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Men's Fashion and the Return of the Dandy

February 01, 2017 4 min read


Can a man be masculine while wearing a floral suit and bow-tie? The answer is yes, though it shouldn't be coming as a surprise at all. Colorful suits, velvet lapels, complementary patterns... 2017 is taking another step in the direction of men owning their style– and their masculinity isn't in question.  Its a huge step away from the t-shirt and jeans approach that many men take when shopping and some are calling it the return of the dandy. Men's New York Fashion Week closed today and many designers have chosen to incorporate Victorian dandy and vintage touches to their designs. In the streets, we're seeing a movement towards this style of men's fashion with a trend towards structured jackets or cardigans, and shoes like oxfords are becoming more commonplace. Dolce & Gabbana seemed to take inspiration from the Victorian era and featured similarly brilliant patterns, bright colors, fitted jackets, and exquisite styling in their 2017 show. Now, thanks to events like Pitti Immagine, where men's decorative fashion is the focus, we're seeing whispers of dandy styling out on the streets. What was once a rebellion of "undress" in fashion during the 1700's is now a way to stand out on Instagram and on the streets. Dandy fashion in 2017 is a throwback to the days when men wore decorative clothes to mirror their personality and social standing– a yesteryear when dapper clothing wasn't just for special occasions. So we're taking a closer look at what dandism is in this modern age.  


Modernizing the Dandy Look

Now, it's not often that you'll see a man outside of Fashion Week sporting a fanciful three-piece suit, but men can absolutely take a few notes from this luxurious style. The Pitti Peacocks of Florence are making headway in bringing dapper men's fashion out onto the streets, but it almost seems like they're met with just as much confusion as they are with approval. Running errands in such an ornate outfit isn't necessarily commonplace, but we are seeing men (and women) take an interest in these fitted, hyper-preppy, and traditional men's styles. The menswear industry is booming, with massive fashion retailers like Asos and Net-A-Porter seeing growth between 40% and 60%. What this means is that there is an absolute interest in menswear diversity and style growth so that it could one day match the women's clothing industry.


However, one of the major stalling points is the idea that anyone taking the time to curate their look is either oppressively self-involved or effeminate. And neither of these preconceptions are accurate. Even though we are only two months into 2017, there's an obvious shift in culture. People are expressing themselves without adhering to traditional gender roles and the strict parameters over what's masculine and what isn't are changing.

The Victorian Dandy

Imagine the freedom felt when men were trading in feathered hats, powdered wigs, and heavy, frilled justaucorps for lighter, fitted layers that carried the same opulence. The wave towards dandy fashion in the late 1700's was known as a transition of "undress," and for obvious reasons. Suddenly, men could do without the theatrical and overwhelming clothing they had to wear if they were to be "decent" in public. Dandy clothing is still a bit theatrical by today's standards, but back then it was revolutionary.  These men, often high ranking military officials or members of wealthy estates, curated a lifestyle around their style of dress. It was symbolic for who they were and what intellectual circles they ran in. Embracing bold colors and designs like rococo and damask, each piece was expertly tailored and paired with jewelry or accessories to complete the ensemble. If you've ever read The Portrait of Dorian Grey or The Great Gatsby, you've indulged in the same world of fashion and wit that the dandies did. And individuals like Oscar Wilde, Beau Brummell, and Lord Byron were the main men that historical fashion now looks at to understand the past. There may even be some truth to Oscar Wilde's quote: "the future belongs to the dandy." And, to give you an idea of just how brazen some dandies were, know that Lord Byron insisted on bringing a pet bear to his campus after learning that dogs were banned.


The Dandy Goes Mainstream

In the sports world, Cam Newton provides a great example of someone who is accepted to be the proverbial "man's man" that also chooses to indulge in dandy-like fashion. In subtler ways, we're seeing this shift as well. Companies like Grailed and HypeBeast are demonstrating that men are actively looking to buy and sell more fashion-forward pieces as a part of this growing market. It's a direct response to sites that are more focused on letting women sell to other women.
A photo posted by Carolina Panthers (@panthers) on

For those who are looking to spice things up a bit and perhaps add few homages to dandies in their own fashion, picking up select pieces like classically-designed watches, like these David Yurman or Gucci pieces, or sporting more refined shoes could be the perfect place to start. Even blending hip shoes like Fendi Monsters with a casual layers, a fitted button-down, and jeans could create a modern refined look that any dandy could agree with.  



Furthermore, playing with layers and different structures is also a way to dabble in dandyism without going full throttle. It's all about taking pride in a specific look, whatever that is, and owning it. So, if you or a man in your life is tempted to dip their toe into the fashion world– do it, unapologetically.

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