May 16, 2007


Before the advent of the “metro sexual” man there was the dandy. So what exactly is a dandy, pardon me, I mean who is a dandy? The dictionary says:

A dandy is a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and the cultivation of leisurely hobbies.

This term was usually used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century to denote men who were very particular about the way they dressed, meticulous about keeping cleaning and who abstained from sports. The ones who aspired to heights of fashion and committed extravagances in their attire were also lauded as “Pink of the Ton”. A title every dandy aspired for.

Coming to etymology, the word dandy first appeared in a Scottish border ballad, around the 1780’s, but without its original meaning. Despite a lot of digging, I am unable to unearth the name of the ballad or the original meaning. If someone knows, please enlighten me. The original, full form of 'dandy' was thought to have been jack-a-dandy, ; it was a vogue word during the Napoleonic Wars. During those days, 'a dandy' was differentiated from 'a fop' in that the dandy's dress was more refined and sober than the fop's.

In the world that we now live in, the word, 'dandy' is a jocular, often sarcastic adjective meaning "fine" or "great", though it still retains it’s original meaning of a well-groomed, well-dressed, and self-absorbed man.

The most popular dandy was George Bryan Brummell, popularly known as Beau Brummell. His style consisted of being unpowdered, unperfumed, immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain, dark blue coat, perfectly-brushed, perfectly-fitted, showing much perfectly-starched linen, all freshly laundered, and composed with an elaborately-knotted cravat. From the mid-1790s, Beau Brummell was the early incarnation of 'the celebrity' man chiefly famous for being a laconically witty clothes-horse.

A Dandy is a clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object, the wearing of Clothes wisely and well: so that the others dress to live, he lives to dress ... And now, for all this perennial Martyrdom, and Poesy, and even Prophecy, what is it that the Dandy asks in return? Solely, we may say, that you would recognise his existence; would admit him to be a living object; or even failing this, a visual object, or thing that will reflect rays of light....
– Thomas Carlyle, "The Dandiacal Body", in Sartor Resartus

One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art
- Oscar Wilde


Moi said...

:) i know toms of dandies who can give women spending ginormous amount of time in front of mirrors, a run for their money/makeup!!!

and i love silk cravats..wud love to buy Arka one someday . :)

Regarding the current usage of dandy : reminds moi of Odgen nash's lines on ice-breaking :
Is dandy
But liquor
Is quicker." :DDDDD

Oscar Wilde's quote reminds moi of the emperor who wore no clothes :)

Moi said...

tons of reminders there!!! haha..
the post was lovely..the pic lovelier...hehe

suramya said...

moi: thank u :):),thats a caricature of beau brummell, I am so intrigued by that man, this is one post where I didn't have to do a lot of research :):)
u must buy the silk cravat :), I love the style men sported in british india, the wealthy ones that is :)and the cravats were the best part, the nash lines are witty. didn't know at the emperor part :):):)

suramya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
yogsma said...

There is small trivia...but not exactly related to it..but since you posted this word, I would like to tell.

Yankee doodle came to town
Riding on a pony
he stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.
Yankee doodle,keep it up,
Yankee doodle dandy;
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.

During early days of New York, the people in New York were Dutch and dutch name for Johny is Janke which is pronounced as Yankee..and this is supposed to be the origin of word Yankee Doodle.

This song has been adapted by American troops now.

suramya said...

yogsma: so thats the story behind yankee doodle, I am glad u shared it :):),lovely, I seem to be soaking up so much trivia :).