In the essay The Painter of Modern Life, Charles Baudelaire described the dandies as those who elevate aesthetic to a religion. It was 1863 and now, after 150 years, the dandies are back. A book edited by Gestalten, titled I am Dandy. The Return of the Elegant Gentleman asserts it. The authors are the photographer Rose Callahan (who has become famous thanks to the blog called The Dandy Portraits) and the writer Nathaniel “Natty” Adams. In 288 pages, they gathered materials about the 57 protagonists of contemporary dandism’s life, analyzing their lifestyle through their clothes, accessories, and houses. An in-depth overview that is necessary exactly because dandism isn’t just about clothing.
The depicted subjects come from different countries in the world, from different cultures and classes. Each one has a different job: graphic designer, illustrator, stylist, musician, shop keeper, professor and so on. A variety that reveals the independence of dandism from the economical resources. Therefore anyone can be – or rather become – a dandy? More or less. Callahan and Adams’ book underlines all the sacrifice required by dandies to achieve their aesthetic ideals. As Roland Barthes wrote in Le dandysme et la mode, dandism isn’t just an ethic, it is also a technique and it is the technique that guarantees the ethic, as much as it happens in all the ascetic philosophies. Behavior leads to thought. There is only one purpose, the distinction: it isn’t a social and class-conscious distinction, but a personal distinction.
Apart from the possible inspirations and emulation of the costume of the dandies lived in the past (for instance, Lord Brummell or the Count d’Orsay), the dandy conceives himself as a general and inimitable idea. Semantically speaking, he is a self-referential sign: his clothing is so full of quotes that he is generally the only one who can interpret it correctly. That’s why he must not fall into oddity, otherwise, in that case, the mass would easily imitate him. Not all the 57 depicted dandies followed this rule.

Gabriele Girolamini

Rose Callahan, Nathaniel “Natty” Adams
I am Dandy. The Return of the Elegant Gentleman
Gestalten, 2013

web: www.gestalten.com