Friday, October 19, 2012

Our Flamboyant Forefathers: The Macaroni and The Dandy

Gay men throughout history as have been portrayed as effeminate and flamboyant; mostly because the gay men who passed as straight usually stayed in the closet. The Macaroni and The Dandy didn't try to fit it; they created their own subcultures where they could be as outrageous as they dared! 

The Macaroni: 
In mid-18th century England, a Macaroni was a gentleman who dressed and spoke in a highly affected "continental" fashion. The effeminate mannerism and fashions of these over the top trend setters were thought to be Italian by the more conservative English and so they labeled them as Macaroni. A "macaroni" was literally a small tricorn hat placed on top of a high wig. The flamboyant Macaronis were the precursor to the dandies, but were far more outrageous.

In the Middlesex Journal for November 7th, 1772 Juventis commented on the use of the term Macaroni: 
"If I consult the prints, ’tis a figure with something uncommon in its dress or appearance; if the ladies, an effeminate fop; but if the ’prentice-boys, a queer fellow with a great large tail." 
Basically this meant that if a woman saw these illustrations she would just think it was an effeminate dandy, but if a working class boy saw them, he would recognize the Macaroni as a homosexual.

The Dandy: 
George "Beau" Brummell eptomized the Dandy. Brummel was obsessed with re-inventing male fashion; his tightly tailored riding clothes, crisp fabrics and his simple elegance was revolutionary for it's time.  He believed that a fashionable man should dress in an understated and elegant style. He was concerned  with all aspects of male fashion and grooming and became famous in English Society for his stylish clothing and witty tongue.
In 1799, upon coming of age, Beau Brummell inherited a small fortune of thirty thousand pounds, which he spent mostly on custom made clothing, gambling, and high living.

George "Beau" Brummel, The original Dandy

Brummel's style was quickly copied by the fashionable set and it gradually mutated into a more extreme version of the Dandy style... and we know who was responsible for taking it to the next level, don't we?


The Dandy as Aesthete:
 In the late 1800's the Aesthetic Movement created a whole new look for the dandy. Oscar Wilde was the poster child for the new Dandy and his style was widely satirized in newspaper cartoons of the day.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar's long hair and boyish silk stocking became his trademark style. The Sunflower motif was widely used in decorative arts of the Aesthetic Movement.

Photo of George Grossmith as Reginald Bunthorne in Gilbert and Sullivan's musical parody of the Aesthetic Movement, Patience, 1881

 The Dandy, Robert de Montesquio by Giovanni Boldini 

The Dandy in the 21st Century 
The Dandy has never really gone away; each new generation of young gay men rediscovers The Dandy Style and makes it their own.

The Randy Dandy from New York Style Magazine
Styled by Robert Rabensteiner
Photographed by David Slijper

Prince Poppycock, from America's Got Talent

Modern Dandy, Vogue 2012

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Jeffrey Gent

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