The Return of the Male Dandy or My Friend Tom's Polka Dot Socks

July 12, 2019 | Bill V.

Comments (4)

My friend Tom was wearing blue polka dot socks the other day and I thought to myself ... his hipster socks denote either the approach of the Apocalypse or the return of male dandy is upon us. The glimpse of a pale sliver of leg, somewhere between the color of raw veal and mushrooms, broke my moody thoughts and I started laughing. 

You may remember a few years ago when the word "metrosexual" was being used to describe heterosexual men who started to dress better, take care of their skin, hair and nails. They gained an appreciation of wearing a well-cut walking short while drinking a fine wine. "Dandy" is the older term, common to the late 1700s and early 1800s (think Jane Austen and Georgian England). These "men about town", "fops", "macaroni" or "boulevardiers" were more common in the past but they are still here now     – by different names. So I thought to myself, let's take a quick visit through male fashion. 

If you've read the regency romances of Georgette Heyer you will be very familiar with Beau Brummel, the quintessential male dandy of the early 19th century.

Beau Brummell  the ultimate dandy

Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy

"Ian Kelly reveals the man who changed the way we dress forever ... and how his life reflects upon and has influenced our own 21st century culture. Beau Brummell's life is a riveting story of unparalleled fame, fashion and admiration followed by a descent into poverty and madness. The man who put Saville Row on the map, who could win friends, political arguments or the favours of women with apparent effortlessness, and who was responsible for some of the wittiest put-downs in history, Brummell created the myth of the British gent typified by wit, style, sex, and the finest tailoring in the world. In this biography Ian Kelly brings the clothes, fashions and people of Regency England vividly to life."  

You  might also be interested in:


Reigning Men

Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715-2015

"This fully illustrated book accompanies one of the most comprehensive exhibitions dedicated solely to three centuries of men’s fashion. The fashionable male may be making a comeback, but early fashion trends centered around what men―not women―were wearing. This intriguing book traces the history of men’s fashion since the 18th century, when young Englishmen imitated foreign dress and manners after touring the European continent."  You may also be interested in this title Magnificence of the Tsars: Ceremonial Men's Dress of the Russian Imperial Court, 1721-1917.

The Vintage Showroom

The Vintage Showroom: An Archive of Menswear

"Curated by connoisseurs of vintage clothing, 'The Vintage Showroom' is a vast collection of rare 20th-century menswear that fashion designers and stylists pay to view, using the cut and detailing of individual garments as inspiration for their own work. Featuring 130 of the most influential examples of 20th-century European, American and Asian utilitarian tailoring and design, the book is divided into three sections of sportswear, workwear, and militaria, covering everything from 1940s flying jackets and polar exploration suits to vintage French denims."


History of Men's Fashion

"Everything you ever wanted to know about men's clothing - and so much more - from the exact hour Nelson lost his right eye to the type of palm needed for a Panama hat, what Cary Grant's tailor had to do to his shoulders - and those all-important questions of what to where, when and why, including when to wear a bow tie (surely 'never' is the only answer?). A quirky book full of facts that you never realised you needed to know."
You may also be interested in these titles:

The Parisians

The Parisian Field Guide to Men's Style

"Attention to detail is key to a great look, and the authors demystify how to select accessories, from wristwatches, belts, and bags to hats, socks, and shoes. Step-by-step instructions for five different tie knots take men from casual to black tie with pizazz. They outline fifteen things every man needs in his closet, and seven items to be banished forever"



Bespoke: The Men's Style of Savile Row

"A fully illustrated history of bespoke tailoring--the custom-made men's clothing that made a small London street a globally known brand to generations of sartorial connoisseurs. Savile Row is renowned for fine custom tailoring--"bespoke" in its own parlance."


Best of British  the stories behind Britain's iconic brands

Best of British: The Stories Behind Britain's Iconic Brands

"Featuring hundreds of photographs, this lavishly illustrated guide to some of the most distinguished British brands takes a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at their enduring success."

If you're interested in British men's fashion please check these titles out as well:

The day of the peacock style for men  1963-1973

The Day of the Peacock: Style for Men, 1963-1973

"The 1960s, especially in England, witnessed a spectacular renaissance of dandyism--a movement in men's style that the media called the "Peacock Revolution." This entertaining book takes a fascinating look at the "Swinging Sixties" London scene--all illustrated with photographs, outfits, and ephemera drawn from the V&A's superb archives. This is a personal memoir of a moment--in which fashion insider Geoffrey Aquilina Ross recalls the era's most dashing figures."


The Italian gentleman

The Italian Gentleman

"This lavish guide is the result of over two years spent traveling the length and breadth of Italy, from the foothills of the Alps to the islands of Sicily, documenting the craftsmanship behind Italy's most elegant gentlemen."  


Italian tailoring  a glimpse into the world of sartorial masters

Italian Tailoring: A Glimpse into the World of Sartorial Masters

"Italian tailoring is a tradition of excellence in our country. In fact, clothes, especially men's, are veritable works of art, which conceal within the secrets and history of the city in which they are made. This publication presents 28 historic tailor shops in Italy and their key protagonists."


Gaetano Savini  the man who was Brioni

Gaetano Savini, the Man who was Brioni

"In the age when Savile Row was synonymous with men's style, an innovative Italian, Gaetano Savini, put his country on the map, forever reinventing menswear. From the first men's fashion show at Florence's Palazzo Pitti in 1952 to his craftsmanship influences still evident in today's styles, Savini was truly a creator on the cutting edge." You may also enjoy this book on the clothing designer Brioni or this DVD Men of the Cloth that includes a visit to Brioni. 


Japanese fashion cultures  dress and gender in contemporary Japan

Japanese Fashion Cultures: Dress and Gender in Contemporary Japan

"From rococo to Edwardian fashions, Japanese street style has reinvented many western dress styles, reinterpreting and altering their meanings and messages in a different cultural and historical context. This wide ranging and original study reveals the complex exchange of styles and what they represent in Japan and beyond, contesting common perceptions of gender in Japanese dress and the notion that non-western fashions simply imitate western styles."


Ametora  how Japan saved American style = Ametora  Nihon ga Amerika sutairu o sukutta monogatari

Ametora: How Japan Saved American style = Ametora: Nihon ga Amerika sutairu o Sukutta Monogatari

"In Ametora, cultural historian W. David Marx traces the Japanese assimilation of American fashion over the past hundred and fifty years, showing how Japanese trendsetters and entrepreneurs mimicked, adapted, imported, and ultimately perfected American style, dramatically reshaping not only Japan's culture but also our own in the process."


Brooks Brothers  200 years of American style

Brooks Brothers 200 Years of American Style

"Since 1818, Brooks Brothers, America's oldest clothing brand, has grown into a global sartorial institution that has influenced American style through its iconic fashions ... On the eve of its two-hundredth anniversary, Brooks Brothers remains synonymous with timeless style, the finest quality, and innovative designs."


Preppy  cultivating Ivy style

Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style

"The authoritative fashion history of the roots, growth, and offshoots of the quintessentially American preppy style. Preppy offers the first definitive and in-depth volume on preppy fashion, exploring its evolution from its pragmatic origins and presence on elite Eastern campuses in America to its profound influence internationally and metamorphosis on the runway."  


F K Ivy and everything else

F**K Ivy and Everything Else

"The renowned designer's views on dressing and behaving well: Ivy League meets street, sartorial rules are made and broken in this must-have style guide for traditionalists and hipsters alike, filled with Mark McNairy's humorous, sometimes snarky, spot-on observations."


The details  iconic men's accessories.

The Details: Iconic Men's Accessories

"The Details' identifies the authentic classics amongst men's accessories and explains how each item has developed. The book tells the stories of their design; the brand, company, or iconic figure that started it all; and how each item has shaped the way men dress today."


Dandy lion  the black dandy and street style

Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style

"Black men appropriating, subverting, and reinventing the dress styles of society elites, described as "high-styled rebels" by author Shantrelle P. Lewis-are influencing the language of contemporary fashion. 'Dandy Lion' presents and celebrates the black dandy movement, and its designers and tailors, in photographs and stories from all over the world."  You may also be interested in How to Slay: Inspiration From the Queens & Kings of Black Style.


The suit form  function and style

The Suit: Form, Function and Style

"For over a century the suit has dominated wardrobes, its simple form making it the go-to attire for boardrooms, churches, or cocktail bars--anywhere one wants to make an impression. But this ubiquity has allowed us to take the suit's history for granted, and its complex construction, symbolic power, and many shifting meanings have been lost to all but the most devout sartorialists."  You may also be interested Sharp Suits.


The measure of a man  the story of a father  a son  and a suit

The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit

"A son's decision to alter his father's last surviving suit for himself is the launching point for this powerful book - part personal memoir, part social history of the man's suit - about fathers and sons, love and forgiveness, and learning what it means to be a man."


Cover image of The dandy at dusk : taste and melancholy in the twentieth century

The Dandy at Dusk : Taste and Melancholy in the Twentieth Century

"Philip Mann chronicles the relationship of dandyism and the emerging cultural landscape of modernity via portraits of Regency England's Beau Brummel - the first dandy - and six twentieth-century figures: Austrian architect Adolf Loos, the Duke of Windsor, neo-Edwardian courtier Bunny Roger, writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp, French film producer Jean-Pierre Melville, and New German Cinema enfant terrible and inverted dandy Rainer Werner Fassbinder. He blends memorable anecdotes with acute analysis to explore their style, identity and influence."


Men of style

Men of Style

"A style guide with heft. Men of Style profiles the best-dressed men of recent centuries: from actors to statesman, playboys to painters, the iconic and the more unexpected. Comprising profiles of their colorful, dapper lives, sartorial and personal, explaining too how they have shaped menswear today." You may also like Bad Boys of Fashion: Style Rebels and Renegades Through the Ages.


Men and style  essays  interviews  and considerations

Men and Style: Essays, Interviews, and Considerations

"Men and Style reaches beyond standard "what to wear" advice: It is equal parts style guide and intriguing conversation about the masculine identity within the world of fashion. David Coggins explores the history of men's style and learns from some of the most notable tastemakers in the industry and beyond. Its essays and interviews discuss the lessons men learned from their fathers, the mistakes they made as young men, and how they emerged to become better men. Some of the most dapper men in the world discuss bad mustaches, misguided cologne choices, and unfortunate prom tuxedos. "


I am dandy  the return of the elegant gentleman

I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman

"The dandy is back! Gone are the days of arbitrary fashion, casual sportswear, and slick metrosexuals. Today, more men are discovering dandyism and giving it their own contemporary look. Even today, men who devote themselves to the finer things in life --especially when it comes to fashion --mostly arouse suspicion. Vanity is frowned upon and lavish grooming is generally deemed superficial or unmanly. Fortunately, a small but tenacious movement has been defying these social dictates for more than 200 years. Its adherents indulge in their love of quality clothing and accessories not only privately, but also very publicly. Photographer Rose Callahan and writer Nathaniel Adams have spent years exploring the fascinating phenomenon of dandyism. They visit contemporary dandies in their homes to document their impeccably designed lives in both words and images."


Menswear Dog presents The new classics  fresh looks for the modern man

Menswear Dog Presents The New Classics: Fresh Looks for the Modern Man

"Bodhi, the Shiba Inu behind the ... blog Menswear Dog, is here to show you how to dress like a man. Organized seasonally, The New Classics highlights the timeless, can't-go-wrong items every man needs in his wardrobe--from a chambray shirt to a perfectly fitted peacoat (all modeled by Bodhi, of course)--and shows how to mix and match them all year long."


What recent fashion trends have you noticed that signal that the age of the dandy is far from over? What delightful socks have you spotted men wearing? Share in the comments below.