So, what is a dandy? In some respects, dandyism is a form of magic, or at least it requires a certain amount of magical thinking. Many dandyish affectations (smoking a pipe, drinking absinthe, wearing a cravat) involve a ritualistic set of activities, performed largely in private, with the aim of altering the consciousness of the participant. A well-tailored suit, the right pair of shoes or accessory, can confer a profound feeling of calm, confidence or wellbeing in the wearer as much as any concoction of herbs brewed up in a cauldron. Perhaps it is easier to identify dandyism than it is to define it. Sartorial elegance is clearly a requirement; the dandy must dress with a unique twist, develop a trademark, whether it be Oscar Wilde’s green carnation or Gerard de Nerval’s pet lobster, which he would walk on a lead through the Palais Royal gardens in Paris.
By Thom Cuell.