Modern Dandies

Modern Dandies

For a person who blogs about style, I constantly underestimate my visual side. I don’t mean my abilities (these are moderate), but my enthusiasm for it and my need for visual inspiration. It’s mostly because I always think of myself as a words person first – a reader, a writer – and an images person second. This is of course a simplified way of looking at things: no-one is just one thing or the other and even if you are 90% something, there is always that 10%.

Recently, my eyes have been badly craving stimulation. I haven’t had time to go to a cinema for too long, I’ve only seen a couple of exhibitions, most of my free time (what little there is) is spent reading and writing. The other aspect is that some of the things I used to find exiting seem less fascinating now. Fashion shows, for example, just don’t appeal to me like 10 years ago. I’m not dissing fashion, I really do like much that is going on currently, it’s just… not enough. I think my eyes are starved.

What has helped, is the menswear movement: modern dandies, Sapeurs and the like. There are very few things I find more beautiful than a fitted double-breasted suit with a contrasting shirt and elegant leather shoes. I didn’t realise HOW much I liked this, though, until I came across We Are Dandy. A book by Rose Callahan and Nathaniel Adams, it features well-dressed men from the style capitals of the world. (There’s also an intelligent, thoughtful foreword by Dita von Tease.)

I’m sure there are other great books like that, I haven’t really explored the genre. Still, I believe this would rank among the best even if I had. In addition to great style from the understated Japanese to the flamboyant South-Africans, the authors have taken care with the subjects and their stories are fascinating. A rather gothic-looking math professor whose signature sartorial detail is the spider, an attorney with a cape and vintage glass eye ball collection, the elderly restauranteur who has „several tailors, but most of them are dead.“

There are also lessons to be learned. As men have, in many ways, a more limited range of options than women, the materials, patterns and colour combinations are amazing. The rather traditional silhouette of the suit somehow makes it OK to mix the craziest things. There is also so much attention to detail, so much discipline – something I personally suck at.

Ultimately, what I think is so interesting about menswear, is that while masculine clothing on women is entirely mainstream these days, men displaying a „female“ interest in clothes and incorporating feminine elements to their look can still look subversive. There is a picture in the book of Bent Angelo Jensen, combining his 20s suit, punk influences, tattoos and red-painted nails. It’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen in a while.


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  1. 1

    This sounds brilliant, I love a good bit of dandy style. Can I put in a recommendation for something else by Dita Von Teese? Her beauty book that came out a few years ago, Your Beauty Mark, is a good read and has so many lustrous photographs that it will surely nourish starved eyes 🙂 It’s a chatty, cheerful history-of-beauty book with interesting interviews and vintage make-up demos, but the photographs of her are incredible. Her look is very particular and disciplined (and sexy, obviously) and within that limit she creates the most spectacular images blending cinema and fashion and fantasy.

    • 2

      Thank you for recommending this! Dita seems like a highly intelligent woman and her look is interesting (and, as you say, very disciplined). I was actually thinking about reading something by her after I finished that foreword.

  2. 3

    This is quite insightful, and totally explains why I have purchased a book of photographs of Frenchwomen’s bedrooms, and of grave stones in Louisiana.

    • 4

      Hah! Excellent choices 🙂 I think many (or at least some) people also crave things that are aesthetically different from the mainstream, in my case specifically Instagram. I like Instagram, but it can get very uniform. And there’s just so much of it, that even interesting ideas will be copied very quickly and become tiring almost instantly.

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