Fashion History: The Dandy

As dandies we see men of the late 19th century who placed a big importance on his physical appearance and manners. In this article we look back at what it ment to be a dandy and the role dandies played in fashion and social history.

Portrait of Robert de Montesquiou, by Giovanni Boldini,

Portrait of Robert de Montesquiou, by Giovanni Boldini,

The men who followed this trend developed a cult of Self which spread mostly through Britain and France. Dandies were usually middle-class men who would imitate the aristocratic lifestyle. Scottish philosopher and writer Thomas Carlyle wrote in his book called “Sartor Resartus”, that a dandy was nothing more than “a clothes-wearing man”. And he was on to something. Beau Brummel who lived between 1778 and 1840, was the model dandy in British society. He was known to spend five hours every day dressing up and polishing his appearance. Whether this is true or not we can, however, not know for sure. It could be true though, as dandies used to wear a lot of layers of clothing that needed to be put on in a certain order and in a certain manner in order to get “the look”. There were many men in Britain who wanted to learn how to be dandies and literally took lessons on putting on their clothes, jewelery and accessories.

If you think that the way dandies dressed and acted like was exaggerated, just look at what women were dressed like in the 19th century. Putting things into context might make it more understandable and logical. It might not make much sense to us today why these men would do this, but if you look at the historical context, it is quite natural that this happened. At that time, fashion for the masses was practically nonexistent, and expensive clothes were a sign of status, which in those days in Europe, people placed a high value on. Being able to imitate the upper class was an important thing for the middle-class men. There are a lot anecdotes with dandies. Most of them originate from the premise that in a stratified society like the 19th century culture, clothes were important for people to distinguish between who was the “master” and who was the “employee”. But because  everyone could dress in expensive clothes, there were many times when people did not know anymore who was who, so the servants were taken for aristocrats, and the other way around. Something like in Mark Twain’s 1881 novel, “The Prince and the Pauper“.

When it comes to historical figures, Oscar Wilde and Charles Baudelaire considered themselves to be dandies. There were also female dandies in that time, and they were called “quaintrelle”. Both movements were what would be considered as an aesthetic of negation, as style was not sustained by personality and soul.


What we don’t like about the dandy movement, if we can call it so, is that it contributed to the stereotype that fashion is superficial (which we are trying to break down). What we like about it is that it gave men a sense of fashion, it made the crystal-clear statement that fashion is not only for women and contributed to the democratization of clothes and society, breaking the rule that only the ones born in a certain class are entitled to wearing nice clothes.

A very important thing we feel about the dandy movement is that it was so much a culture of taking care of your aspect as a cover and there was a standard that dandies followed. Now, we feel we can go a step or two further and people can create outfits that express themselves and not follow a standard. We also want you to know that style comes from the inside and not from the outside.

We believe in style and looks, but these need to match the person. And once you found the things that match you, you are set to go. Following etiquette or rules because you “have to” will be and look artificial, but following your inner voice and path will only make you be a gentleman without notice. So, yes, the dandies were great, because they brought great clothes to all men and helped to achieving equality, but now we want to go further and with the help of what we call metafashion (attitude, nobility, honesty and self-discovery) make every man be a complete man: body and soul.


Fraquoh and Franchomme






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9 thoughts on “Fashion History: The Dandy

  1. I love the dandy culture! It is impressive how many artists took part in it! menswear would not have been where it is today without them!

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