Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Chap: The Prince of Whales

The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Chap Magazine on the fat dandy Prince George IV:

...While the crowned heads of Europe were sweating at the thought of separation from their royal torsos, George IV, then Prince of Wales, saw a singular opportunity presented by the revolution in France. Along with the refugee noblemen arriving at Dover came some of the greatest unemployed chefs in all of Europe, and the hungry Prince was ready to put them through their paces. The aristocratic English diet at the time was centered on heroic portions of beef, and the Prince himself, in his typical pre-Brumellian attire of pink and white silk coats and waistcoats, spangled breeches, lacy-sleeved shirts, all embroidered with heraldic devices and flowers, dotted with silver and precious stones, and treated to generous applications of colorful foil, genuine diamonds, and French paste, attended regular dinners at Covent Garden’s  “Sublime Society of Beef-Steaks,” at which he and his vulgarian crew of noblemen would put away several pounds of cow flesh washed down with an ocean of arrack punch....
...It’s no wonder that by the age of fifty the Prince weighed 17 stone, ballooning to over 22 stone by the time he died. He did his best to control his 50-inch waist with whalebone corsets and stays, but it would seem that most of his astounding wardrobe, which included hundreds of suits, thousands of shirts, dozens of elaborate military uniforms, silk bathing gowns, white beaver robes for lounging, astrakhan caps in the Polish style, underpants of black silk, muffs made of Muscovy sable and sea otter, doeskin pantaloons, scarlet flannel waistcoats lined in calico, muslin-and-gold woven handkerchiefs costing about £1800 each at today’s rates, velvet nightcaps, boots with gold and silver tassels, and a dozen different jeweled eyeglass cases, along with thousands of snuffboxes, brooches, clasps, and rings, was outgrown at a ludicrous rate.The impression of a human disco ball – spherical and covered in diamonds – isn’t too far off from the truth. George, now King, spent his later years being helped into the ocean to bathe (infrequently,) by a lever and pulley-operated harness system installed at the Brighton Pavilion and shoved up ramps onto unfortunate horses in order to take exercise (even less frequently.)... 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Adolf Loos

The English-language scholarship of dandyism has reason to rejoice: Metroverlag press has released an English compilation of some of Adolf Loos' writings on clothing: "Adolf Loos: Why A Man Should Be Well Dressed." The translation reads nicely, although there are some typos and grammatical errors. Loos was an Austrian architect working in fin de siecle Vienna who advocated an aesthetic simplicity which prefigured the modern schools such as Bauhaus and De Stijl. His most famous work is the essay "Ornament and Crime," in which he vents his spleen upon helpless flower boxes on windowsills. His sartorial philosophy is equally uncompromising and austere, based on his forward-thinking and somewhat utilitarian ideas about form following function. His idea of "dandies" come in for a drubbing in the essays, but Loos himself found much common ground in Beau Brummell's classic idea of dandyism - an emphasis on simple and refined elegance over ostentation, ornamentation, and flamboyance. Below are some photographs I took at Loos' famous "American Bar" while researching his life in Vienna.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Chap: Lesser-Known Dandies

The following are some excerpts from an article I wrote on lesser-known dandies for The Chap Magazine:

...Robert Coates, son of a wealthy English sugar planter in Antigua, came to England with dreams of being an actor. But before Coates ever took to the boards, he made his theatrical debut on the streets of London, glittering from boot to hat in his heirloom diamonds and, when not marching around town with the proud stride of a man trying to catch up with his nose, riding in a two-seater open-topped chariot – the convertible of its day. The vehicle was gilded and shaped like a clam, and he sat up in it, Venus-like, and looked out over the giant silver-plated rooster affixed to the yoke....
...Evander Berry Wall was a New York Gilded Age socialite who boasted that he'd gambled away two million-dollar inheritances speculating on horseflesh at racetracks around the world. His memoir is a catalog of million-dollar friends, thousand-dollar dinners, and long nights spent in champagne-soaked evening clothes...Wall wore mad plaids and was famous for owning 5000 neckties, which he wore “a yard long, wound around twice, and knotted into a bow.”

......[Jacque] Rigaut’s obsession was suicide, a fixation and artistic calling which remained with him until the day he died. He declared with proud Wildean flippancy that “suicide should be a vocation,” and then worked at it until an early retirement at the age of 30...His oeuvre is suitably slim for an obscure dandy, but his legacy in this grand company is assured with the boastfully immortal words: “Try, if you can, to arrest a man who travels with suicide in his buttonhole.”...