Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’
Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.
Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.
Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.
“I wish to be a living work of art.’
(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).
ACIER ALUMINIUM / CREED (1973)
James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.
POIS DE SENTEURS DE CHEZ MOI / CARON (1927)
A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.
EAU DE QUININE / GEO F TRUMPER (1898)
Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.
SIRA DES INDES / JEAN PATOU (2006)
A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.
A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.
PARFUM D’HERMES / HERMES (1984)
Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.
CARNATION / MONA DI ORIO (2006)
Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.
HAMMAM BOUQUET / PENHALIGONS (1872)
The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.
Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.
FRENCH CAN CAN / CARON (1936)
One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.
Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.
POT POURRI / SANTA MARIA NOVELLA (1828)
Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.
What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?
26 responses to “THE DANDY”
Enjoyed reading this very much.. not sure i am bold enough for these scents, but am definitely intrigued enough to try them….
It would probably be fun to just dress up like this once in a while….but I am not sure if I could wear any of them either to be honest, except for on certain evenings (at home!)
Pondering perfumes that could be ripe for dandyism I found myself, inexplicably, considering Max Factor’s Le Jardin D’Amour. ‘Surely not’ I thought, having a huge ambivalence about this strangely tenacious, strawberry-blonde melon n civety scent. For me it is almost foppish, in a ‘girl not getting it together’, chaotic, naive yet precociously sexual, eternally-cotton-floral-dressed way. Whilst considering it, it conjured for me the eponymous Lulu in Bigas Luna’s ‘Ages of Lulu’. More sexy Sandra Dee than Dashing Dandy? And yet there is something wilfully narcissistic, steely and alluring about this scent (as with Lulu) and in the quest to find its elusive other side I felt drawn, impulsively to dab a smidgen of sweet violet absolu essential oil over the top of it. The transformation was instanteous and shocking. Like the sudden rasp of a heavy smoker’s tobaccoy cough came it out of nowhere – a great powdery whack of a scent not remotely coy or sweet, rather, leathery and animalistic. It was like the two scents had clasped each other in a riotous embrace and a great dusky, dusty storm was ensuing! The smell was similar to that strange Chanel you tried on me that night we went to Gerry’s party – forgotten itsname – cuir de Russe-?-the one that grew like some strange animal on my arm that I just had to wash off?! Anyway, unlike that one, I found myself feeling drawn in to the animal chalkiness of this peculiar combo and didn’t wash it off. After half an hour, it suddenly sweetened, became a little coy, warm yet austerely elegant, like my nose was snuggled into the lining of a 1930s tweed jacket, and suddenly the dandy appeared and demanded my full attention! the dandy of this scent was Stephen Gordon- the passionate, careful, flamboyant yet shy, tragic but brave heroine if Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. An unlikely – sometimes unpopular, massively misunderstood dandy, but a dandy none the less- and Le Jardin D’Amour with a hint of violet, somehow conjured this!
Just realised it was Violet Leaf Absolute essential oil, not sweet violet, and Le Jardin D’amour is the Dana Max Factor version – the black bottle with the red tulipesque top. Suddenly worked out today (after excessive wearing all day and all sleepless night) that the tweed smell it evokes was actually the smell of a heavy old butler’s tail coat I used to wear when I was 18. It was the smell the fabric gave off when it got wet in the rain. I used to wear this coat to all the 18-year old themed birthday parties and it formed the basis of my whole Radclyffe Hall-adoring wardrobe of youth (waistcoats, tail coats, evening scarves, cufflinks, pressed trousers high-waisted trousers). The talc I wore then was Culpepper’s Sweet Violet so that’s probably how that came into the mix. I want to send you a bottle of both these now for you to smell, but will have to check the rules again at the post office about mailing perfumes from the UK – I was told it wasn’t allowed but surely this can’t be the case…? I’ll try and work out getting some to you.
You just have to not tell them! I had to do this recently: very dodgy. I had spent a fortune on a bottle of Hermes 24 Faubourg for my mother; it was all gift-wrapped and ready, and then I couldn’t send it……so I had to try it another way and say it was something else..a generic ‘cosmetics’ (better to just say it’s an ornament…..)
For the female Dandy. I read this and thought of your review.
‘A Lady’ by Amy Lowell.
“You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune
Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.
My vigour is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust,
That its sparkle may amuse you.”
I love it. Such atmosphere!
Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:
FOR YOU KNOW WHO
I think he will adore this post!
only thing is, is it about dandies, or decaying libertines?
(am laughing hysterically right now with hubby rolling his eyes!!!!!)
Oh and I really do miss having Nina around after having just read her very lengthy comment…..
She’ll be back soon. Now in the final throes of PHD hell…
Fabulous theme!! My scent for when I want to feel dandy is Grev from Slumberhouse, so elegant and androgynous!
Ooh don’t know it: must investigate!
Brie, you are beautiful. You are kind. Thank you. I am nearly finished Phd-wise and am a little rum-drunk celebrating the off-loading of 87,000 words, and it’s lovely to read what you’ve written. I am looking forward to be back chattering on this wonderful site soon. xxxx
We want you back. But make the opus the best it can be first. Only two weeks now!
I don’t know much about the dandy fragrances mentioned, but this interests me: “these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.”
I mean I am not a dandy, but I instinctively understand this idea,because I also despise the codified, gendered, conservative life and basically live the life of an instinctive, reckless aesthete. Life is a mystery. So it might as well be beautiful.
The pursuit of Beauty is a vocation, a calling, a mystery, “whose margin fades forever and forever when we move”, no?
Dearest dear Ginza
Hurrah! Hurrah!! Bravo and hip hip hooray!!!
Being reunited with the Black Narcissus after a weekend when I could not make a connection with your site I find this joy to behold.
My quill has been working overtime and all these remarkable recommendations are logged down in The Dandy’s most precious purple leather ledger.
I do hope Les Senteurs still stock Aluminium… it sounds so intriguing. Quinine I adore, Sira I have wondered at for so long but never got my hands on and… How did you know?
Hammam Bouquet is one of my personal absolute scents, something I wear for myself, on Sundays and (bien sur) post being at ‘The Stews’.
As to the genesis of The Dandy, I part company somewhat with Baudelaire, for we have our roots if not in Rakes then certainly in the Fops, who disguised their satire in periwigs and apparently light social comedies.
But enough philosophising, this is a time for thanks and not for sophistry.
All hail Narcisse Noir!
A thousand gratitudes for the reblog of these beautiful suggestions.
The Perfumed Dandy
No, in the hallowed halls of Dandyism, I bow respectfully to thee my dear fellow.
I am so delighted that you wear Hammam Bouquet….
I adore Hammam Bouquet… it’s medicinal antiquity and hint impropriety florally concealed is sheer perfection.
The Perfumed Dandy
Thought this was going to be your reflection on the current exhibit at the Nezu Museum: The World of Edo Dandyism – a piece I’d love to read.
Ooh thanks for the tip: I had no idea and shall look it up.
Just checked it out. Looks gorgeous. Might go this weekend.