In the latest issue of The Chap, I discuss bohemianism - the ultimate anti-dandyism. Below is a small excerpt.
As the great decadent siècle came to its fin, the influence of the dandies had waned. Oscar’s ignominious tumble down the ladder leading from stars back to gutter had soiled the archetypal aesthete’s velvet reputation – to be an elegant man was to be suspect, to be an elegant artist unconscionable. So it was that a new generation of poetry and paint-brush poseurs had to forge a new fashion which bespoke their anti-establishment attitudes. The green carnation in one’s lapel was old hat sartorial subversion – the new subversion required actual old hats, preferably big floppy ones of Continental provenance.Into this tightly-laced world leapt the Bohemians with gypsy-inspired bravado. Their de facto suzerain, the painter Augustus John, led the way:
But now a new kind of exhibitionism was born; in its way, as exact and conscientious as my father’s cult of the clothes-brush; a kind of inverted Dandysim. If my shoes were unpolished, they were specially made to my own design. If I abjured a collar, the black silk scarf that took its place was attached with an antique silver brooch which came from Greece. The velvet additions to my coat were no tailor’s but my own afterthought, nor were my gold earrings heirlooms, for I bought them myself: the hat I wore, of a quality that only age can impart…My abundant hair and virgin beard completed an ensemble which, if harmonious in itself, often failed to recommend me to strangers.