Personae

Der Vimzee: The Affected Provincial In Deutschland

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Time marches on, fashions change, and old dandy eras give birth to new ones. Clothes are discarded, deemed outmoded not by society, but by their owners.

And so Lord Whimsy, who once extolled the virtues of the thrift-store women’s department, advocated the use of parasols by gentlemen, and once fell so far off the bespoke deep end he commissioned a Black Watch suit, was spotted last week in blue jeans and the kind of crinkly scarves worn by men aspiring to one day attend Pitti Uomo. When more formally attired, however, his lordship now appears to follow Thomas Mann’s dictum that the only way an author can preserve his dignity is by dressing like a banker.

Time has brought other changes. Whimsy, once in our eyes representative of everything wrong with dandy discourse (at least he has the insight to refer to himself as a “failed dandy”), not to mention the author of a significant portion of the opinions on this site filed in the Idle Talk section, warmly extended his hand last month to us at the Bergdorf “I Am Dandy” party, and to our surprise there was no dagger up his sleeve, just a trace of potting soil.

And so in the spirit of this delightful detente we gladly share the news that Lord Whimsy’s “Affected Provincial’s Almanack” has just been published in Germany, under the title Die Kunst mit einem Hummer spazieren zu gehen: Handbuch für den wahrhaftigen Dandy (try saying that with a mouthful of strudel). We flipped through it but the only word we could make out was “die Blumenpothat,” and so are awaiting the review from Herr Teufelsdröckh. Cheers to you, milord, and may your fencing victories be many, whether with man and foil or net and butterfly.

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The Prophet Of Dandyism Was A Retro-Eccentric

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If it weren’t for Barbey d’Aurevilly, you wouldn’t be reading this.

What do we mean? That if he hadn’t been born this week in 1808 and penned “Of Dandyism And George Brummell” in 1845, Brummell would be just a minor historical footnote, and there would likely be no philosophy of dandyism.

And without a philosophy of dandyism, it too would have become just another historical footnote instead of a topic to digitally delight and vex in the 21st century via this website.

And while Brummell is remembered as the “father of modern costume,” Barbey could be called the godfather of retro-eccentric costume. As Ellen Moers writes in “The Dandy”:

Barbey’s own costume, as an old man… was also a reminder of dandyism, though it certainly owed nothing to Brummell. His garish wardrobe of props and disguises, like de Savigny’s sapphire earrings, proclaimed the essential doctrine of “Du Dandysme et de Georges Brummell”: disdain for the ideas and taste of the day. He affected tight black satin trousers, blood-red gloves, full-skirted frock coats, shirts with lace frills, gaudily striped capes, towering broad-brimmed hats, white linen trousers strapped under the foot and trimmed with a band of mauve silk. The extraordinary feature of this costume was not so much that it was flamboyant as that it was resolutely old-fashioned.

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How Vlad Stole A Kiss In Paris

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Vladislav Davidzon has been D.net forum member since the earliest days. He’s also newly married, and deserves our heartiest congratulations for forfeiting 10 points from his “How Dandy Are You?” score. Herein he files a report from Paris, and can be seen above smooching the stole of Mrs. di Coggiola. His new wife, Regina Maryanovska-Davidzon, seems faintly amused, but we’re not entirely sure. 

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The casual Parisian passerby ambulating down the Avenue de la Motte-Piquet this past Sunday would have come across a most remarkable assembly at the corner of Rue de la Cavalerie. A short walk from the regal Fauborg Saint-Germain and the École Militaire, the diminutive street’s martial sobriquet made it a most fitting place to host a cadre of dandies festooned in their parade-ground regalia.

Inside the antique/ interior decoration shop L’Autre Maison, the puckish dandy concierge Mr. Massimiliano Mocchia di Coggiola and the luxuriously bearded architect Emmanuel Pierre held court. After London and New York, this was the latest in a series of publication parties for Gestalten’s “I Am Dandy.”

The evening also presented an opportunity to display Mr. Mocchia di Coggiola’s exquisite miniature Pushkinesque watercolor and ink illustrations. This was either the second of five or the third of four Paris launch parties for the book. I was informed of the details but was too preoccupied with drinking to memorize them.

There would have been worse ways to spend the evening than chatting with Mrs. Mocchia di Coggiola, nee´Sorrel Smith of Sebastpol, CA. Through her alliance with our sprightly and roguish host, she had become a Piedmontese Countess. Like proverbial good American, she had fled to France and told the excellent tale of being questioned on what she did at a party in New York during one of her return visits to the states. “Oh, I am a countess,” to which her interlocutor followed up with, “Who do you do accounting for?”

Masimiliano was equally entertaining. We compared suits in technical fashion as I showed him my new British bespoke suit and he showed me his French one. When I asked him the cost he foppishly shrugged and replied, “I do not remember.”

The gathering was tastefully raucous, about as wild as things could have escalated to with the door of the shop being open to the public. The crowd was mixed and ecumenical, but decidedly organic. It was far less costumey then it’s chap-esque, gothy or burlesque iterations in other places might have been. Every variety, species and sub-breed of the taxonomic dandy tribe was in attendance. Run-of-the-mill Parisian metrosexuals mingled with men dressed in greatcoats and top hats. A sprinkling of haute bourgeoisie in their everyday attire fraternized with the costume-party retro eccentrics and the handlebar-mustache-twirling hipsters in pageboy tweed. Spats were prolific, as was curious facial topiary. An older French gentleman dressed as a British RAF bomber pilot gloomed in the corner.

The epicene contingent of pale pre-Raphaealite blond French boys with puckered lips and silk scarves draped over silk jackets floated through, before hitting the bars at St. Germain des Prés, and at half past nine the red-leather-breeches-clad-Regency-pirate-contingent left en masse to a gay club. — VLADISLAV DAVIDZON

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Animate Repose

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The dapper Savile Row tailor Steven Hitchcock in his New York hotel suite, relaxing between appointments in double-breasted pinstripe suit, bow tie, braces, and velvet monogram slippers.

With an endless stream of bespoke-clad clotheshorses passing daily through his doors, what impresses the tailor (who spent 10 years at Anderson & Sheppard) about a well dressed man? Not the clothes themselves, he says, but the confidence in wearing them. Call it a certain combination of originality and audacity combined with feeling perfectly comfortable.

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Snob Story: Bruce Boyer On Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

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Friend, colleague, and fellow “I Am Dandy” sitter G. Bruce Boyer herein recounts a lesser-known anecdote about the stupendously dapper Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (with whom Boyer was privileged to lunch late in Fairbanks’ life). When “finnished” with the story, head over to Keikari.com, Finland’s leading menswear site, where there’s an extensive new interview with Boyer.

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I’ve written about Douglas Fairbanks Jr. before — about his being a great dandy, as an actor, and his affair in the so-called “headless man” scandal, which involved the Duchess of Argyle. He was a great dresser, as could easily be seen when his wardrobe was auctioned off a couple of years ago. Like his father, he favored Savile Row tailors and shirtmakers.

He wasn’t a bad actor, his first foray into the art (as Edward G. Robinson’s partner-in-crime in “Little Caesar”), showed great promise. It was unfortunately unfulfilled, and Fairbanks turned to producing as a film career.

I’d thought I’d read most of what was written about him, knew most of the stories. But recently, while reading the new book about Orson Welles, “My Lunches with Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles,” I came across a new one.

Apparently Alexander Korda, British film producer of such classics as “The Private Life of Henry VIII” and “That Hamilton Woman,” found Fairbanks a terrible snob and, even worse, a bore. So when they met one day, they merely exchanged banter about the weather. Then there was a drawn-out moment of silence, which Korda finally broke by asking, “Tell me, how’s the Duke?” And Fairbanks replied, “Which duke?” And Korda says, “Any bloody duke.” — G. BRUCE BOYER

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Party On

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More photos of revelers at Rose & Natty’s London book signing fete can be seen here.

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