I'm taking baby steps as I explore New York City. Gone are the vacation days where I struggled to cram as many touristy activities into a day with too few hours. I had a busy first week as a new resident of NYC, a rather dandy one at that. This past Wednesday I attended a panel on dandyism at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea. Photographer Rose Callahan and writer Nathaniel Adams, authors of I am Dandy, Nick Wooster, co-owner of Atrium and former menswear exec at Bergdorf Goodman and JC Penney and Dr. Andre Churchwell, the always elegant Nashville cardiologist, were the panelists. The discussion was moderated by the author, G. Bruce Boyer. I'd just finished reading Mr. Boyer's Elegance: A Guide to Quality in Menswear, when I saw the event on The Dandy Portraits, Callahan's blog.
In the hour-long discussion the panelists touched on their own style evolution and paths in menswear. Among the commonalities they shared was that clothing, while important, should be utilized as a tool to aid in one's path. That's certainly not a difficult concept to grasp, but sometimes I admittedly get caught up in the minutiae of menswear as I continue to learn. As Mr. Boyer put it, "It's clothing, it doesn't cure cancer."
We should remember to have some fun with it. Therein lies the separation of the dandy from the appropriately dressed man; he enjoys the creative process of getting dressed. Putting on a necktie isn't a chore, but a rather pleasant part of the morning. For the dandy, sports jackets and suits aren't some obligatory boardroom armor meant to shield the wearer from individuality. Rather, discovering one's own style allows the wearer to break away from the monotonous and the mediocre.
Dr. Churchwell went into detail about the importance of dressing in regards to one's signature. In truth, appearances do become apart of us. It is, after all, advantageous to outfit one's self in the most flattering manner. Delving a bit deeper into that concept, we must find what suits us and, especially, what reflects us. Perhaps it's a pork pie hat or a flat cap tilted just slightly, or lapel flower, or tortoise frames. Regardless of the item, wear it well enough and it becomes stylistically associated with you, transcending any current trends.
Dr. Andre Churchwell. Photo by Rose Callahan, via The Dandy Portraits
This is evident as I've continued to flip through the pages of I am Dandy, where a multitude of gentlemen with a passion for clothing are chronicled. It's a reminder to loosen one's inhibitions when it comes to experimentation with menswear. I admire the bold choices of the men profiled, though I'm entirely comfortable with my own style. Sure, some revel in the peacockery that comes with experimentation. At first glance, I may even think some are over the top. But, after consideration I appreciate their devotion to this form of wearable art. Many pursued an avenue in menswear, while others fell into it by chance. Each path is just as fascinating as the other.
A few days after the panel, fueled by curiosity, I visited Fine and Dandy, a brilliantly curated shop in Hell's Kitchen. The owners, Enrique Crame III and Matt Fox, are featured in the book. A post about the shop will come later this week.
To be clear, this isn't the guidebook that dictates what month to break out flannel trousers. Nor is there a dictum about the over the calf socks or proper tie knot. Rather, it's a celebration of artistry as displayed through clothing and one's surroundings.