Dandyism.net founder and erstwhile editor-in-chief, Christian “Chenners” Chensvold has cracked the code that lies at the four-point crossroads of contemporary dandyism, trad, preppy and Ivy League style—in Japan. He was recently profiled in the Japanese magazine, Free & Easy.In 2008, Chensvold founded Ivy-Style.com, a website devoted to the Ivy League look, its history and its place in American—and, indeed, international—culture. Two years ago, Chensvold pulled up his California stakes and moved his operation to New York, to be nearer the epicenters of publishing, culture and style. There he met classic men’s style greats like G. Bruce Boyer and Richard Press. And Ivy-Style.com thrived. Recently, he was appointed an editorship at the venerable New York high society magazine, Quest.
My eyes first fell upon Luca Rubinacci while exploring Scott Schuman’s website The Satorialist. I can still remember being quite impressed by Luca’s use of color. “Now that is how you dress boldly,” I said to myself. I must admit that I thought nothing more about him for some time afterwards. Then one day as I flipped through the pages of my favorite men’s magazine, The Rake, there staring back at me was that same stylish individual from several months earlier. I recognized instantly the same style, and once more I was taken by his bold use of color, his beautifully fitted bespoke clothing, and the distinct originality that he projected. I was so impressed with what I saw on those pages that I actually took the time to read the entire article, something which I’ll admit that I rarely have time to do. Come to find out, Luca Rubinacci is a very interesting man whose style exemplifies his originality—in his clothing, his work, and his lifestyle, all of which help him cut the dandyish figure.
When Dandyism.net launched four years ago, we stated as our mission the desire to rescue the dandy from the slag heap of history through rigorous scholarship and unflinching self-righteousness.
Now it is time to rescue one particular dandy: Lucius Beebe, an all-but-forgotten American original who barely warrants a mention by the academics of dandyism, who are more concerned with muddled abstractions like “performance” and “self-invention” than the tangible plumage of top hat and tails.
To Beebe, this plumage was essential as it was to Fred Astaire. In donning it, Beebe simultaneously defined himself, an era, and the new genre of celebrity journalism. His gold-headed cane cut a wide swath through stuffiness, social conventions, and hoi polloi (he was called a notorious “peasant baiter”). Beebe’s patrician style was unmatched, as was the notoriety his wardrobe brought him.
During his lifetime he was equally as famous as the stars and socialites who populated the small and swank universe he called “crazy luxe,” but within a few years of his death in 1966 he all but disappeared from public memory.
“The Passionate Spectator” columnist and burgeoning staff biographer Robert Sacheli, whose appreciations of Noel Coward and Fred Astaire have brought D.net acclaim on the Web and in print from as far away as New Zealand, ransacked a bevy of buried texts on Lucius Beebe in preparation for what is certainly the freshest and most thorough account of the man written in many decades, which will be presented in three parts.
The Junta encourages its faithful myrmidons to join us in a toast to Sacheli for his assiduous research, and to a long-lost member of our fraternity.
Welcome back, Lucius. (more…)
He’s young, good-looking and extremely wealthy. He’s fluent in six languages and the very definition of cosmopolitan, having been born in New York, raised in Brazil, educated in England and France, and now once again living in Gotham. He’s the scion of Italy’s preeminent family (the Agnellis, not the Mafia), and is quintessentially Italian. Style and fashion are in his blood, thanks to his aunt Diane von Furstenberg. He’s linked with sleek cars and even sleeker women. Perennially named to the world’s best-dressed lists, he’s officially a GQ style icon.
But that’s not why Dandyism.net has chosen Lapo Edouard Elkann its first-ever Dandy of the Year.
D.net salutes Elkann because this year he returned from exile. All good dandies must go into exile, either to escape gambling debts or arrest. Brummell and Jimmy Walker did it. Oscar Wilde did it, but too late. The Duke of Windsor did it, but for love. Celebrities and wannabes like Sebastian Horsley don’t go into exile, they merely go to rehab or jail or — worst of all — don’t go away at all.
Every era gets the dandies it deserves.
The Regency got Brummell, a true sartorial innovator whose wit was as crisp as his country-washed linen. Count D’Orsay alleviated Victorian stuffiness with his manly charm, and the Edwardian Era was graced by Saki and Max Beerbohm, who all but reinvented the rapier wit. The Deco era had thoroughly modern Noel Coward, Lucius Beebe appeased Atomic Age anxiety with quaint anachronism as well as a poisoned pen, and the big-money ’80s saw the rise of another dandy satirist, Tom Wolfe.
Though they had different personalities and temperaments, these great dandies all shared certain qualities, including style, wit, aplomb and often a mild eccentricity. Many also enjoyed some measure of celebrity — how should we have known them otherwise? And while some dandies of the past certainly enjoyed their fame, the artists among them put their work first and did not pursue celebrity for its own sake. “L’homme est rien,” said Flaubert. “L’oeuvre est tout.”
But who in our present era is celebrated for his dandyism? When the words “dandy” and “dandyism” appear in print, what names are written in conjunction with them? Who, in the eyes of the media and public, are the successors of Brummell, D’Orsay and Beerbohm?
In a 2006 article, The Guardian attempted to answer these very questions. Published in light of Ian Kelly’s Brummell biography and the BBC miniseries “This Charming Man,” the article cites as Brummell’s successors, among others, two pop stars: Brian Ferry, a self-proclaimed “pimpernel” who, the author gushes, “now wears Prada, Hedi Slimane and Kilgour,” and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, whose “ghetto fabulous” look consists of “jeans and $10,000 worth of jewelry around his neck.”
Others recently celebrated as dandies in the press include Combs’ former umbrella-carrier-in-chief, Fonzworth Bentley (real name Derek Watkins), OutKast frontman André 3000 (real name Benjamin) — whose tailored Duke of Windsor/Harlem Renaissance-inspired duds have lately given way to outfits more conducive to farming than strolling boulevards — British rock star Pete Doherty, who dresses like an Amish notary, and Patrick McDonald, whose penchant for cosmetics at times makes him look like Liza Minelli.
Noel Coward had more than just a talent to amuse: He could also boast a prodigious knack for flouting convention, lifting wartime morale, and embodying his age to such a degree he was dubbed “Destiny’s Tot.”
He also had a talent to inspire, and set to typing the prolific phalanges of Robert Sacheli, who returns to our e-pages fresh from his dashing debut “A Nero of Our Time” (see below). Now, in honor of Coward’s birthday, Sacheli opines on this most modern of dandy-artists, who with cocktail in hand washed down “the bitter palliative of commercial success,” redefining the celebrity personality for ages to come.
By Robert Sacheli
The dressing gown was the perfect camouflage. Luxurious, sensual, and slightly louche, it’s a garment made for activities no more strenuous than arching an eyebrow, no more serious than a seduction, no more practical than mixing a cocktail. Noël Coward, whose birthday we mark on December 16, presented his talents to the world with silken ease for more than 60 years. Behind that assured nonchalance, however, was a resolutely industrious philosopher of joy. Like the trio of polite young Italian sailors encountered by a British matron in a bar on the Piccola Marina (who, in one of Coward’s 1950s songs, “Bowed low to Mrs. Wentworth-Brewster/Said ‘scusi,’ then abruptly goosed her”), Coward deployed calculated charm in his seduction of his audiences and could deliver a pinch along with a refined embrace. And, just as the receptive Mrs. Wentworth-Brewster was suffused with “hot flashes of delight,” the public eagerly welcomed the adventure. (more…)
Cold, elegant and aloof, Boris Lermontov is the “attractive brute” at the center of “The Red Shoes,” the 1948 cinematic masterpiece by Powell & Pressburger. Lermontov is the imperious impresario of a ballet troupe, and struggles to maintain his dandy aplomb under a growing obsession with his prima ballerina.
In his debut article for Dandyism.net, Robert Sacheli (“Ferrando” in the forum) offers a detailed analysis of Lermontov’s character — and how it’s reflected in his costuming — while meditating on other cinematic “impresario dandies,” from Waldo Lydecker in “Laura” to Alberto Beddini in “Top Hat.”
By Nick Willard
Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style
By Ian Kelly
I was prepared to thoroughly dislike Ian Kelly’s biography of Beau Brummell. The attendant ballyhoo, here in the US and last year in the UK, has been lascivious and sensational — Brummell as “a Casanova and a playboy;” variously the “Boy Toy” and “Toy Boy” of the Duchess of Devonshire; taking lovers of both sexes; his grandfather a brothel keeper, and his mother a courtesan. It has also affected a vulgar contemporaneity. He was the “first celebrity;” “the first metrosexual,” and “the inventor of the suit” — odd, since he never wore one. In the unkindest cut, the subtitle, in crossing the Atlantic from Britain to America, was switched from “The Ultimate Dandy” (something of an oxymoron, as Brummell originated dandyism) to “The Ultimate Man of Style.”
My worst fears have been disappointed. Mr. Kelly’s account of Brummell’s life is well written, lively, informative, factual, balanced and innovative. It is, simply put, the best biography of Brummell. (more…)
Since 1863, a certain type of young man – talented perhaps, but not creative; spiritual and philosophic, yet with expensive tastes; dismissive of commercial success, yet eager for fame and acclaim – has been traipsing about, dressed like a pirate, vampire or leprechaun and calling it “dandy.” For 1863 was the year when the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro published “The Dandy” by Charles Baudelaire. Despite declaring that a dandy dresses with “absolute simplicity,” the essay has somehow been interpreted as a call to dress in a provocative fashion as a protest against bourgeois conformity. Furthermore, it has helped drive the dandy dialectic, a reciprocating process initiated by the 1844 publication of Barbey Aurevilly’s “Du Dandysme and de Georges Brummell,” in which perception of dandyism influences the practice of dandyism, which in turn further influences perception, and so on.
So are Baudelaire’s thoughts relevant to the dandy of today? More to the point, were they ever? (more…)
By Michael Mattis
The Affected Provincial’s Almanack
By Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy
Plankton Art Co. (self-published version)
There is something endearingly dandyish about self-published books. They recall a time when gentlemen-scholar-adventurers braved the noonday sun on the parched Serengeti to collect stamen samples in support of quasi-scientific theories resulting in weighty tomes full of Latinate terminology, which they knew from the outset no right-thinking human being would ever crack. There’s a hopeless romance to self-publishing, something very Enoch Soames about it.
There’s also something about the relationship between author and printer that is akin to that between beau and tailor. One can imagine the youthful aesthete-antiquarian T.E. Lawrence, years before his ascent to “of Arabia” fame, pouring over his illuminated galleys, demanding a comma here, taking one away there, adjusting the tint on this illustration, suggesting a touch of gold leaf to another, all with the same meticulous care that D’Orsay might have taken with the drape of jacket or the pull of a buttonhole. (more…)
What does the dandy do when he wakes up early in the afternoon? Does he moon over beauty and contemplate the eternal verities? Does he jot down a few bons mots? Does he man the barricades to protest our vulgar, bourgeois and consumerist society? Does he pine for the days when men wore knee breeches and silk stockings?
No, the true dandy does none of these things.
The dandy goes to his bath and scrubs himself clean, shaves, brushes his teeth, and arranges any stray hairs. Then he adorns himself, examining each detail in his mirror – the dimple in his tie, the shine on his shoes, the puff of his pocket square, the precision of his trouser crease, the bloom of his boutonniere, the harmony and balance of all the components of his ensemble – until he gets it just right. When he finally departs his home, he is a habitué not of the salon, opera, theatre, museum, concert hall, casino, restaurant or club to which he may or may not arrive, but of his tailor and haberdasher.
For the dandy is a man with visible good taste. Dressing well is his hallmark. Strip a dandy of his clothes and what do you have?