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.
This November marks the 50th anniversary of Ralph Lauren’s juggernaut clothing, home, and lifestyle brand, Polo. What began as a little tie business known making for napkin-sized neckwear out of upholstery fabrics has evolved into one of the most successful, influential, and lasting fashion brands of all time. And so, to commemorate this milestone, Abrams Books has published a coffee table sized illustrated biography of Ralph for this auspicious anniversary, Ralph Lauren: In His Own Fashion, penned by none other than menswear guru Alan Flusser.
Many of the best clothing-industry memoirs, such as Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man, spend less time describing the writer’s time in the industry than they do the circumstances that led the writer to the business. Or, as Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day calls it in the fascinating Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem, the hustle. And for him, it was the attraction of, for the first time, carrying out “a hustle with no vic[tim]s.”
There’s a danger in our latter-day dandy syncretism: the rolling of anyone who dresses in flashy or anachronistic jackets and sportcoats into a loaf of the indigestible and incoherent. By its title, Dandysmesacknowledges various different types of dandies, and different conceptions of the dandy, all seen through the prism of Beau Brummell, the putative dandy zero.
The struggle for sartorial revolution creates strange alliances. It’s rare to find another style writer with whom I would link arms and, in the words of an Internet sage, “face God and walk backwards into hell.“ Because of his erudition, wit and dogmatic insight, Le Chouan des villes, the (collective) pseudonym for the writers of the now-dormant blog of the same name, is one of them. Les chroniques de l’homme élégant, a collection of essays by Le chouan, is fascinating to read.
The late fashion snapper Bill Cunningham left nothing if not good will with his passing. Long before his death, the originator of street style photography was already a wraith in a blue work coat, haunting a few preferred corners of Manhattan to touch, through his camera lens, the favored of his eyes, elevating them as if he really was some supernatural being to the pages of The New York Times
Most writing about new technology sounds painfully outdated within a few years. It’s hard to evoke the thrill of a new device or technique which will soon be commonplace, harder still to capture its effects on the society which anxiously welcomes it.