Who’s The Dandy? — The Boys of Summer

Shortly after his arrival in Africa, the narrator of Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness” meets an accountant wearing a spotless white suit in the middle of the jungle. Although he’s but a colonial numbers-cruncher, the image is an arresting one: Might such a triumph of elegance over environment be the ultimate dandyish gesture?

Dandies of the Brummellian ilk delight in the sober shades of fall and winter, but d’Orsay-type butterfly dandies shine best in summer, delighting in suit fabrics such as gabardine, seersucker, linen, dupioni silk and fresco, and shirtings made of gossamer cloths like voile and batiste.

Although the dandy can dress with panache in the most sweltering of climes without relying on a suit and tie, as our own Nick Willard has demonstrated, when it comes to formal dressing, the dandy faces two divergent paths: He can show his disregard for the mercury and remain sharply tailored, or he can embrace the lazy days of summer with a softer silhouette and a rumpled sprezzatura.

And so we submit for your encomium or disapprobation the following gents, which include two new faces and four notorious ones. Which one best expresses summertime elegance?

Candidate number one (below left) is a newcomer from the pages of the New York Times. He is dressed up from head-to-toe, making no visible concession to the heat and even donning a waistcoat as an extra layer (or two layers, since it’s double-breasted.)

On the right is Will, who previously faced off against manton in the WTD gladiatorial arena. He’s stylishly dressed in seersucker, but what about the dark tie and pocket square?

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Candidate number three, socialite Geoffrey Bradfield, is still wearing his forced smile, though his trademark double-cuff-shoot is sadly absent. Is the pink suit a daring statement, or is he only channeling John Dodelande? And the bit loafers with no socks — summer staple or gauche gesture?

On the right, Andrea Sperelli, another previous WTD contender, expresses everything about summer except the joy. Does he resemble a Bright Young Thing at Oxford, or a Wimbledon linesman dressed by Ralph Lauren?

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Candidate number five is James Jimenez, a decadent impresario who, as you can probably tell, is a close friend of Lord Whimsy. A fan is certainly one way of staying cool. Next to him is Dandy of the Year Lapo Elkann. Does the ventilating open neck and the three mismatched shades of white epitomize sprezzatura or merely slovenliness?

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22 Responses to “Who’s The Dandy? — The Boys of Summer”

  1. mgr Says:

    Sperelli, definitely. He’s got the attitude and displays the sartorial elegance we’d expect from a dandy. As for the others: Candidate #1 wears a suit but I can see no dandyism in there. This may be due to the kid though, kids tend to spoil dandyism. Will looks like a husband who tries to play it nice. The jacket doesn’t even fit very well. Horrible combination of colours, as well. Geoffrey Bradfield wears just a pink suit. The ‘je ne sais quoi’ is missing there. The surrounding he’s posing in is not very helpful either. James Jimenez wears a really nice suit, fan and eyeglass but the hat is a big no-no, overdoing it & making him look rather ridiculous. Looks like Boy George, doesn’t he? And Lapo Elkann, well, still looks stylish but can’t compete with Sperelli here.

  2. Barima Says:

    The newcomer carries the day here. He’s adhered strongly to the classics (the DB vest alone would put him in the top 3), but wears them with total comfort and and an air of completion. He even looks at ease lugging his kid around and I think that takes some sprezzatura. He would have totally failed the *summertime* part of this elegance test but for the relaxed aspects of his silhouette and the brighter elements of his colour palette

    Mr Sperelli’s a close second. He mixes his colours with style and is at least as tasteful as the first gent, but in this case his adherence to classicism makes him look as if he’s off to the Brideshead premiere. Will looks neat enough, but the colour of his trousers undoes the complementing aspects of the rest of his ensemble – they look too light to work with the seersucker DB and consequently, his bucks as well. Lapo’s worked a similarly light coloured DB outfit in his better groomed past and it’s effortlessly superior to Will’s. Freaky Rictus Guy’s pink suit – well, you get what you see. Combined with the colour of his face, he’s closer to Mr Blobby than Mr Dodelande and his expression doesn’t convey the attitude needed to appear at ease with his poorly-chosen appearance. It’s like someone put the wrong garment in his wash. Mr Jiminez looks as if he read the same Conrad passage mentioned at the top and decided to recreate it, aiming for costume over genuinely individual touches. And Lapo really has done better in the past, though funnily enough, he’s done better *since* this photo was taken, in terms of both dressing for the season and his current yen for looking dishevelled but (possibly) stylish. As it is, he’s too rumpled to look relaxed, but fashionable enough to avoid looking like a genuine vagrant

  3. The Nouveau Riche Edwardian Says:

    I’ve always liked Sperelli’s aristocratic vibe, but his dress has a dated feel as if he stands on the precipice of retro-eccentricity. The retro look can be fun, but with a modern dandy it feels more like a copy rather than an original expression. The same could be said for the African-American gentleman who looks well put together, but in a very Gatsby 1920s way. I would have to throw James Jimenez in with that group as well although he looks like an interesting character, but again way too retro. Lapo is a mistake all around which we shouldn’t even bring him back up. He looks and dresses like a rich drug addict. Geoffrey Bradfield isn’t bad looking although that suit looks a bit 90′s and I never really liked pink suits at all. He doesn’t look comfortable to me, but perhaps it is just the photo. Last but not least is Will who always appears to have a great attitude. He wears the cloths and not the other way around. He isn’t a poser as some may be and I happen to like the color combination including the dark tie which seems to contrast well. That said I’m not sure I would have gone with that tie, but it looks fine in the photo, and perhaps what marks him out more as a dandyish character. Of the lot I think I would place Will first with perhaps Sperelli in a close second simply because I do like his look, retro or not.

  4. scott Says:

    Candidate 1 wins by default for me, though, to his credit he does look great and seems to be thinking “how can I ditch the kid and find a good drink”.

    Candidate 2: ill fitting coat spoiled it right away.
    Candidate 3: are those black loafers with that light suit? Terrible. And he looks like he’s in costume.
    Candidate 4: poor picture for a man I’ve seen more elegantly dressed. This one smacks of effort, and the effort fails for me.
    Candidate 5: Fool
    Candidate 6: Derelicts find better clothing combinations.

  5. M Says:

    Will. Perfectly classic and yet contemporary.

  6. M Says:

    Will’s coat ill-fitting? Well it is pulling on the button a little but that’s only because he’s reaching back to hold the rail, non?

  7. scott Says:

    Will’s arm hole does not allow for much movement, and it looks as if (though I could be wrong) the shoulders are to wide. In any case, he should be able to lean on the rail, or for that matter shake another gentleman’s hand without that great pull from the armhole to the button (see the fool labeled candidate 5).

    Perhaps this is a DB thing, though. I am not familiar with how they should fit and pull.

  8. AQG Says:

    Number 1, the outsider, wins. If that’s not a modern version of Brummell’s ideals, I don’t know what is.

    In second place, Will.

    Third. Lappo Elkan. What the Hell? He at least looks natural.

    Fourth. Pink Suit Boy.

    Fifth. Spirelli. I have an allergic reaction to the scarf. Not the scarf per se, mind you, but the pattern/color. Just doesn’t do it for me. Also, one stripe on the lapel edge would have sufficed. Two are just excessive.

    Sixth. The Jimenez character. Is this dude sporting makeup or is that his natural palor? Either way, he looks terribly washed out in all of that pale clothing.

  9. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    Will is the only one I can imagine taking seriously. All the others are hamming it up one way or another (or down, in the case of Lappo).

  10. Mr Thompson Says:

    What a great variety! And what examples of How to Try Too Hard. Our Study in Pink: trying too hard. The clothes overpower him, though that may be the forced “look-at-me-posing” pose. Similar with Spirelli’s Good Outfit Worn Uncomforably. Jimenez: Good God, man, when your collar turns yellow, launder the damn thing. And he’s wearing stage make up. And a monocle. I reeeally hope he’s in a play. Otherwise he should be shot. People Not Trying Too Hard–Contestant No.1: I LOVE the outfit, but not for summer. If he’s in Maine that may work, but he’d melt into a puddle of goo in the South. More of a Spring vibe to me. That leaves us Lapo and Will. Lapo’s rumpledity almost seems forced, and of a (shall we say) limited appeal. Winner to me: Will. Nice crisp collar, airy light and summerweight with contrasting dark bits, and completely natural wearing it. Yes, the arm scye is way too low and pulling awkwardly, but every OTR jacket made since 1950 does that.

  11. Will Says:

    Compare me to whom you will but for the love of god at least link to A Suitable Wardrobe.

  12. Christian Says:

    Link is in new right-column blogroll called Confreres.

    And relax: So far there’s general consensus you’re more elegant than a rich drug addict.

  13. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    None of the above. However, Will and the black guy are tied for second place.

  14. Miguel Antonio Says:

    A black man with his effortless elegance is The Dandy.

  15. John Says:

    I like Will, Candidate #1 and Sperelli

  16. G~ Says:

    Nice choices!

    1- Very nice, I like the ensemble, not to bright nor too somber- I think I’m going for a tie between he and Will…[he'd win were it not for the kid, Will would win if he could achieve an air of "detente"]

    2- nice ensemble, but still looks a little posed and stiff.

    3- nice ensemble, but I need sunglasses to really appreciate it [too much pink, needs something to soften it]

    4- Nice, but I’ve seen better on him [slacks almost too short and exaggerated by cuffs, and the cravat doesn't work]. He also kind of carries the “disdain” a bit too far, he looks more constipated than refined

    5- A costume, not a dandy’s outfit.

    6- Alpo…You’re kidding right? [he actually looks worse than usual, like he just awoke from a 2-day binge]

  17. Blepharospasm Says:

    Holy cow! Where do you find the weirdoes?

    Who are the well dressed men? Anonymous Black Man and Will, though ABM is channeling the past and looks like he’s wearing a costume, and Will needs to change either his pants or his shoes: they clash.

    Who’s the dandy? Not the Eurotrash Lapo; he’s just Cocaine Chic. Not the ugly old lady in pink, either; she just looks out of place on this planet.

    So the dandies–and I use the word in its disparaging sense–are the queen in makeup and the freak in the bizarrely-piped blazer-like object. The dandy in a positive sense is ABM.

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