Wit and Wisdom


“Style is the dress of thought.” — Lord Chesterfield

“A dandy does nothing. Can you imagine a dandy addressing the common herd except to make game of them?” — Charles Baudelaire, Intimate Journals

“A dandy is not a slave to fashion but an avatar of style. It used to be that dandies were also the arbiters and teachers of style — men with superior taste who introduced new modes of dress, refined others, and dismissed more.” — Nicholas Antongiavanni, The Suit

“What makes for dandification is panache combined with rarity. While often unusual, the dandified always follows the classic rules of dress or else is based on a judicious breaking of those rules. It is never costume — not spats and ascots, but vest and handkerchiefs.” — Nicholas Antongiavanni, The Suit

“A dandy should have no other object, nor any other thought, nor take anything else as his art but the art of style; for that is the only art which is of concern to one who wishes to look good.” — Nicholas Antongiavanni, The Suit

“As invented by George Brummell two centuries ago, the dandy is the enemy of the splendiferous and effeminate. He instead favors simple clothes, pristine in cut, immaculate in fit, made from resilient materials by expert craftsmen, never ostentatious, always manly. So far from frippery, dandyism is the mean between foppishness and slovenliness.” — Nicholas Antongiavanni, The Suit

“Few individual men have influenced fashion since Beau Brummell, for ridicule and scorn often reward those who turn off the modern highway of conservatism. Perhaps only those in positions of power or who possess great social prestige can defy fashion successfully. The Duke of Windsor, when he was Prince of Wales, defied convention. He wore straw hats instead of the customary Englishman’s felt hat in summer, loud checks and suede shoes, and resented stiffly starched shirts for evening. With a real goût de scandale he would appear at a formal reception in lounge clothes. If the ordinary man today were to appear in some of the unorthodox hats and highly coloured tweeds that the Prince modelled he would doubtless become an object of ridicule.” — Cecil Beaton

“‘Tis hell to a man of spirit to be contradicted by his tailor.” — Richard Garnett, Duke Virgil

“I’ve always been backward on morals, but I do know how to dress appropriately for any given occasion, and that’s more than half the battle.” — Thorne Smith, The Stray Lamb

“Dandyism … is a state of mind as well as a state of dress…. The dandy strives, above all, for self-discipline, and a discipline that denies friends, sex and ostentation; his goal is to achieve the super-ego via a rigid set of rules based on utmost restraint, naturalness, and simplicity.” — Derek Marlowe, in The London Observer

“Wit is educated insolence.” — Aristotle, The Art of Rhetoric

“Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy: for the apparel oft proclaims the man.” — Shakespeare, Hamlet

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” — Oscar Wilde

“Eying his friend’s exquisite European clothes, he (Scott Fitzgerald) asked, ‘Are you what they call a fop?’ (Scott’s own sartorial expression was more in the Arrow Collar-ad mode). No, Gerald told him. As he later explained it, ‘I was a dandy, which is something entirely different. . . . I liked clothes that were smart, without having any interest in fashions or styles, and I dressed just the way I wanted to, always.'” — Amanda Vail, Everybody Was So Young

“He admired the color of his cravats, the fur on his overcoat, and above all his boots, which were as thin as gloves and seemed positively insolent in their immaculate elegance.” — Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education

“One day when I was walking down Bond Street thinking how impeccably dressed I was in a well cut brown suit, a very distinguished-looking man shouted at me, ‘People like you ought to be shot!'” — Cecil Beaton

“He sat by the hour in Kensington Gardens and beside the adjoining Drive, watching the people and the horses and the carriages; the rosy English beauties, the wonderful English dandies, and the splendid flunkies.” — Henry James, The American

“Eternal superiority of the dandy.” — Charles Baudelaire

“My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.” — Errol Flynn

“Living well is the best revenge.” — Gerald Murphy

“Dandyism may be taken as the art of selection, practiced by a lover of the visible world.” — Douglas Ainslie

“Obliged, by a quirk of fate long since regretted, to play out his role, he blundered on into the dawn of middle age, a hermetic dandy, surrounding himself only with the fetish of himself — predominantly his clothes, which he chose with exquisite and envied care, his books, his three double-barreled fowling pieces by Manton, and his collection of old Sèvres porcelain locked in a vault in the V and A — and an utter lack of envy for his fellow man. He had that noble selflessness of a man who cares for no one but himself. Brummell, a man he admired unashamedly, had that. Until he went mad.” — Derek Marlowe, A Dandy in Aspic

“Though starving at school, I never took twice of pudding, and paid sixpence a week out of my shilling to have my shoes blacked.” — Bulwer-Lytton, Pelham

“How much mental effort had to be expended simply in making a proper toilette! How much time and attention went to his supplies of cigarettes, soaps and perfumes; how much occasion for making up his mind lay in that moment, recurring two or three times daily, when he had to select his cravat! And it was worth the effort. It was important. He of all people had to be unassailable and without reproach in his appearance from head to toe.” — Thomas Mann, The Blood of the Walsungs

“Women should never be allowed to counsel men about clothes.” — George Frazier

“The most challenging part to dressing well is knowing how to be elegant while being casual.” — Umberto Angeloni

“It was because Byron guarded not his dandyism against this and that irrelevant passion, sexual or political, that he cut so annoyingly incomplete a figure. He was absurd in his politics, vulgar in his loves. Only in himself, at the times when he stood haughtily aloof, was he impressive.” — Max Beerbohm, Zuleika Dobson

“Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!” — Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“In all unimportant matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential. In all important matters, style, not sincerity, is the essential.” — Oscar Wilde

“I’m addicted to the aristocratic pleasure of offending.” — Count Robert de Montesquiou

“And now the dandies are all dead! There are still wonderfully dressed people in society, but they make no impression as individuals on their times, for the busy world is too occupied to look at them, and merely to follow an absurd fashion is to mark oneself not as elegant but as weak. Sometimes, in the hurry and skurry, one may dream vainly of the delights of an elegant leisure, but those who might attain to such lose it in extravagant social amenities, and those who could enjoy it are not fortunate enough to be able to reach it.” — Clare Jerrold, 1910

“To seem sorrowful is not in good taste: You’re supposed to seem bored.” — Stendhal

“I cannot understand why the poets of our day wax indignant at the vulgarity of their age and complain of having come into the world too early or too late. I believe that every man of intellect can create his own beautiful fable of life.” — Gabriele D’Annunzio

“Julien had become a dandy, and understood the art of life in Paris. His cool demeanor was perfection itself.” — Stendhal, The Red and the Black

“… like all dandies, he was happy.” — Barbey D’Aurevilly

“To appear well dressed, be skinny and tall.” — Mason Cooley

“Know first who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” — Epictetus

“The making of one’s life into art is, after all, the first duty and privilege of every man.” — Arthur Symons

“He adopted the only course which could place him in a prominent light, and would enable him to separate himself from the ordinary herd of men, whom he held in considerable contempt.” — Lady Stanhope on George Brummell

“Beautiful red hair of a barbarian; upright posture, neatly dressed, a simple person who had a horror of appearing dishevelled; a clergyman in the process of becoming a dandy.” — Emile Verhaeren on Fernand Khnopff

“Do you think it means nothing to have the right, as you make your entry into a salon, to look down on everybody from the height of your cravat and be privileged to despise the most important man there if his waistcoat is out of fashion?” — Balzac

‘”Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it comes.” — Epictetus

“All I want is the best of everything, and there’s very little of that left.” — Lucius Beebe

“The world belongs to the cool of head.” — Machiavelli

“Style is the dress of thought; a modest dress, neat but not gaudy, will true critics please.” — Samuel Wesley

“Except in this ignorant and material century, men have always worn precious stuffs and beautiful colours as well as women.” — Wilkie Collins

“Blot out vain pomp; check impulse; quench appetite; keep reason under its own control.” — Marcus Aurelius

“The only way to atone for being occasionally a little over-dressed is by being always absolutely over-educated.” — Oscar Wilde

“Like the knights of former days, dandies arrogantly refuse to earn money; any work, however light, is incompatible with their dignity.” — Alexander von Gleichen-Russwurm

“Few are made for independence, it is the privilege of the strong.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“Modesty was made for the ugly.” — Theophile Gautier

“I may be old fashioned, but I am right.” — Max Beerbohm

“I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” — Jerome K. Jerome

“Woe betide he who does not know how to take a blow on one cheek for the sake of rendering two.” — Balzac

“Being natural is simply a pose, and the most irritating pose I know.” — Oscar Wilde

“No man is greater than the age he lives in.” — George Moore

“Talk to every woman as if you loved her, and to every man as if he bored you, and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact.” — Oscar Wilde

“When I see a goal of any kind I plunge headlong toward it. When I get there, I yawn.” — Chateaubriand

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

“True dandyism is the result of an artistic temperament working upon a fine body within the wide limits of fashion.” — Max Beerbohm

“Everything a man of fashion puts on his body must be broken in, nothing should appear new.” — Kotzebue

“One may become rich, but one is born elegant.” — Balzac

“Tailor came (but too late) for a fitting. Sent him away.” — Barbey d’Aurevilly

“He knew that to be careless in dress and manner required more confidence than to be careful.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Winter Dreams

“I hope you will excuse the indiscretion of my advocacy of elegance and dandyism, which you conceived after Brummell much the way a man would conceive the world after God.” — Jean Lorrain, letter to Barbey d’Aurevilly

“Boni de Castellane drawing his chins onto his chest; shiny boots, embroidered morning coat, white gloves with black piping, big tie, light vest, the overwashed, bleached impression — ‘blanched’ as cooks say of boiled vegetables. That was the opposite of a dandy whose stylishness would remain imperceptible to Americans. Boni’s style was highly visible.” — Paul Morand

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