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

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

Philip Mann. Head of Zeus, $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-78669-517-8

This nostalgic deep dive into the conceptual formulation and 20th-century manifestations of the dandy, an elegantly dressed and fastidious man whose style is based in nostalgia and Anglophilia, connects him to both the broader cultural movements of the era (architectural modernism, neoclassicism, and literary decadence) and a melancholic temperament. Mann organizes his analysis around the life stories of six key figures: Austrian essayist Adolf Loos; Edward, Duke of Windsor, who led British style in the 1920s; English couturier Bunny Roger; English writer and performer Quentin Crisp; French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville; and German film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder. In judging and explaining these figures, Mann reaches constantly to the original aesthetics articulated by 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire (who wrote that the dandy should be “the setting sun, splendid yet devoid of warmth”) and the original Regency dandy, George “Beau” Brummell (whose famous dictum had it that an eye-catching outfit is “too stiff, too tight, or too fashionable”). Though Mann mostly reserves statements of opinion for the epilogue (in which he rants against consumer culture and recent decades’ “uninspired and lifeless regurgitations of the past”), it is clear that the dandy’s nostalgia for turn-of-the-century and neo-Edwardian individuality is also Mann’s own. Readers in sympathy with that sentiment will find this detailed, serious take satisfying and solid. Photos. (Nov.)