Here’s an event New Yorkers won’t want to miss: an audience with Rose Callahan, Nathaniel Adams and two of the dandies featured in their excellent book. It’s tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 6, and free, but you have to RSVP.
PTO Man: Pino Pipolli
Pino Pipolli is an artist, photographer and man-about-town. His style is composed, if slightly eccentric - you can spot a necktie tied without a knot, a country shirt with a city suit and a furry Borsalino in just this outfit.
This profile comes from our latest episode of Put This On. Watch the whole thing here now.
The Artist/ Rebel/ Dandy: Men of Fashion Exhibit at RISD
Within the space of a few years at the turn of the 19th century, Beau Brummell revolutionized men’s fashion, replacing draped and colorful silk finery with simple, dark wool garments tailored close to the body. He found elegance in austerity, emphasizing fit and cleanliness over luxury and excess. The new style brought together the costume of horseback riding and the military to create a new urban fashion, and vaulted Brummell to personal celebrity. Brummell, and the legions of admirers and imitators that followed every fold of his cravat, became known as “dandies.” The Rhode Island School of Design’s recent Artist, Rebel, Dandy exhibit explored the history of the dandy, starting with the Brummell’s elegant simplicity and finally exploding into the extravagances that the word “dandy” calls to mind today.
Dandies aspired to “poise, a hint of disdain, even a touch of mischief,” as Hugo Vickers Muses describes the style of early 20th century dandy Cecil Beaton in the exhibit book. Others saw only farce. The exhibit includes caricatures from Brummell’s time that show dandies corsetting and cinching themselves into fainting spells to achieve the proper silhouette. But by the last half of the 19th century, Brummell’s revolution had codified into a set of rules that no proper English gentleman would dare violate.
The mid-to-late-20th century pieces in the exhibit show dandyism aging gracefully, experimenting with tweed suits from Luciano Barbera and the late RISD professor Richard Merkin, and plaid suits from with Italian industrialist Gianni Agnelli and Tennessee doctor André Churchwell. But by the time we reach the outfits of modern dandies, Brummell’s elegant simplicity has been completely inverted. The denouement is Sebastian Horsley’s red velvet suit, complete with matching two-foot-tall red velvet topper and bedazzled jumbo-knotted tie. Whereas Brummell proclaimed, “If John Bull turns around to look at you, you are not well dressed…,” Horsley warns that “the real dandy wants to make people look, be shocked by, and even a little scared by the subversion which his clothes stand for.”
Perhaps we should mourn that Scott Schuman considers the dandy “more obvious, more flamboyant, almost aggressive” compared to the “quiet seduction” of Luciano Barbera, whom he profiles in the exhibit book. It wasn’t meant to be this way. But sadder still is the idea that clothes so completely make the man. Horlsey believed that “dandyism is a lie which reveals the truth and the truth is we are who we pretend to be.” Clothes are a powerful vehicle for self-expression and self-discovery, as well as a sensual pleasure. At their best, they are our cover letter to the world. At their worst, they are a prosthesis, a false self to replace the one we don’t know or don’t like.
Though “dandy” may have become be a dirty word, male interest in clothing and style is currently surging. Artist, Rebel, Dandy shows all the beauty, elegance, and absurdity that could result.
I’m very excited that the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design is planning a menswear exhibition for this spring called “Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion.” It doesn’t open until late April, but with folks like PTO pals Guy Hills and Luciano Barbera featured, it should be a wonderful show.
PTO Man: Ian Bruce
Excerpted from S2E3 of Put This On: “(New) Traditions”
Ian Bruce, painter and member of The Correspondents, on how an artist should dress, the tradition of the Soho Dandy.
Put This On Season Two, Episode 3: (New) Traditions
Put This On, a web series about dressing like a grownup, visits London, where we examine how traditions are being reinvented in the birthplace of classic menswear.
We go to Savile Row, where we meet up with a historical guide to talk about the history of the world’s oldest tailoring street. We also chat with the tailor Richard Anderson about what’s special about The Row. Patrick Grant, the owner and designer of Norton & Sons, talks about how Savile Row can become a vital part of the international fashion world again.
Just off Savile Row, we go to the basement showroom of W. Bill, the world’s most legendary tweed merchant. Ray Hammet, who’s worked at W. Bill for decades, shows us around the stacks of wooly majesty.
In our PTO: Man segment, we talk with Ian Bruce, painter and member of the band The Correspondents, about re-imagining the SoHo dandy for the 21st century. He takes us through London’s red light district, and tells us why he doesn’t want to look like a painter at the end of a long day of painting.
We visit the tie factory owned and operated by Drake’s of London to learn how a high-quality tie is made, from fabric to finished product. Then we buy one to send to a supporter of the show.
Plus Dave Hill tells where sport sunglasses are and are not appropriate, in Rudiments.
Watch it elsewhere:
Executive Producers: Jesse Thorn & Adam Lisagor
Director: Benjamin Ahr Harrison
Host / Writer / Producer: Jesse Thorn
Rudiments: Dave Hill
Producer: Kristian Brodie
Director of Photography: Charlie Cook
Sound: Kristian Brodie
The Swenkas are a small group of Zulu working-class men in South Africa who gather on weekends for something that’s part fashion show, part choreography, and part competition. As with many subcultures, they also have their own moral codes, which are expressed through the way they dress.
“Definitely not. This may work for a dandy like Boni de Castellane. I don’t want to be ridiculous.”— Marcel Proust, upon looking at himself in the mirror while wearing a red silk waistcoat.