Assiduous Nemesis

sard.jpgRecently a reader known as Dr. Bathybius left a comment on Michael Mattis’ post “Life’s Not Fair.” The comment was a piquant one, and as the post was no longer the lead, we feared the comment would go unseen, and that all hell would not break loose. So we contacted the poster, expressed our interest in running his comment as its own post, and requested a photograph of himself in his finery. In exchange, we gave our dandy word of honor (admittedly not worth much) that we would not editorialize at his expense, such as by wondering aloud, for example, whether he is one of the founders of International Talk Like a Pirate Day. The doc agreed, in exchange that we fix his embarrassing typos.

And so we present a mini-essay from a genuine retro-eccentric (and LiveJournal blogger), pictured at left in an exclusive photo for D.net.

It seems there is a war between the GQ-Dandies and the Bohemians/Décadents of which I was previously unaware! Well then, “…into the breach! …every man-jack of you!” I had thought that refinement of experience (sartorial or otherwise) was the order of the day (callow youth that I was). But, alas, after taking the ‘How Dandy are you’ quiz, I realize that I am already pre-reviled by your elite fashion cadre as an eccentric, an oddity and perhaps even (dare I say it?) a clown! This is most especially distressing in that Mr.Mattis belongs to the same confraternity in SF that we (Mr. Seeley and myself) do. Has he forgotten his scandalous San Franciscan roots? The name of this organization he well knows, but I’ll not mention it here (to protect all relevant parties).

Like all divergent species, we each have a common set of ancestors, whether Brummell, Baudelaire or Barbey d’Aurevilly. Let us find some solace or unity in that. If not, let the martial horns blare, and I shall gird my loins for doing battle with misguided and effete miscreants arguing over the number of tassels that the ideal ox-blood tinted loafer should be festooned with (2 tassels too staid? 3 tassels completely outré?). Let the tyranny that the sack suit has exerted over the 20th century be laid waste, and a more enlightened time dawn where the male homo sapiens has yet more radiant plumage than his crypto-gynocratic mate. After all, I would rather be a comical lion fighting on my feet, than a pallid, navel-gazing fashion-lemur like Tom Wolfe, in his Antebellum, white-washed, pseudo-”Slave-Owner” togs, carefully cogitating the rarefied alchemy that is the “two-olive martini,” all the while genuflecting at the altar of tepidness.

“Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur!”

Gentlemen, I remain your assiduous nemesis ever,

REA3      8¬}D-

P.S. Young Mr.Seeley is an actual friend of mine. Please consider him my second at the duel.

When Bathybius submitted his photo, he offered the following:

The suit (if you’re curious, or a fact-collector) is bespoke as tailored by Favourbrook of Jermyn Street, (Saville Row/Picadilly), London:

http://www.favourbrook.com

Again, my reason for commenting in the first place is to bemoan the fact that Dandyism seems to become a more and more restricted definition with time. Where is the splendor of current male sartorial fashion? Whenever I see yet another stereotypical navy blue blazer with brass buttons, I muse, “Where are the explorers? Where are the new frontiers? Can one re-purpose the fashions of the past (with modifications/updates) to create new taste-pleasing forms? More highly refined aesthetics?” Admittedly, I freely embrace the Décadent/Symbolist, Belle Époch/Mal du Siècle aesthetic, which would not be everyone’s choice, but I am speaking more of method than of matter.

As a guide to this line of inquiry, I would point to the following publication, which is at least a sign-post of what I am aspiring to (whether I am successful at it or not, one has one’s ideal and one must do what one is capable of doing in realizing said ideal):

“The Man of Fashion: Peacock Males and Perfect Gentlemen” by Colin McDowell.

Well enough of my prattling…

My warmest felicitations to you and Dandyism.net.

Digg TwitterFacebook StumbleUpon

33 Responses to “Assiduous Nemesis”

  1. Christian Says:

    While there may be less male peacockery than there used to be (or at least a different kind), this does not equate to dandyism’s definition becoming more restricted over time. In fact, the word and concept has become virtually meaningless, as evidenced in the article linked to in the post “Questfallen,” and in the recent book “The New English Dandy.” However, the overall rise of casual dress is likely related to the concept of dandyism becoming murky.

    Got a chuckle over the choice of the sack suit as the ultimate symbol of mediocrity holding tyranny over the 20th century, considering hardly anybody today even knows what that means.

    I’m afraid I follow Spengler’s theory of the organicism of culture. Menswear has exhausted its possibilities. There will be no more innovation in menswear until we all start dressing like characters in a science fiction movie. You’re not going to wear anything no one else has thought of before and not look like a complete ass. For this reason, I prefer wearing what I call archetypal items of clothing. They also have the advantage of not overpowering their wearer.

    I think you prefer archetypal clothing to “new frontiers” as well, it’s just that the archetype your drawing on is no longer relevant, hence the charge of retro-eccentricity.

    I still enjoy Decadent novels and Symbolist painting, but prefer to keep those things in my bookcase, not my closet.

  2. M Says:

    “Gynocratic?” Help out with that one, Ryan.

  3. Fortinbras Says:

    “Crypto-gynocratic”, eh? Well, you’ve got “kruptos” for “hidden”, “gyn” for “woman” and “kratos” for “power”… Honestly, I haven’t the foggiest what our good friend means, but I will say that he just about misses making a good point in his follow-up email about the homogeny a fringe element such as dandyism can breed.

    We’re all aware of the shift modern dandyism has made towards trad and away from eccentricity of any kind, and how existing in the overlapping section of this Venn diagram can, more often than not, lead to one seeming terribly dull. Unfortunately, I simply cannot accept any serious ruminations on such matters from a man who looks like he’d do anything for love (bar that).

    Still, good show and all.

  4. Christian Says:

    I’d love to take credit for the shift in modern dandyism, but I’m afraid the move away from eccentricity of any kind is only shared by the D.net staff and a small number of its readers. The press and other writers on the topic continue to emphasize the outré Whimsy-Horsley-Wittelsbach side of things (it’s a lot more colorful, after all), as do a large number of our readers.

    We are the lone orthodox branch of dandyism, to use Wittelsbach’s term.

  5. Anon999 Says:

    Was Archer a Dandy?

    The photo of Dr. Bathybius reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, The Age of Innocence. Archer is wearing a smoking jacket, sitting in his wonderful Victorian library, poring over the latest crate of books from London.

  6. Christian Says:

    From a 2008 point of view, every 19th century character brought to life through the medium of cinema was a dandy.

  7. Dr.Bathybius Says:

    Gentlemen, what a genteel reception! I am equally humbled and honored. Your points are all very well taken. Young monsieur Chensvold’s comment cuts very much to the heart of the matter:

    “I’m afraid I follow Spengler’s theory of the organicism of culture. Menswear has exhausted its possibilities. There will be no more innovation in menswear until we all start dressing like characters in a science fiction movie. You’re not going to wear anything no one else has thought of before and not look like a complete ass. For this reason, I prefer wearing what I call archetypal items of clothing. They also have the advantage of not overpowering their wearer.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with your inductive reasoning here, but not your conclusion. Must we accept this state of complete sartorial torpor forever? Will it take a ‘Big Bang’ to get us out of this rut? Or is the next advent of men’s fashions crawling even now out of the primordial seas, brackish swamps and humid haberdasheries of what has already gone before, ascending, as I say, onto Terra Firma for new conquests, new sensations? Has a gentleman’s closet become a tomb where his once splendid habiliments moulder, mummify and fossilize for lack of anything better to supplant them with yet more radiant splendors? I cannot accept the status quo (for myself, that is)! Especially since so many gentlemen and dandies believe that perfection is a ‘state of being’ (which is to say ‘static’) exclusively, and not, moreover, a constant wanderlust for the new, the improved, the unforeseen with which one might choose to adorn oneself. Make no mistake: I do not advocate change for the sake of change alone, but as a laboratory or ongoing process where those artifacts which are taken from the fashion periphery can be evaluated as to their relative fitness for purpose in future implementations of refinement.

    After all, to do as you suggest is to accept the ‘Twas ever thus’ rationale, which I abhor. One needs spice! For example, think of what British cuisine would still be like had it not been for the conquest of India and the subsequent importation of curry and other spices into the homeland. They would still be adhering to the ‘tried and true’ rules of preparing native English cuisine, which still remain:

    1. Take any foodstuff.
    2. Boil or fry foodstuff beyond recognition.
    3. Serve resulting pastel-colored paste to your guests and await their effusive praise.

    This is exactly the status of men’s fashion for the last few decades. Remember the ‘reductio ad absurdum’ of this line of thinking with the phenomenon of the late ’80s ‘Power Tie’? What chicanery that was! A power tie color would declared for CxO level executives in magazines like Uomo and GQ, for example: yellow. The yellow Power Tie would reign but for a short season until the ‘middle managers’ of a corporation would have the unmitigated audacity to begin wearing them as well. At this point, it would be announced through these very same fashion world media organs, that PINK was now the one and only TRUE POWER TIE COLOR. Thus the cycle would begin again ad nauseum. This amounted to the same ludicrous social phenomenon as was experienced in Elizabethan times known as the Sumptuary Laws. According to these minutely codified fashion laws, you could not wear, let’s say, the color purple upon your person as that was the King’s or Queen’s color. However, if you made a substantial contribution to the royal coffers, you would be permitted to wear the color purple with impunity. The same held true for the length of the toe of a man’s shoe, the length of his sword, etc. I say down with all of these tyrannies! Let us drag our corpulent frames from off the sagging, flaccid couch of complacency and head toward Vulcan’s forge of fashion to redeem ourselves once more! Let us prove ourselves worthy of the radiant raiment that is to come! Yes, mistakes and misconceptions WILL occur during this evolutionary and iterative process, but that is the price of progress, and the progress of which we are speaking will be beyond price!

    Your humble servant ever,

    Dr.Bathybius 8¬}D-

  8. Constantine Says:

    Dr Bathybius, I’ll be as gentle as I can. A stage costume is a stage costume, even if it’s tweaked a bit. Innovation in menswear will hardly come about by practicing archaicism.

  9. Dr.Bathybius Says:

    My dear Constantine,

    Quite so! …(and you were quite gentle, indeed!).

    My particular approach does not match your specific method or aesthetic. That is fine, and is, perhaps, as it should be. That kind of diversity of opinion I welcome with open arms! However, my question still stands: “What will break the current impasse in Gentlemen’s fashion? What will the catalyst be?”. Will it be new materials? Or perhaps new designs that are a re-evaluation of form vs. function? Regardless of whether I or anyone else uses retro-, archaeo-, neo-, paleo-, fashion sources as a friendly ‘provocation’, it is meant not only to please my own tastes as I develop them for myself, but to act as a gentle prod to other gents to see what they might have up their collective and individual sleeves.

    “Amor Sartoris Nos Unit”

    Your humble servant

  10. Guy Says:

    Gentlemen, I have to say that I think that too many people confuse Dandyism, which is about style, simplicity and elegance with eccentric and fussy clothing. I also agree that Dandyism is not Historicism. I would like to think that true Dandyism in our age is about taking the fashion of the day and lifting it, by genius, as in originality and elegance, as in refinement, in other words creativity taking sartorialism it to the sublime. Its too easy to say that mens fashion has exhausted it’s possibilities, if anything its becoming freer and more interesting, if you doubt this look at runway shots from recent major fashion shows e.g. Paris.

    Guy

  11. AQG Says:

    First off, good of Dr.B. to put himself so willingly in the line of fire. Pluck ought not be punished. Now, I’d be curious to know whether the photo is exemplary of his daily kit. Obviously, the ‘tache and mane are there to stay, but are these truly his workaday togs? If so, by what means does he keep body and soul together? If they are not, why is anything but a costume? Further, the good doctor seems to argue against the tyranny of contemporary dress. Yet, he only seems to substitute his own self-imposed regimen. How does the Dr.B. reconcile this?

  12. V. G. Davidzon Says:

    Constantine Says:

    will hardly come about by practicing archaicism…..

    only by practicing anarchism.

  13. Dr.Bathybius Says:

    Dear Monsieur V.G. Davidzon,

    NOW we’re getting somewhere!

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    Your humble servant ever,

    Dr.B. 8^}D-

  14. The New Edwardian Says:

    That is a beautiful capital on that column behind Captain Morgan there. It looks like a neo-Byzantium column with the leafs and vines design – wonderful!

    As for the pirate, to each their own. He isn’t my idea of a dandy, but I take it that he is his own idea of a dandy. So be it although I do find it a bit amusing that he dresses as he does, but then turns his nose up to Tom Wolfe. Are they not both eccentric dressers?

    Back to the column, would anyone know where that column is? I’m guessing somewhere in San Francisco? Would it be a Byzantium church by any chance? I would love to see a website.

  15. R. M. Wittingslow Says:

    Perhaps a powerful woman commanding her snivelling and uxorious lover from behind the scenes?

  16. RKM Says:

    Doctor:

    I believe in live and let live, and have no comments to offer on your opinions on clothing. I am however, troubled by your suggestion that you would rather be a comical lion fighting on your feet, than carefully cogitating the rarefied alchemy that is the “two-olive martini”. Are you mad? Do you really intend to disparage the qualities of that sublime refreshment known as the martini? If so, you’ve gone beyond the pale.

    Pistols at dawn, sir.

  17. Dr.Bathybius Says:

    For the New Edwardian: The columns are part of the mausoleum for Dr.Merritt at the Mountain View cemetery, Piedmont/Oakland, CA. Yes, you are now permitted to make all of your acerbic ‘Goth’ comments, even though the spot had been chosen for its architectural richness and detail, which engendered part of your comment above in the first place. Interesting standoff for you and I, yes? But as young ‘Chenners’ and others have stated throughout Dandyism.net: “Context, Old Man, Context!”. This holds true for taking things in their native environment and re-contextualizing them for higher purpose. Hence the background in the photo above.

    The word ‘eccentric’ is quite an interesting one etymologically, and a very telling choice when it comes to my main complaint as stated throughout all of my comments above:

    ec·cen·tric adj. 1. Departing from a recognized, conventional, or established norm or pattern. 2. Deviating from a circular form or path, as in an elliptical orbit. 3.a. Not situated at or in the geometric center. b. Having the axis located elsewhere than at the geometric center.

    Let us take definition 3.a. above (though I know that you meant to refer to definition 1, as do we all): ‘Away from the center’. To use ‘eccentric’ as a disparaging term, as the term ‘costume’ has been used in some of the above comments is quite amusing and revealing to me. If we consider that the main opinion is that I have violated ‘commonly accepted standards of good sartorial taste’, then by all means, mea culpa! That is the whole point of my seditionary fashion behavior. By ‘commonly accepted’ we mean ‘determined by committee’ don’t we? …and since the word ‘commonly’ is derived from ‘common’, which is to say ‘popular’ (as in ‘vox populi’, or ‘the voice of the people’), which leads us to ‘populi’ which leads us to the ‘common people’, that is to say ‘the vulgar’.

    The word vulgar brings to mind off-color jokes, but this was not always so. Ironically the word vulgar is itself an example of pejoration, the process by which the semantic status of a word changes for the worse over a period of time. The ancestor of vulgar, the Latin word vulg³ris (from vulgus, “the common people”), meant “of or belonging to the common people, everyday,” as well as “belonging to or associated with the lower orders.” Vulg³ris also meant “ordinary,” “common (of vocabulary, for example),” and “shared by all.” Its only sense of the sort we might expect was related to the notion of general sharing, that is, “sexually promiscuous.” Our word, first recorded in a work composed in 1391, entered English during the Middle English period, and in Middle English and later English we find not only the senses mentioned above but also related senses. What is common can be seen as debased, and in the 17th century we begin to find instances of vulgar that made very explicit what was already implicit. Vulgar now meant “deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement.” From such use vulgar has gone downhill, and at present “crudely indecent” is probably one of the first senses of vulgar that occurs to many when the word is used.

    How, then, does one refine the vulgar, if the vulgar, the mediocre, the banal, the trite is the ultimate objective? What would be the point? My next question is this: if we so narrowly define what is acceptable for a dandy, or a ‘well-dressed gentleman’, we have necessarily created a very limited menu from which any gentleman must choose. We have, in effect, created what I will use as a deliberately disparaging term of my own, we have created the components of a ‘UNIFORM’. The concept of a uniform is absolutely anathema to me. If you can’t tell a butcher from a banker in the street based on their dress (since all men would be dressing within these narrowly defined bounds of ‘good taste’), of what good is dress as a mode of social expression? It becomes meaningless if we are all required to wear Burberry raincoats, because that is what every ‘well-dressed’ gentleman must do when it rains. To all of the doddering simps who accept this sort of formulaic behavior, I would say that “The meek have INDEED inherited the earth”!

    To AQG: Thank you, sir, for your very even-tempered response. Your question is a great one! No, this is not part of my everyday kit, nor would I continue to wear at the opera or theatre , what I had worn at the office. Part of being a dandy (in my opinion at least) is to make sure that one doesn’t forget to put on his most crucial component of all; after the neck-wear has been adjusted, the pocket-square calibrated, etc., one must be sure to put on one’s ‘persona’. This is the most crucial accessory of all, and extremely context-sensitive. I am not the same person at the office as I am at a business function or a social function. One must adapt or perish. The suit above was not intended as everyday wear or business, but for special social functions that would be appropriate for making a bolder sartorial statement.

    To RKM: …perhaps I WAS a bit harsh regarding the ‘two olive martini’. You have my apologies, sir.

    To: R.M.Wittingslow: You are very close to the treasure, meinherr, very close indeed!

    To Guy: I hope that you are right, monsieur. That would mean that progress is well on its way. I pray day and night that you are right!

    I have enjoyed the chiding that I have received here at Dandyism.net over the last couple of days, as much as I have enjoyed the couple of sympathetic voices that have sounded too. The chiding was quite expected (being part of the very ‘warp and weft’ of Dandyism.net) , and is a very small price to pay, in my estimation, if the subject of the Great Fashion Impasse is actually discussed amongst all of us. That is reward enough for me.

    I would like to thank you all (Pro, Con and Neutral) for your time, which I value most highly. The conversation that we are having in this forum is of great importance to me, and your input is held in the highest regard by me, truly.

    I will add now 2 quotes that might help illuminate my ‘animus’ in aesthetics a little (for those who might care):

    “So long as men praise you, you can only be sure that
    you are not yet on your own true path but on someone else’s.”
    – Nietzsche

    “When my enemies stop hissing,
    I shall know I’m slipping.”
    – Maria Callas

    I will continue to respond to further commentaries as they occur, and where appropriate.

    Yours in future elegance and refinement,

    Dr.Bathybius 8¬}D-

  18. RKM Says:

    Doctor:

    As a former San Franciscan, and as one having family in Silicon Valley, I will tell you that I would be proud to buy you a Martini should our paths ever cross in the Bay Area. I prefer drinks to pistols.

    Regards, Roger

  19. The New Edwardian Says:

    I looked up the cemetery on line, it was very interesting, so thanks. It would be a marvelous location for a party even if that party was a funeral.

    Regarding the word eccentric, I think you are mincing words. I used the word to show what I believe is the fact that you have crossed over the line into eccentricity in regards to your dress. Tom Wolfe is a rather sharp dresser, but even he must tire of those white suits from time to time, and eccentricity, his or yours, isn’t a plus just because it goes against the stream. Being eccentric in dress is fine, and originality may even call for a certain amount of eccentricity however, when you enter a room do people turn and admire your charm, refinement, your sophistication, or are they perhaps greeting you with a smirk, and a whisper to their friends to get a load of this guy. Your outward expression should reflect your inner refinement and not your inner pirate. Sorry, it is just the way I read dandyism. Dandyism is never about costume yet I believe your entire look could very well be mistaken for just that. I’m not saying you are wrong to dress as you do. Have fun, do it, I’m glad their are people like you out there in the world, but do realize that it is miles away from dandyism, or I should say at least my idea of dandyism.

    “Every dandy dares, but he stops at the intersection between originality and eccentricity.” — Barbey D’Aurevilly

  20. Constantine Says:

    It’s a fine wedding suit. Black tie events just feel like costume parties to me anyway (because they derive from an age when evening dress was de rigeur not only for pompous ceremony, but for the *evening*, and obviously that has long ceased to be the case). So go and wear it in that capacity with my blessing.

    Oddly enough, there are very few comments in this discussion with which I strongly disagree. I’ll just add that post-modernism is the condition in which we all live, like it or loathe it it’s our reality. Christian is right to say there’s nothing absolutely new, and the good doctor’s quest for originality is a noble one but can only be done within time-worn palettes. For whatever reason, culture has fixed upon some point in the early 20th century as the point within which one draws influences to create a wardrobe to live by, and beyond which one indulges in costume dress-up. That’s the map of the field: play the game as you will.

  21. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    Didn’t Pelham say something about eccentricity?

  22. M Says:

    “Never in your dress altogether desert that taste which is general. The world considers eccentricity in great things, genius; in small things, folly.”

    Find Pelham’s other maxims here: http://www.dandyism.net/?page_id=220

  23. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    Quite so.

    Christian remarks that menswear has exhausted its possibilities. I disagree, I think it innovates, but slowly. ‘Inventions in dressing should resemble Addison’s definition of fine writing, and consists of “refinements which are natural, without being obvious.”’

  24. Christian Says:

    Recent example, besides in the realms of athletic wear, performance fabrics, and eco-friendly fabrics?

  25. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    Certainly. There’s slightly more tolerance for wearing a jacket without a tie than there was fifty years ago.

    Slowly, indeed.

  26. Christian Says:

    I was thinking of items themselves rather than how they’re worn. Certainly in the latter category, there’s no end in sight as far as dressing down goes.

  27. Ashley Yakeley Says:

    Arguably “dressing down” is the history of men’s clothing, as innovation rises from below. The long neck-tie was first a practical, informal alternative to bow-ties and ascots and so on; now it’s come to symbolise respectability. Denim jeans were once strictly proletarian; now they’re also part of “smart casual”. And so on.

  28. Constantine Says:

    “Arguably “dressing down” is the history of men’s clothing, as innovation rises from below.”

    Only if you take a very narrow historical view. Maybe that’s the tendency of fashion post-Industrial Revolution. But I don’t think the evolution of loin-cloth to Baroque ruffles and waistcoat is a history of dressing down.

    And simply because Brummell’s revolution in simplicity was a good antidote to the excesses of his time, doesn’t mean the tendency should continue uninterrupted in that direction forever.

    I wonder would the one-button jacket count as an innovation or a change in how a jacket’s worn. It’s trendy nowadays. I’m not sure how much history is behind it.

  29. Miguel Antonio Says:

    Dr.Bathybius looks great, it is too bad he lives in the wrong century.

  30. b.t. Says:

    Am I the only one who gets this? Pure brilliance in the highest art. I have found my religion.

  31. Christian Says:

    Elaborate further.

  32. Forex Trading System Says:

    Now that’s what I call stylish.. Well, I live in the mountains of Norway, so my taste could be kinda weird, but…

  33. Mobil uten abonnement Says:

    cool costume. I like that style:-)

Leave a Reply