Book review: We are Dandy

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<em>We are Dandy</em>.

We are Dandy. Image: Rose Callahan

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Mark Haldeman and James Aguiar, New York.

Mark Haldeman and James Aguiar, New York. Image: Rose Callahan

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Bent Angelo Jensen, Berlin.

Bent Angelo Jensen, Berlin. Image: Rose Callahan

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Katsuhiko Shimaji, Japan.

Katsuhiko Shimaji, Japan. Image: Rose Callahan

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Dandy, like the word ‘hipster’ (the intellectual precursor for ‘hippie’), is overused and little understood. The empirical use of ‘dandy’ can be misleading and for this we may have lost some of what it is exactly.

In this book, Nathaniel Adams and photographer Rose Callahan follow up the success of their original appreciation of ‘dandyism’, I Am Dandy, with a further collation of gentlemen ‘practising their dandyism for its own pleasurable sake.’

A dandy, Baudelaire wrote, ‘is one who elevates aesthetics to a living religion’, and is in this book formalised by Adams as an ‘obsessive male pursuit of elegance in life and style’. Dita Von Teese notes in her foreword that it is ‘manifest destiny that I count so many dandies among my friends and lovers’.

Whilst oddly quoting herself a number of times, she does help set the tone with Adams, for a collection of gentlemen to follow whose attire, interiors and characters are examined and explored to root out what is their ‘dandy’. 

From obvious capitals – Paris, NYC, Tokyo – and suitable careers – designer, creative and artist – We are Dandy also takes us to Johannesburg, Zurich, Stellenbosch, Yokohama and Copenhagen where we meet barbers, barmen, a United Nations’ official and an air-conditioning repairman. It is in this exploration and diversity we are able to get a sense of the over-arching personality of the modern dandy.

The authenticity is what delights, these gentlemen may well be concerned with a type of exhibitionism, but there is no doubt that Adams and Callahan have sourced carefully the personalities and adjudged commitment to dandyism with aplomb. They have avoided the obnoxiously trendy and each curious character, you come to believe, is practising their art, even when no one is looking. 

We are Dandy can be bought here.

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