Columns

Farewell To The Sophistocrat: Michael Mattis, 1964-2014

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Michael Mattis, who has been a part of Dandyism.net since its very beginning in 2004, died suddenly this weekend in his sleep. He was 49 years old.

He first met Dandyism.net founder Christian Chensvold 20 years ago when he wrote a piece on dandies for his college literary magazine, and Chensvold contacted him in light of the mutual interest.

Tributes are currently going up on Dandyism.net’s Facebook page, as well as Michael’s own. Our own Nick Willard had this to say when he heard the news:

Words fail to express my shock & sorrow.  We just exchanged e-mails this week, catching up with each other.  He shared how he was head over heels over his new woman & how much he loved her.  It seemed that he was at the dawn of the next stage of his life, not at the sunset.

Though he had little tolerance for foolishness, Michael was a raconteur and bon vivant by temperament who above all enjoyed meeting interesting people and swapping stories with them. He has written some of the most insightful pieces for Dandyism.net, under the fitting column heading “The Sophistocrat,” which can be accessed in the menu column at right.

He’s captured above in a photo by Rose Callahan.

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Dandy Of The Year 2013: Nathaniel Adams

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For services rendered to the understanding and misunderstanding of dandyism, as well as perpetually cutting a dashing figure, Dandyism.net is pleased to award Nathaniel Adams the distinguished title of Dandy of the Year 2013. (more…)

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Year Of The Tango’s 100th Anniversary

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Nineteen-thirteen was the year the tango conquered fashionable society, rising from its seedy origins in the brothels of Buenos Aires. On assignment for The Rake, D.net founder Christian Chensvold meditates on this most masculine of social dances. Click here for a PDF of the story.

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At Least They’re Not Boring: Spontaneous Impressions Of I Am Dandy

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One of the more frequent visitors to D.net HQ is a certain Lady Friend who hails from Japan and has spent much of her career in menswear. She’d seen my photo in “I Am Dandy,” but hadn’t gone through the entire book.

Recently, while mixing cocktails, I heard her cry out from the other room. I dashed in thinking something was wrong, but instead found her leafing through the book.

As both a woman and a non-Westerner, her feedback interested me, and I sat down at my keyboard to record her extemporaneous impressions. The exchange ran something like this. — CC

* * *

LF: “Attention please! Attention please! Look at me!”

CC: What’s the matter?

LF: There’s no dandies in here. The title is “I Am Dandy.”

CC: I see. Well how exactly should a dandy look?

LF: Simple. Sophisticated. Mature. Perfect fit.

CC: Thank you.

LF: These guys are like rock stars, gangsters or characters in a movie, but they’re not dandy.

CC: Interesting.

LF: I like the anime characters, though.

CC: The what?

LF: They’re fun. I can imagine characters in movies. But they’re not real. Why is he wearing so many rings?

CC: That’s a good question.

LF: They’re enjoying fashion and I’m so happy to see that. These kinds of guys I really like. But are they elegant gentlemen? They’re like women.

CC: Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

LF: “Watch me. I’m wearing fancy clothing. I’m unusual. I’m special.” That’s the message I can hear from this book. If I don’t see the title I think, “What a fun book!” It’s like scenes from movies. They’re acting. They have their own special characters. At least they’re not boring.

CC: Well put.

LF: The accessories they have are really good. How can I find them?

CC: Another good question.

LF: I really love this teacup.

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Dandy Portraits: The Art Of Pierre de Bonneuil

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Recently we came across the work of Pierre de Bonneuil, an artist who draws portraits of legendary dandies. We asked him to describe his work, and he sent us the following statement, written, as he pointed out, in the troisieme personne:

Principal réfractaire de son époque, Pierre de Bonneuil considère que l’Art ne s’apprend pas. Il se moque de ceux qui étudient dans des institutions républicaines. Le trait demeure inachevé ! Le choix des couleurs est instinctif. Les grandes figures présentent toujours une consonance personnelle de l’artiste. Il semble aussi les détrousser d’une certaine préciosité. L’intérêt se porte sur l’effet qui demeure dans le temps, le charisme perpétré depuis le passage de la Grande Faucheuse. Alors oui! C’est plus facile de concrétiser un sortilège avec une personne vivante … Les photographies ne manquent pas! Il y a matière à confusion … La confection d’un portrait à l’aquarelle est donc une frivolité! Un jeu passionnant. Le sérieux a son rôle aussi dans les coups d’un pinceau obséquieux. Tant que le portraitiste considère son environnement comme une incroyable foire aux vanités, il se jouera de ces dandies et les placera comme des pions …

Visit his website to see more.

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Dude Looks Like A Dandy

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As our recent dandy word-association poll revealed, when people hear the term they don’t exactly think of Brummellian concepts. No one said that the first thing that came to mind was restraint, aloofness, bold simplicity, quiet perfection, or even snuff boxes. No one said “John Steed.” Of course, the poll was conducted a fashion event at Bergdorf Goodman.

Since the end of the Regency the meaning of dandy has been in a constant state of flux. Look what Baudelaire did with the word, and that was 150 years ago.

More recently, Ian Kelley’s Brummell biography contains this passage about how the “modern ear” hears the word dandy:

Just as the meaning of “dandy” is skewed to the modern ear when taken in the context of Brummell’s Dandiacal Body — men of deliberately understated chic, not outré dress….

But if you think the term dandy has been distorted, look what’s happened to the word “dude.”

This week The Atlantic posted an essay by JJ Gould on the history of the word dude, pointing out that the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s first definition for dude is a dandy:

1: a man extremely fastidious in dress and manner: DANDY

2: a city dweller unfamiliar with life on the range; especially: an Easterner in the West

3: FELLOW, GUY—sometimes used informally as a term of address <hey, dude, what’s up>

Gould goes on to say:

The first two definitions are historically accurate, anyway. (As Richard Hill attests in his study “You’ve Come a Long Way, Dude,” by the latter half of the 19th century, the word was “synonymous with dandy, a term used to designate a sharp dresser in the [U.S.] western territories.”) But they’re also entirely archaic.

Perhaps the word dandy, too, will one day change its meaning entirely. In fact, it could reassert itself as a synonym for dude, and unkempt youths could begin greeting each other with, “What’s up, dandy?”

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