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George Bryan Brummell,
called Beau Brummell

The term dandy came up in the middle of the 18th to the beginning of the 19th century and describes, according to Friedrich Kluge's etymological dictionary, “young people who visit church or fair in conspicuous clothing”.

The dandy cultivates his clothing, his demeanor, wit and bon mot . The original, but always suitable, elegant clothing for sport (pastime), combined with the perfectly formed manners of a gentleman , is raised to the purpose of life. Famous representatives were Beau Brummell , Beau Nash , Charles Baudelaire , Lord Byron , Giacomo Casanova , Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau , Benjamin Disraeli , and later also the representatives of aestheticism such as Oscar Wilde , Aubrey Beardsley , James McNeill Whistler and Max Beerbohm . One of the most famous dandies of the 20th century was the Prince of Wales (briefly King Edward VIII ), later Duke of Windsor. The American writer Tom Wolfe also appeared as a modern dandy with his typical white suits.

In Germany, dandyism was updated in the 1990s by representatives of pop literature such as Christian Kracht and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre .


Lady plays with the dandy jumping jack
George Cruikshank 1818
Caricature of a dandy in the weekly Fliegende Blätter , 1845

In the 18th century the English increasingly rejected the French court culture. The new body awareness that developed through the preoccupation with ancient plastic found its implementation in the tailoring. These influences gave rise to the modern men's suit, which was cut close to the body and emphasized the V-silhouette of the man and which consisted mostly of solid material in muted colors and which still exists today.

This suit was taken to extremes by Beau Brummell , who is considered the first representative of dandyism. He already propagated the new simplicity when aristocratic circles were still following the courtly French fashion. There are many legends about him. He is said to have always had his gloves made by two different manufacturers, one for the thumbs, which he knew how to use particularly skillfully, and another for the fingers. He had three hairdressers , one for the front, one for the sides and one for the back of the head (the wig came with his influence from the fashion ). Contrary to the customs of his time, he changed his laundry several times a day, and he despised jewelry and perfume . You couldn't see the effort he made at first glance, so contemporaries looked at him all the more suspiciously. He ended up in the madhouse of Caen after his inherited fortune was spent and of creditors was being followed. Anecdotes and essays about Beau Brummell have come down to us from Baudelaire, Fürst Pückler, Beerbohm and Virginia Woolf .

Oscar Wilde , Max Beerbohm , Aubrey Beardsley and other representatives of aestheticism propagated a new style towards the end of the 19th century: Velvet breeches and waistcoats , slouching shirt collars and large sunflowers became their external characteristics.

Paul Gavarni :
Parisian Dandy

The aestheticists opened the Victorian society, which was characterized by bourgeois narrowness and moralism, to a new sensuality in colors and shapes. They fought the prevailing taste of the mainstream with ritualized aesthetics. Many dandies were artists , poets or essayists and also represented their style in literary terms. Dandyism is an attitude towards life that includes self-presentation, quick-wittedness and a more relaxed relationship to money (many had gambling debts). Independence from civil constraints such as wage labor or marriage is also important .

The Dandy Wildescher coinage is a typical phenomenon of the fin de siècle . His philosophy of life is based on the assumption that the world is bad in its order and destined to end. Political or social engagement, even adherence to bourgeois norms, are therefore not only pointless, but also an expression of (petty) bourgeois dullness. The dandy compensates for the meaning he misses in life with the form he gives himself, with narcissistic staging. He stylizes himself as decadent and enjoys the feeling of belonging to the avant-garde .

A more modern form of dandyism is camp .

The dandy in literature and music

The eccentric poet Charles Robert Maturin , praised by Oscar Wilde, anticipated the dandy type as early as 1820. Richard von Schaukal set a monument to the dandy type with his most famous prose text, Life and Opinions of Mr. Andreas von Balthesser (1907). The English music group The Kinks released the piece Dandy in 1966 , which is about the survival of this lifestyle.


  • “The dandy is a man whose status, work and existence consists in wearing clothes. He heroically dedicates every fortune of his soul, his mind, his wallet and himself to the art of wearing his clothes well: while others dress to live, he lives to dress. " ( Thomas Carlyle in Sartor Resartus , 1834)
  • "The dandy must direct all of his striving towards being sublime, he must live and sleep in front of a mirror." ( Charles Baudelaire , diaries )

See also


  • Barbey d'Aurevilly : About dandyism and G. Brummell ("You dandysme et de George Brummel", 1980). Greno, Nördlingen 1987, ISBN 3-89190-807-5 (translated and introduced by Richard von Schaukal ).
  • Barbey d'Aurevilly: About dandyism and George Brummel. A dandy before there were dandies . Matthes & Seitz, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-88221-878-9 (from the French by Gernot Krämer).
  • Max Beerbohm : Dandies & Dandies. Selected essays and short stories ("Dandies & Dandies", 1922). Haffmans, Zurich 1989, ISBN 3-251-20072-0 .
  • Günter Erbe : dandies. Virtuosos of the art of living. A story of glamorous life. Böhlau, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-412-05602-2 .
  • Hiltrud Gnüg: Cult of the Cold. The classic dandy in the mirror of world literature . Metzler, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-476-00641-7 .
  • Verena von der Heyden-Rynsch (Ed.): Rites of Self-Dissolution (Lovers Library; Vol. 1). Matthes & Seitz, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-88221-500-3 .
  • Roger Kempf: Dandies. Baudelaire et Cie (Pointa; Vol. 164). Editions du Seuil, Paris 1977, ISBN 2-02-004633-4 .
  • Roman Meinhold: The ideal typical incarnation of fashion phenomena. The dandy as a staging artist, aesthetician, enemy of aging. In the S. The fashion myth. Lifestyle as an art of living. Philosophical-anthropological implications of fashion. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2005, ISBN 3-8260-2888-0 (also dissertation, University of Mainz 2005).
  • Sebastian Neumeister: The poet as a dandy. Kafka, Baudelaire, Thomas Bernhard . Fink, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-7705-0845-9 .
  • Otto Mann: The dandy. A cultural problem of modernity . Edition Hoof, Warendorf 2007, ISBN 978-3-936345-60-5 (reprint of the Heidelberg edition 1962; EA under the title Der Moderne Dandy ).
  • Hermann von Pückler-Muskau : Letters from a deceased. A fragmentary diary from Germany, Holland, Wales, Ireland and France, written between 1826 and 1829 . Insel, Frankfurt / M. 1991, ISBN 3-458-32919-6 .
  • Oda Schaefer (Ed.): The Dandy . Piper, Munich 1964.
  • Hans-Joachim Schickedanz (Ed.): The Dandy. Texts and images from the 19th century (Die bibliophile pocket books; Vol. 173). Harenberg, Dortmund 1980, ISBN 3-88379-173-3 .
  • Hans-Joachim Schickedanz: Aesthetic rebellion and rebellious aesthetes (research on literary and cultural history; Vol. 66). Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 2000, ISBN 3-631-35788-5 .
  • Gerd Stein (Ed.): Dandy, Snob, Flaneur. Decadence and eccentricity (cultural figures and social characters of the 19th and 20th centuries; Vol. 2). Fischer paperback, Frankfurt / M. 1985, ISBN 3-596-25036-6 .
  • Oswald Wiener : Kind of a unique one. In: Ders .: Literary essays . Löcker, Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-85409-240-7 .
  • Alain Montandon (Ed.): L'honnête homme et le dandy. Actes du colloque international à l'université Blaise Pascal à Clermont-Ferrand 1992 (Études littéraires françaises; vol. 54). Gunter Narr, Tübingen 1993, ISBN 3-8233-4607-5 .
  • Thomas Kastura (Ed.): Dandys . Goldmann, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-442-07735-4 (texts by Alexander Puschkin , Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust , Tom Wolfe , Evelyn Waugh and others).
  • Andreas Wicke: The paradoxical dandy. Richard Schaukal's life and opinions of Mr. Andreas von Balthesser. In: Günter Helmes (ed.): Literature and life. Anthropological Aspects in Modern Culture. Festschrift for Helmut Scheuer on his 60th birthday . Gunter Narr, Tübingen 2002, ISBN 3-8233-5883-9 , pp. 147-160.
  • Melanie Grundmann (Ed.): The Dandy. How he became what he was. An anthology . Böhlau, Cologne 2007, ISBN 3-412-20022-0 .
  • Fernand Hörner: The Dandy's Claim. An archeology . Transcript, Bielefeld 2008, ISBN 978-3-89942-913-8 (also dissertation, University of Wuppertal 2007).
  • Isabelle Stauffer: Female dandies, powerful femmes fragiles. Ironic staging of gender in the fin de siècle (literature, culture, gender. Large series; vol. 50). Böhlau, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-412-20252-1 .
  • Alexandra Tacke, Björn Weyand (Ed.): Depressive Dandys. Game forms of decadence in pop modernism (literature, culture, gender. Small series; vol. 26). Böhlau, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-412-20279-8 .
  • Fernand Hörner, The Dandy . In: Stephan Moebius and Markus Schroer : Divas, Hackers, Speculators. Social figures of the present . Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-518-12573-1 , pp. 54-67.
  • Anne Kristin Tietenberg: The dandy as border crosser of modernity. Self-styling in literature and pop culture (Literature-Culture-Media; Vol. 14.) Lit, Berlin [u. a.] 2013, ISBN 978-3-643-11883-7 (also Diss., Univ. Hannover 2012).
  • Günter Erbe: The modern dandy . Böhlau, Vienna 2017, ISBN 978-3-412-50715-2 .

Web links

Commons : Dandys  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Dandy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. d'Aurevilly (see bibliography) mentions four artists, one for the thumb, three for the rest of the hand.
  2. ^ Michael Krüger: Charles Robert Maturin. In: Melmoth the Wanderer. Paperback edition shortened by Michael Krüger. Licensed edition, Wilhelm Heyne, Munich 1971, pp. 346–350, here: p. 350.