Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dandy or Fop?

One of the vampires in Bryony describes himself as a dandy, although perhaps some might decide he’s a fop. How to know? Perhaps Sir Chook can help. In a series of posts over the next four weeks, Sir Chook offers some insight into both these lifestyles.

According to his website (http://www.frillyshirt.org/), Sir Frederick Chook is a romantic, transcendentalistic, overly brainful fop, and the author of FrillyShirt. He lives variously by his wits, hand to mouth, la vie bohème, and in MELBOURNE with his wife, Lady Tanah Merah. When not reading Milton and eating stilton, he writes, philosophises, assembles, models and studies history. He spent several years on youth radio and once ran for federal parliament on the anarchist ticket. He is a longhair, aspiring to one day be a greybeard. He has, once or twice, been described as “as mad as a bicycle.”

1) What is the difference between a dandy and a fop? How do you define yourself?

"'Fop' has long been an insult, meaning someone showy and silly, but in that role, it's entirely archaic now, so I've picked it up as an umbrella term for anyone who likes dressing up. Besides, being showy and silly sometimes - and a little self-deprecating, too - is fun! Being stylish is out of style, so there's no harm in acknowledging one is a bit of an oddbod for doing it."

2) And dandy?

"The dandy is a particular breed of fop - the two terms might have been synonymous once, but dandyism has since been associated with Beau Brummell and his crowd, and its ethos laid down by Baudelaire. The dandy is a creature of society and status - he dresses conservatively, but with great care to detail, to position himself at the very forefront of fashion. Essentially, he seeks to embody the aristocratic man - to demonstrate that he has absolutely no concerns beyond his own leisure.I... am not a creature of society and status. Not that they'd have me, of course, but I'm a quiet, uncompetitive sort of fellow, with no interest in the caprice of the fashionable elite. No more can I claim the aristocratic aversion to trade, and all that's practical, in dress or in life. What I wear, I wear in the interest of self-expression, not status - a pursuit that anyone with an interest should be entitled to follow, I think, so if clothes should be hardwearing and economical as well as beautiful, all the better."

3) Why do some people equate the terms with effeminate personalities?

"That's a bucket and a half of cultural hangups right there! Men are spatial, women are verbal; men are practical, women are social; men are timeless, women are fashionable... better scholars than I have written books upon books trying to figure out where and when these ideas came from, but their net effect is the conviction that any man who dedicates himself entirely to feminine pursuits - to looking nice, showing off, and so climbing the social hierarchy - must at least be effete, if not somehow flawed as a human being. It's hardly the worst thing to come of ingrained cultural sexism, though, and if a foppish chap has no insecurities on his own part, it shouldn't really bother him."

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