or studs while you wait, and I’ve picked up sets of each. They’ll also make earrings, which are great inexpensive gifts if you’ve a lady awaiting your return. Any of our correspondents know if it’s still at 150 rue Saint Honore, 1er? (Maggie, check it out when you next get to Paris and report back, if you please.)

  7. Beau Brown Says:

    Unlike some of you, I happen to find the pink suit to be absolutely horrendous.

    However, the clothes doesn’t always make the man. While this may have a few loopholes in the subject of dandyism, I still think that his interview with the Junta was very well done.

    I don’t like the suit, but I like the man.

  8. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    My reaction to that suit is the same as my reaction to most examples of recherché design: it’s cool, but I wouldn’t want it in my house.

    In other news, I had no idea that Nick was part Italian.

  9. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Ferrando, how can bottons be of use without buttonholes?
    The answer is here: http://www.thematerialist.net/secretvice.html

  10. Ferrando Says:

    yes, that’s a classic dandy tract, Miguel. I remember that’s where I first learned about the secret vice back in the days when folks read things in books.

  11. ROT Says:

    Just in time for…. what exactly?

    http://www.assouline.com/books/details.php?idproduct=424

  12. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Someone did copy my strategy for promotion purposes. Evil capitalism! Dandyism will beat you!

  13. G~ Says:

    You know, the only thing that I can say in regards to this young would-be gentleman is M. d’Aurevilly’s comment “Dandyism is a distinctly English thing”. Because as façionable as he may be in his own country, and as, dandy-esque as his own countrymen might consider him: he is NO dandy in any real sense of the word [alas, were I homosexually inclined, I might just well join his horde of admirers]. Looking at his website, one cannot but notice how actually mediocre his designs are, appearing to be mostly drawn from the latest “Barbie’s fabulous pink wardrobe line” for little girls.

  14. M Says:

    I rather like the pink suit. Fellow’s a kick.

  15. the new edwardian Says:

    Don’t get me wrong when I ask if it is ok that I hate his suit. I’m not saying this fellow isn’t “a kick” to look upon and I’m not saying I don’t like his attitude. In fact I do, but like G points out it may be wrong to confuse his eccentricity with dandyism if this is now the issue being discussed. As Barbey D’Aurevilly once wrote, “Every dandy dares, but he stops at the intersection between originality and eccentricity.” While I often times will wear pink ties or shirts I’ve always hated that particular color of pink is really what I’m saying. I believe it is known as “Pepto-Bismol Pink.” Other than that I’m happy he is out there being different and eccentric although it isn’t my idea, nor does it appear to be D’Aurevilly’s idea of dandyism.

  16. M Says:

    Didn’t say he was a dandy. Said he was a kick.

  17. the new edwardian Says:

    And I agree with you that he is indeed quite a “kick.” I just dislike “Pepto-Bismol Pink” is all.

  18. Miguel Antonio Says:

    “Dandyism is a distinctly English thing” Barbey d’Aurevilly

    Doodles is too French and too fashionable to be a Dandy.

  19. G~ Says:

    Doodles is too French and too fashionable to be a Dandy.

    Too French- Yes
    Too fashionable? He is about as fashionable as Lord Whimsy

    Doodles is what Mr. “Can of Alpo would be if he were sober long enough.

  20. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Lord Whimsy as fashionable as Doodles? I don’t agree. Whimsy is anachronistic, Doodles is futuristic. Also Alpo, or Lapo is more fashionable than Whimsy as well.

  21. G~ Says:

    Alpo is more fashionable than Whimsy? Bite your tongue! I find the very idea of using Alpo’s name in the same phrase as the word fashion very wrong somehow: I doubt Alpo could even spell fashion.
    Alpo is gutter chic, as for Whimsy, he is fashionable in that Oscar Wilde “NOTICE ME! NOTICE ME!” way. Doodles is fashionable in the French “no I’m not gay, but I can still look prettier than your girlfriend way” [back in the day it was wigs, lace, high heels and rouge, nowadays it's bespoke pink vinyl, 2 button décolleté and a perfect Parisian accent]: Doodles oozes more estrogene than many American ladies

  22. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Fashion is contemporary, as Mr. Alpo and Mr. Doodles. Whimsy is anachronistic, then not fashionable.

  23. G~ Says:

    Fashion=contemporary? That I do not agree with.
    The key element in fashion is aesthetic, the key element of aesthetic is pleasure. If a man’s outfit does not bring pleasure to the viewer, it cannot be considered fashion. Whimsy is fashionable in a retro sense [although he considers himself a futurist- heh], whereas I doubt alpo is sober enough when ever he gets ready to go out to think about fashion [and to look at the garish s**t he wears] the last thing it brings to the viewer is pleasure.
    Doodles is fashionable is an ultra-modern/playboy style [as I said, if Alpo used his brains for something other than scoring his next hit, he'd look like Doodles, who at least wears harmonious loud ensembles].
    So where as I have a personal aversion to Doodles style, it does have a certain aesthetic [albeit loud], and Whimsy, while looking like a failed cross between Oscar Wilde and Poodle Bing, nevertheless wears matching ensembles. – Alpo is either color blind, or too stoned to bother matching his ensembles, and therefore brings no pleasure to the viewer: hence can in no way be considered fashionable.

  24. Miguel Antonio Says:

    I nominate G~ to the Junta. He is better than the rest (Mr. Christian is not included here), except for Robert Sacheli as far as I am concerned. Also please allow me to get into the forum, as Mr. Chensvold has so far not allowed me to do so. Thank you.

  25. G~ Says:

    No…I’d never make the Junta. I have several bad habits they could never put up with, like getting my submissions on time, coming to work sober and a fondness for listening to old Heavy Metal classics while working.

  26. Miguel Antonio Says:

    “getting my submissions on time”

    I agree, this is –too– much.

  27. Miguel Antonio Says:

    “and a fondness for listening to old Heavy Metal classics while working.”

    Heresy!

  28. Steven Freestate, Esq Says:

    Hmmm. Actually I am indifferent to the Dodelande’s pink suits. Without apology.

  29. futility Says:

    While I appreciate the place of the rapier wit among the tenants of the house of dandyism.net, I do so long for just a glimpse of the Junta’s own taste in finery if only to banish the ever growing suspicion that these witty missives are, in fact, composed while clad in Scarface sweatshirts, Zoobas and flip-flops.

    *sigh* I suppose it will never come to pass as it seems to be truly a dandyism.net dandy is to be a critic at best and often merely a nag.

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