Artist / Rebel / Dandy: Men of Fashion

RISD Museum

Explore the impeccable style of the most iconic dandies through history

Artist / Rebel / Dandy 
Artist/Rebel/Dandy documents the enduring, global impact of the dandy—that distinctively dressed figure who has pervaded Western culture for more than two centuries. From Beau Brummell in the late 18th century to the international style-makers of today, this character epitomizes the powerful bond between clothing, identity, and creativity. Garbed with great intention and at least a hint of provocation, the dandy is forward-thinking, conscientious, and thoroughly artistic.                                                     

Artist / Rebel / Dandy

This presentation celebrates exquisitely crafted personal ensembles and visual representations associated with individual dandies around the world. The featured personalities are grouped to suggest kinship across chronological and geographic borders under the themes of historians, connoisseurs, revolutionaries, romantics, and explorers.

The items on display represent the dandy as an international figure, but they also reflect the tableaux visible every day in RISD’s creative environment. They illustrate how experimental self-invention, the constructive urge to challenge the status quo, and the power of well-crafted clothing work together in the lives of these remarkable individuals who are at once artists, rebels, and dandies.

Sketches and definitions
Portrayed as a supremely elegant “poet of cloth,” the dandy has also been deemed flamboyant, vulgar, and artificial. More a target of criticism than a subject of popular appeal, the dandy evolved as an elusive figure. 

Bulletin of Fashion
1853

This plate from the trade journal Bulletin of Fashion illustrates men’s fashions from the mid-19th century. This period is often understood as the “great masculine renunciation,” as codified by psychologist J. C. Flugel in his 1932 text The Psychology of Clothes. Modern scholarship and research has revealed that while many men were lost in a sea of black suits, there were others, like those idealized in this fashion plate, who continued to relish the personal choice and liberty of dress.

Portrait of a dandy

Given the many characterizations that have proliferated from the early 19th century to today, no clear definitions emerge, yet these representations reveal that the dandy figure has continuously distinguished himself by conflating art, life, the body, and its accoutrements into a unified concern.

From literary to satirical and fine art portraits, this section presents a range of images of the fellow described by Thomas Carlyle in the 1830s as the “clothes-wearing man".

A Macaroni Dressing Room
1772

A Macaroni Dressing Room offers a window into the intimate world of the Macaroni, or the fashionable mid-18th-century Englishman who dressed and spoke in an affected manner. Oxford Magazine reported in 1770, “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up amongst us. It is called Macaroni.” From 1760 to 1800, hundreds of humorous prints, also known as drolls, were produced in London. The engravers and print sellers Mary & Matthew Darly became known as the “Macaroni Print-Shop” because of their merchandise. In this print, a fashionable printed-cotton dressing gown, or banyan, is worn by the sitter, who is having his wig powdered. The pictures on the wall show such topics as “Rotten Row Macaroni” and “Morning Devotion.” A banyan worn by the Prince of Wales faces this print.

Dandies having a treat
1818

Robert Cruikshank’s hand-colored etchings are ruthless, comical jabs at the dandy “species.” This grouping shows the dandy out and about in the city-at the tea shop, lounging in the opera box, on promenade-and always the butt of a joke. Cruikshank draws attention to the exaggerated components of fashionable menswear of the late 1810s, including corseted waists so severely constricted that one opera attendee has suffered a fainting fit, a malady typically perceived as feminine. With these caricatures, the Cruikshanks successfully imprinted on the popular imagination the image of the dandy as not only effete, but also one so devoted to appearance as to be devoid of brain and character. While to modern eyes these caricatures might suggest a prejudiced connection between dandyism, effeminacy, and homosexuality, such conflations were not made until after the criminal trial of Oscar Wilde, more than 70 years later.

Iconic Dandies
A studied focus on the materiality, artistry, and texture of garments characterizes the dandy’s pro-found relationship to his wardrobe, and such inti-macy cannot help but remain ingrained in the cloth after the wearer is gone. This selection brings together garments and accessories that embody the memory of iconic dandies Charles Baudelaire, Cecil Beaton, Max Beerbohm, Sebastian Horsley, Mark Twain, Andy Warhol, and Oscar Wilde and speak to their owners’ unique posturing, attitude, and charisma.

"The dandy is often interpreted incorrectly as a fussy and flamboyant fellow. But when we look back at the original dandy - the early-nineteenth-century figure of Beau Brummell - we find a silhouette that is pared down, fitted, and uniform-like. This is precisely what I relate to as a menswear designer - clothing that is no less and no more than suits the role. In this way, I see the dandy’s place in today’s fashion culture as one who promotes simplicity and uniformity in men’s fashion. Menswear does not need to scream fashion. In fact, fashion should not even speak; the wearer should speak for the fashion".

Thom Browne, fashion designer

Beau Brummell

The figure of the dandy has evolved into diverse expressions over the course of two centuries, but always tracks back to the extremely neat, buttoned-up figure of George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840). Born outside the aristocracy, Brummell forged a path to the heart of exclusive London society by deploying the emergent craft of tailoring, whose practitioners helped sculpt Brummell’s dashing and artful figure of wit and authority. Sadly, no garments are known to have survived from the wardrobe of this dandy forefather.

During his lifetime, Brummell’s example reverberated throughout England, France, and America. In the 200 years since Brummell’s heyday, the vision of the dandy has been reinterpreted numerous times, though the idea of bespoke clothes as a manifestation of thoughtful self-construction has remained constant.

Today’s dandies—respectful of the past while decidedly contemporary and intellectual in their sartorial pursuits—come closest to embodying the dandy as potently as Brummell did in their attention to craftsmanship and their use of clothing to instigate social change.

Charles Baudelaire
c. 1863

Charles Baudelaire
1863

In The Painter of Modern Life (1863) Charles Baudelaire took Barbey d’Aurevilly’s concept of the artist dandy a step further by focusing on his intellectual stance, positioning him as a rebel against mainstream society. Baudelaire declared the dandy to have an “aristocratic superiority of mind” and to be in possession of the “characteristic quality of opposition and revolt.” In Baudelaire’s vision, the artist dandy conveyed a spiritual message that transcended and opposed the vulgarities of the everyday world, paving the way for change.

James McNeill Whistler
1897

In 1890s England, artist James McNeill Whistler embodied Baudelaire’s concept of the Regency dandy as a provocateur. Nicholson’s dramatic portrait reflects Whistler’s affinity for a performative form of dandyism-a prototype of camp-which formed a vital part of his celebrity. Whistler’s characteristic sartorial style included a dark suit, monocle, stiff collar, and walking stick, and he and Oscar Wilde have come to be seen as paradigms of excessive fin-de-siecle dandyism. Contemporaries and rivals, they responded to one another’s style as they both looked to Regency and French interpretations of the artist dandy’s role in society.

Le Lion by Bernard Boutet de Monvel
1907

The liberated and graceful men populating the Parisian urban landscape were celebrated in illustrations such as this etching by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, a stylish artist himself. They show the modish gentleman as a well-groomed and artistic type Balzac, Barbey d’Aurevilly, and Baudelaire might easily have aspired to, and inspired. Boutet de Monvel’s color etchings were featured in a traveling exhibition presented at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1912. The exhibition featured several portrayals of dandies, including Beau Brummell and this French flaneur, dubbed “le Lion.”

Baron De Mayer in shirst sleeves
1903

Sitter Baron Adolph de Meyer and photographer Kasebier both published their work in Steichen’s Camera Work and were members of London’s Linked Ring photographic group. De Meyer has been described as “a dandy, a flaneur-an arbiter of taste and trends” who would follow his career as a fine art photographer with work as the staff photographer at Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines. In this portrait, one in a dream-like series captured by Kasebier, de Meyer appears in his shirt sleeves. While not shocking, at this time such a state of undress would have signaled a level of familiarity between the subject and photographer. This was indeed the case with de Meyer and Kasebier, who traveled in the same artistic circles.

Samuel L. Clemens
1910

Samuel L. Clemens (1835-1910), American writer and humorist, who wrote under the pseudonym of Mark Twain, from a print after a photo by E. H. Mills.

Frank Lloyd Wright
1937

Cecil Beaton
1948

Cecil Beaton drinking while wearing his fourth costume of the evening, as host of his garden party.

Nat King Cole

Crafting the dandy
These selected objects from Artist, Rebel, Dandy: Men of Fashion illuminates the personal choices made as the “clothes-wearing man” crafts his appearance into an identity. If there is a purpose for the dandy’s bespoke pursuits, it just might be to slow time—to appreciate the attention required in crafting the bespoke suit, to admire its finer points, to see it as part of a living history. 

Derby Hat
Dunlap & Company, hatter
Late 1800s

Worn by Byron Satterlee Hurlbut. Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Byron Satterlee Hurlbut

Pantaloons
ca. 1815

Worn by a member of the Giles Lodge family.

Craftsmanship
Craftsmanship, artistry, and materials are of the utmost importance. The dandy’s acute attention to detail often begins with a materials investigation, extends to his choice of tailor, and culminates with the art of accessorizing the ensemble.


This artistry continues as these elements are arranged on the body and correctly cared for to maintain their beauty and perfection. It is with this knowledge and these rituals that a well-dressed man becomes a dandy.

Coat
Robinson Jones & Company Extra Fine Rich
ca. 1840

Worn by N. W. Chapin. Gift of N. David Scotti

This group of fine broadcloth jackets dating from the early days of Brummell’s influence to the early Victorian era have retained their modeling and drape for close to 200 years with little sign of wear. The luxury of broadcloth comes from the sheer amount of high-quality wool fiber necessary to produce the finished yardage. Broadcloth comprises a “full breadth,” approximately 60 inches wide, hence its name. After weaving, the yardage is washed and subjected to a felting process that produces a very dense fabric as it shrinks. After felting, a finisher raises the nap, or the surface of the textile, to a lamb’s-ear softness. Light plays against this sublime surface, resulting in a beautiful depth of color.

Man's suit
1880

James Woolson was a Boston-based leather merchant for most of his career. His understanding of fine textiles and materials was honed while serving many roles, from librarian to president, in the Boston Mercantile Library Association. This suit, with its covered buttons and impeccably finished seams, reflects his discerning eye. Pristine seams are a hallmark of the seersucker suit, which is traditionally left unlined to afford the wearer welcome relief from summertime heat and humidity.
Worn by James Adams Woolson (1829-1904). Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Byron Satterlee Hurlbut. Cotton seersucker jacket and trousers.

Top Hat
Collins & Fairbanks
1899

The collections of the RISD Museum of Art include this smart top hat from the late 19th-century Boston import firm Collins & Fairbanks Co. Advertising their wares in the MIT campus newspaper, The Tech, Collins & Fairbanks celebrated their specialty: young men’s hats. Like the young men of Eton College, young American clothes-wearing men wouldn’t have dared leave home with their heads uncovered. Both the black top hat and the derby belonged to Harvard dean Byron Satterlee Hurlbut. The exceedingly rare white top hat was likely intended for wear at the Royal Ascot races, where pale blush was de rigeur. Even then, this shade of white is most unusual, as those described as white are usually pale gray. Shelton and Co., which created this hat for a member of the Providence-based Goddard family, was located just off the Pall Mall, London’s center of haberdashery.
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Byron Satterlee Hurlbut. Worn by Byron Satterlee Hurlbut

Shirt
T. Hodgkinson
C. 1900

Relatively unknwon today, the devonaire Francis J. Carolan was often discussed at the turn-of-the century in the same breath as industrialist Henry C. Frick and other dandy elites. Carolan was part of the fashionable set in San Francisco, where high-end shops procured shirts like these, crafted on London Pall Mall street, for the nouveau riche. Carolan’s taste for sumptuous fabrics was reported in The Sunday Oregonian on August 1, 1909: “These haberdasher artists whisper softly that Francis J. Carolan is especially fastidious about this part of his clothing,” “this part” here referring to his silk underwear. As evidenced by this suite of richly patterned and tinted cotton and silk shirts, Carolan did not shy from the bolder side of the dandy spectrum.
Worn by Francis J. Carolan. Anonymous gift

"The “idea” of the dandy has become something of a truism in discussions of nineteenth-century culture. His figure has perhaps been identified too readily by many critics and historians with grand and diffuse concepts of modernity: a catch-all cipher for literary, artistic, philosophical, sexual, and social revolution. In all of this theoretical supposition there is a danger that the empirical substance of dandyism—the grounded experience of fashionable masculinity out of which dandy figures were constructed—gets lost and contemporary meanings and relevance obscured".

Christopher Breward, fashion historian

Shirt
T. Hodgkinson
1900

Relatively unknwon today, the devonaire Francis J. Carolan was often discussed at the turn-of-the century in the same breath as industrialist Henry C. Frick and other dandy elites. Carolan was part of the fashionable set in San Francisco, where high-end shops procured shirts like these, crafted on London Pall Mall street, for the nouveau riche. Carolan’s taste for sumptuous fabrics was reported in The Sunday Oregonian on August 1, 1909: “These haberdasher artists whisper softly that Francis J. Carolan is especially fastidious about this part of his clothing,” “this part” here referring to his silk underwear. As evidenced by this suite of richly patterned and tinted cotton and silk shirts, Carolan did not shy from the bolder side of the dandy spectrum.
Worn by Francis J. Carolan. Anonymous gift. Monogrammed cotton plain weave, cotton novelty weave, and silk novelty weave

Man's suit
Hoar & Company
C. 1910

William Fitzhugh Whitehouse (1877-1955) dressed in a manner befitting his travels to foreign territories. Both this streamlined jacket of white cotton and unlined suit of fine double-cloth cotton express Whitehouse’s love of adventure and appreciation for sartorial souvenirs from his ports of call. In his 20s, Whitehouse was a pioneer of hot-air ballooning and a co-sponsor and youngest member of the Harrison-Whitehouse mapmaking expedition to “countries south of Abyssinia.” On this trip, in June 1900, the party reached Bombay, India, where Whitehouse commissioned these garments from the civil and military tailors Hoar & Co.
Worn by W. F. Whitehouse. Gift of the Whitehouse Estate

Shirt
A. Sulka & Company
ca. 1920

Because the skilled tying of the cravat was once the sign of a true dandy, the detachable collar was considered an unthinkable shortcut until about 1900, when younger dandies, like Francis Carolan, embraced the vogue. Detachable collars were worn later in the century by flaneurs such as Richard Merkin. While often associated with women’s fashion, the influential fashion publication Gazette du Bon Ton also included numerous style and comportment articles focusing on menswear. These articles frequently were penned by Roger Boutet de Monvel and illustrated by his brother, Bernard. From the 1910s to the 1920s, the series discussed topics including the history of neckwear as here.
Worn by G. H. Stone. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edward L. Stone

Man's suit
Brooks Uniform Company
Ca. 1928

This tailor-made suit, worn by Michael Strange (pseudonym of poet and actor Blanche Oelrichs), exemplifies socio-political dandyism as expressed by women. Married to John Barrymore, Strange described the pleasure they enjoyed as a couple as they explored the boundaries of gender definition through clothing choice: “Jack and I dressed in a manner never affected before or since. Pleatings and flutings appeared on his trousers, duplications of the ones on my skirt….He considerably lowered his shirt collars, of which I instantly had a dozen copies made.” Strange wore this suit, tailored by Brooks Uniform Company, in everyday life and when she played the role of Napoleon II in L’Aiglon. The suit’s skillful construction is offset by the ethereal silk organdy dickey and trompe l’oeil bow time.
Worn by Michael Strange (pseudonym of Blanche Oelrichs). Gift of Joan Avillez.

Morning suit
Norton & Sons
1941

These two suits reveal subtle variations in even the most classic form, the morning suit. While at first glance they appear to be exactly the same, a difference in the weight and spacing of the stripes of the trousers is revealed upon closer examination. The nuance of the brushed versus flat-woven black jacket also becomes apparent. Such details serve as clues to the personality of the wearer and reflect the many discussions the client would have had with his tailor. The Savile Row firms Norton & Sons and Hawes & Curtis have long been destinations for Americans in London. Of his days as a young apprentice at Hawes & Curtis, tailor John Pearse recollects, “We were upstairs in the workroom which was like Fagin’s den. Those guys were all kind of Mod-y and young even though we were making for the Duke of Edinburgh or the King of Thailand. It gave me a good grounding for the flamboyance to come.”
Worn by Eben S. Doolittle. Gift of Nancy P. Doolittle
Wool twill weave.

"Indeed, if there is a purpose, an end use for the contemporary dandy’s bespoke pursuits, it may be just this: a slowing of time—time to craft the bespoke suit, to appreciate its finer points, to see it as part of a living history. Where Brummell sought modern masculinity via understated luxury, today’s young dandy would rather take a slow ride through the fast city, paving his road to the future and a set of new rules for dress and comportment in the technological age".

Laurie Anne Brewer, curator

Man's suit
1959
Kilgour, French and Stanbury Ltd.

This three-piece suit in Glen Urquhart check was tailored for RISD apparel professor Bertrand Suprenant by the firm Kilgour, French and Stanbury. The Surprenant suit represents a special feat of tailoring. The demands of this pattern required additional fabric at great cost, but if any tailor or firm can take on the complexities of Glen plaid, it is Kilgour. This renowned firm exemplifies craft, and aspiring young tailors and menswear designers still coven apprenticeships there. Suprenant commissioned this suit in 1959, the same year another gray Kilgour suit-one worn by Cary Grant in the film North by Northwest-became a legendary example of tailoring and style. Both suits were made from lightweight worsted wool in Glen Urquhart check and feature the same elegance of line, although Suprenant’s was commissioned before the film was released and the same look was coveted by men the world over.
Worn by Bertrand Surprenant. Gift of Bertrand Surprenant.

Man's Suit
Take Six Boutique
1967-1968

John Krill, a paper conservator in Washington, D.C., bought this Mod-style Regency revival suit from the Take Six Boutique within days of arrival in London from the U.S. in the late 1960s. Looking back on the personal significance of this suit, Krill muses:

It was very trendy-but not common. It was outlandish-but with reserve. I felt alive, bright and exhilarated wearing it. It was versatile. It accentuated the wildness of dancing in clubs. It could be worn to formal black tie events. It felt otherworldly when walking in gardens with friends. It was worn by characters illustrated in Pierce Egan’s Life in London, 1821, and was a strong and direct link to another vibrant time in London. I remember dancing the Charleston in it on the steps of the Frick Collection, New York, after an evening lecture.

Man's suit
F.L. Dunne and Company
1968

Richard Merkin passionately supported New York City’s bespoke industry, patronizing companies such as F. L. Dunne, tailor of this dynamic three-piece tweed suit. In an era of increasingly asual attire, Merkin sought to resurrect the flaneur image. He hung Walter Sickert’s caricature of Beerbohm, seen in the other gallery, between his two clothes closets as a reminder of Beerbohm’s philosophy, style, and humor. Merkin’s feelings about his style were sometimes romantic: “There’s a lot of sincerity and belief in it. I guess I’m a dandy at heart who seeks quality at every level of existence.” He could be astutely aware of the politics of his dress: “There is a degree of satire, of the creative violation of propriety. I was not to the manner born; therefore to simply appropriate the manner would not have been satisfactory.” He also said, “I’m an artist who likes to observe and make a statement, so my dress has something to do with journalism, reportage.”
Worn by Richard Merkin. Gift of Richard Merkin.

Man's Suit
Mitsuhiro Matsuda
ca. 1986

Gift of Charles Rosenberg, RISD Class of 1988

Reproduction of Shoes
2010

The coarse wig, stiff button-down Brooks Brothers shirt, and paint-splattered Ferragamo shoes were Andy Warhol’s signature accessories, central to his carefully crafted public image. The wig, intentionally ill-fitting and dyed an unnatural silver color, obscured the artist’s baldness and, even better, drew attention to its function as a fashionable counterfeit. In a similar manner, Warhol twisted the conservative, old-school reference of the shirt to fit his avant-garde agenda.

Warhol wore luxurious brogue-style Ferragamo shoes in his studio, and in 2006 the Ferragamo family purchased a pair of his shoes at auction. In 2010 they issued a new limited-edition line that replicates Warhol’s originals, down to the paint spatters on the toe.

Worn by Andy Warhol. Gift of Museo Salvatore Ferragamo

Man's hat
Rod Keenan
C. 2010

Wool, leather, silk; felted, applied decoration, plain weave.

Ensemble
Paul Smith
2007 - 2010

Patrick McDonald, the self-described “Dandy of New York,” devotes himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of beauty and the pleasures of fashion and style. Echoing sentiments expressed by the 19th-century French writers such as Charles Baudelaire, McDonald embraces the productive and creative bravura of the dandy figure: “Fashion is my art and that art is my freedom.”

This elegant Paul Smith design in grey and pink wool is brought to life and infused with a touch of whimsy by McDonald’s artful selection of coordinates, in particular the Rod Keenan hat with applique hand motif and the special attention that he pays to his faultless visage. Given the sense of fantasy in McDonald’s sartorial compositions, his focus on surrealist artist Salvador Dali as a style icon is telling.

An Emperor’s New Untangling
Sruli Recht
2012

Writing of the custom-made “An Emperor’s New Untangling” shirt, made of genetically modified spider silk, Reykjavik-based designer Sruli Recht poetically describes the process of knitting the suprisingly strong fibers into “the emperor’s new clothing, an undergarment to protect the hearts of an empire.” The “Horset,” the man’s corset-like garment made of horsehair, is made by “Asthildur Magnusdottir, a woman of iron will and a brain in each finger, [who] wove 3cm a day in the dead darkness of an epic Icelandic winter…from the waste products of the horse farms and slaughterhouses.” These pieces show that the combination of soft, gossamer lightness and hard structure can coexist in the contemporary man’s wardrobe. In Recht’s words, “It’s about making things that people didn’t know they needed, but now can’t live without-perhaps because they are functional, perhaps because they look nice, but mostly because they provide them with a new way of experiencing things in life.”

Men's Shoes
Barker Black
2012

As described by his friend Derrick Miller, creative director of Barker Black shoes, Kogi “puts everything—present and past, genres and products—through the Poggy blender, and with the most astonishing results.” With his humorous touch, Kogi morphs historical references into avant-garde contemporary fashion, dangling a digital watch at the end of a 19th-century pocket-watch chain or adding a tie with an insouciant message to an ensemble that would otherwise indicate buttoned-up propriety.
Gift of Barker Black, Ltd.

Revolutionaries
Dandy revolutionaries express their intellectual or political views through their intentional self-display. At the cutting edge of culture, these individuals push the definition of dandyism into a cerebral realm that ties the material artifact and the idea of clothing as a personal envelope to a theoretical agenda that aims to subvert preconceived notions of identity and normalcy.

Ensemble styled by Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi
United Arrows, Liberty, Hello Kitty, Sanrio Co., Ltd.
2010

Gift of United Arrows Ltd. Cotton; printed plain weave (jacket, trousers, vest), cotton; plain weave (shirt), silk; satin weave (tie), leather, rubber (shoes)

In this ensemble, styled by Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi, the Hello Kitty character takes in London’s sights and serenly drinks tea amidst a whirlwind of pattern and color. A collaboration between Sanrio’s Hello Kitty and Liberty of London, the fabric reflects a long history of exchange. Liberty textiles, inspired in the late 19th century by East Asian design, became a fad in 1970s Japan as consumers there embraced aspects of the British lifestyle.

This suit, a joint venture with the Japanese retail giant United Arrows, completes that circle. United Arrows and other contemporary Japanese design firms have tapped into the shared vision of the English dandy in response to the subcultural dandified styles that have burgeoned in urban Japan since the 1900s.

Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Designers Adam Dalton Blake and Fred W. Mezidor
2016

Recent RISD appeal graduates discuss the future of men's fashion.

Artist / Rebel / Dandy : Designers Arnold Wong + Jacob Blau
2016

Recent RISD appeal graduates discuss the future of men's fashion.

Credits: Story

Artist/Rebel/Dandy is supported by the Coby Foundation, Dr. Joseph A. Chazan, Jake Kaplan’s Jaguar, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Granoff, Ms. Karen Hammond and Mr. Michael Quattromani, Ms. Carol Nulman, Mr. Mark Pollack, the RISD museum associates, and the Artist/Rebel/Dandy leadership committee.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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