Was John Keats a dandy? He certainly knew how to play the part. When poets sing of wine, women and song (and Keats liked all three) fine clothes and indolence are seldom far behind. As well as maidens’ gowns, he had an eye for male attire, noting in a letter his surprise one Saturday at seeing Wordsworth wearing a stiff collar to dinner.
When I was a grad student, the weekend had little significance. Studying literature, I only needed to be in meetings occasionally, and I dressed accordingly: the choice between jeans and chinos, linen or flannel or Oxford cloth was a whim. I wore a jacket some days, but only for variety.
An orphan is raised by his sister in an English village surrounded by marshes, where the crook of a river bends towards the sea. His childhood has its share of passions and terrors, but life remains narrow and familiar until the day he unexpectedly receives a sizeable income. The source of the money is unclear, but the consequences are certain: he must buy a suit, and he must go to London.
Language as a metaphor for clothing is ubiquitous in writing on dress. But clothing isn’t a language. Speaking and dressing make very different demands of the body. And combining words and figures of speech is quite unlike combining shirts and shoes.
For twenty years, Patek Phillipe has sold watches using the idea that you never actually own one of them, but “merely look after it for the next generation.” This might seem a risky ploy: Patek sells new watches, and does not profit from such inheritance. But the watches worn in the ads are current models, and their promise is not an heirloom exactly, but a watch that is simultaneously a mark of family history and available to buy today.