To Be Or Not To Be: Winston Chesterfield On The Dandy Label

winny

Winston Chesterfield, author of the blog Le Vrai Winston and contestant in one of our “Who’s The Dandy?” showdowns from five years ago, has penned some wise words at Men’s Flair apropos of Callahan & Adams’ “I Am Dandy.”

Winny writes:

When I learned that writer Natty Adams and photographer Rose Callahan’s impressive compendium of international dandies, in which I was included, was due to be called ‘I Am Dandy’, I was somewhat dismayed. If there is one thing that I dislike about modern dandyism it’s the idea that one could, or should, label oneself as a dandy. As a title, ‘I Am Dandy’ misrepresents most of the people in the book. Their medium of self-expression is artistic representation, not handing out business cards with the word ‘Dandy’ written in an opulent font.

In “I Am Dandy,” Chesterfield provides the following canny quote:

I never call myself a dandy, and nobody should. Using the word “dandy” is like using the word genius—you don’t want to use it too often.  It’s a little like a knighthood, and you can’t knight yourself.

Turns out Will of A Suitable Wardrobe may well have been ahead of the curve when he publicly declared he is not a dandy. Soon everyone featured in the book will be rushing to deny the title. Surely it’s practically destined to become the fashionable pose.

And if at one end of the spectrum is the denial of dandyhood, at the other is tattooing the word “dandy” on your body.

But there’s always a middle way. We think dandyism is best thought of as a personal code, an interior guiding principle rather than an exterior declaration. This is certainly how Baudelaire saw it. Likewise, the Duke of Dorset, hero of Beerbohm’s “Zuleika Dobson,” is conscious of his dandyhood — at least according to his narrator.

One can be devout without wearing a crucifix.

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6 Responses to “To Be Or Not To Be: Winston Chesterfield On The Dandy Label”

  1. Ville Says:

    The book’s title was the publisher’s demand, the authors wanted something far more suitable (but I cannot find the original post about this). Everything gets lost within Facebook in due time.

  2. Chenners Says:

    Yes, Rose told me the title wasn’t her choice, but I haven’t found out what she and Natty wanted to call it!

  3. Bill Thompson Says:

    If you have to announce that you are a dandy, or have undue attention drawn to you because of some overt expression of dandiness, chances are you aren’t one.
    First rule of Fight Club, and all that.

  4. Barima Says:

    Yes, Will rather stole a march on some of us. That particular rejection was to form a cornerstone of my eventual review of the book, especially as I’m in it

    At the time of writing, I’m about to leave for the London signing, so I’ll be sure to enquire after the authors’ preferred title

    Best,

    BON

  5. Dandyism.net » Blog Archive » To Be Or Not To Be: Winston Chesterfield On The Dandy Label | Kvinto Says:

    [...] See on http://www.dandyism.net [...]

  6. Dandydilettante Says:

    Sebastian Horsley always professed that dandyism is a Condition rather than a Profession ~ perhaps the “middle way” is inevitable amidst all the enigma … even Byron was a part-timer and some element of self-awareness will always infuse our interaction with the dull and dreary masses.

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