We cannot outrun history’s arrow. d’Artagnan and his boon companions the Three Musketeers learned that over 5,000-odd pages of Alexandre Dumas’ rambling historical fiction. History’s arrow? I should have said history’s cannonball, since that is what ended the real d’Artagnan’s life at the siege of Maastricht, an inevitability Dumas had to write into the life of his invented d’Artagnan, at the very end of the last Musketeers romance, The Man in the Iron Mask.
An old, old joke about a bunch of chauvinist French scientists at a convention. The keynote speaker cautiously begins by announcing that there is only a small difference between the male and female bodies, only to be drowned out by a heartfelt Gallic “Vive la différence!” Something of the visceral, uncouth and unreconstructed gusto of that cheer comes to me whenever I think of the differences the seasons impose on our clothing, particularly in tailoring.
There’s an argument that those of us who feel gloomy about the increasing sense of isolation never really had the things we’re now lamenting. And perhaps all mourning, like all thinking, is about the idea of the thing and not the thing itself. But there are concrete things.
I have to hand it to my friend Hari Sakka, a member of long standing of the Pairov Institute, for reminding me of the ridiculous list of baseball player names made up in an attempt to sound American for a 1990s Japanese video game. Among them, Willie Dustice, Sleve McDichael (which itself sounds like one of the nine billion names of Dave Ryder) and Bobson Dugnutt.
Desiree Desierto of the University of Rochester and Mark Koyama of George Mason University have recently released a working paper on these laws, known as “sumptuary laws,” in pre-industrial Europe. Along the way they find some delightful language from various medieval laws, such as the 1485 French law that restricted the use of gold, silver, and silk cloth to “nobles living nobly who are born and extracted of good and old nobility.”
Most books on dandies attempt to suggest they are all of many conflicting concepts of the word, so that the very least of the dandies they feature is not just an eccentric who fetishizes dressing well, but also, supposedly, a political revolutionary, an intellectual incendiary, and a retrograde elegant gentleman to (champagne-polished) boot. Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style, by Shantrelle P. Lewis, is not one of those books.