Perhaps the most famous of all dandy admonishments is Brummell’s simple warning, “If John Bull turns to look after you, you are not well dressed, but either too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable.”
Later worthies echo the Beau’s sentiment. “Never in your dress altogether desert that taste which is general,” is one of Pelham’s maxims in Bulwer-Lytton’s novel. “The world considers eccentricity in great things, genius; in small things, folly.”
And in his essay “Dandies and Dandies,” Max Beerbohm writes, “Is it not to Brummell’s fine scorn of accessories that we may trace that first aim of modern dandyism, the production of the supreme effect through means the least extravagant?”
So it was with great amusement not long ago that I came upon an old acquaintance who recounted an anecdote that perfectly illustrates these long-held dandy ideals.
Carlos is a fine young man of conservative style, prone to academic-looking corduroy jackets, who had recently interned at my company before moving on to a nonprofit organization. I asked how his new gig was going. “It’s the most ‘San Francisco’ place I’ve ever worked,” he said enthusiastically.
“In what way?” I asked.
“The place us full of eccentrics,” he explained. “Real San Francisco-style originals. There’s even a guy who dresses like he’s on his way to the Dickens Fair.”
“Really?” I said, arching an eyebrow. “What’s his name?”
And so I offer a new twist on an old maxim: “If Carlos turns to ask if you are on your way to the Dickens Fair, you are either too retro, too eccentric, or both.”
(Mr. Seeley is pictured at left at a company picnic.)