Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tolkien and Lewis: Preference for Masculine Clothing in Rejection of Dandyism

Speaking of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, Humphrey Carpenter writes in J. R. R. Tolkien:  A Biography (Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1977):
[H]is [Tolkien's] choice of clothes in middle age was also the sign of a dislike of dandyism.  This he shared with C. S. Lewis.  Neither could abide any manner of affectation in dress, which seemed to them to smack of the unmasculine and hence of the objectionable. . . .  [F]undamentally both men had the same attitude to their appearance, an attitude that was shared by many of their contemporaries.  This preference for plain masculine clothing was in part perhaps a reaction to the excessive dandyism and implied homosexuality of the 'aesthetes', who had first made their mark on Oxford in the age of Wilde and whose successors lingered on in the nineteen-twenties and early thirties, affecting delicate shades of garment and ambiguous nuances of manner.  Theirs was a way of life of which Tolkien and the majority of his friends would have none; hence their almost exaggerated  preference for tweed jackets, flannel trousers, nondescript ties, solid brown shoes that were built for country walks, dull-coloured raincoats and hats, and short hair.
As I read that, I thought, "This couldn't be written today."  No one would even say it, let alone in such a matter of fact manner and that was in 1977, which was my sophomore year in high school.  What else does the quotation say?

There is masculine dress.  There is effeminate dress.  People can know and know what masculine and effeminate dress are.

Regarding "dandyism," read the Wikipedia article on "dandy," but in that article, Albert Camus said in L'Homme révolté (1951) that:
The dandy creates his own unity by aesthetic means. But it is an aesthetic of negation. "To live and die before a mirror": that according to Baudelaire, was the dandy's slogan. It is indeed a coherent slogan. The dandy is, by occupation, always in opposition. He can only exist by defiance. Up to now, man derived his coherence from the Creator. But from the moment that he consecrates his rupture from Him, he finds himself delivered over to the fleeting moment, to the passing days, and to wasted sensibility. Therefore he must take himself in hand. The dandy rallies his forces and creates a unity for himself by the very violence of his refusal. Profligate, like all people without a rule of life, he is only coherent as an actor. But an actor implies a public; the dandy can only play a part by setting himself up in opposition. He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others' faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it's true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation. The dandy, therefore, is always compelled to astonish. Singularity is his vocation, excess his way to perfection. Perpetually incomplete, always on the fringe of things, he compels others to create him, while denying their values. He plays at life because he is unable to live it.
More "men" (of actual biological gender, but perhaps only to varying degrees in practice) than ever are dandies.  No Christian should be a dandy and this at one time was the normal way for a Christian to think, because the opposition to dandyism matches with what scripture teaches about manhood.

When I think the word "dandy," I also remember, Yankee Doodle Dandy, the revolutionary war song.  So what's that all about?  It's not good, which is why it was a popular American song, singing about the British in a derogatory way.  It was a song of defiance from the Americans.  Here are two paragraphs from Wikipedia, that seem to be accurate:
The term Doodle first appeared in English in the early seventeenth century and is thought to be derived from the Low German dudel, meaning "playing music badly", or Dödel, meaning "fool" or "simpleton". The Macaroni wig was an extreme fashion in the 1770s and became slang for being a fop.  Dandies were men who placed particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisure hobbies. A self-made dandy was a British middle-class man who impersonated an aristocratic lifestyle. They notably wore silk strip cloth, stuck feathers in their hats, and carried two pocket watches with chains—"one to tell what time it was and the other to tell what time it was not". 
The macaroni wig was an example of such Rococo dandy fashion, popular in elite circles in Western Europe and much mocked in the London press. The term macaroni was used to describe a fashionable man who dressed and spoke in an outlandishly affected and effeminate manner. The term pejoratively referred to a man who "exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion" in terms of clothes, fastidious eating, and gambling.
Some men, professing again to be men without showing the quality, it seems, would rather be a dandy than be a daddy.  They are still playing around with clothes like little girls did with paper dolls when I was a child.  I'm reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11:  "when I became a man, I put away childish things."  It's worse than just childish to be a dandy.

Join Tolkien and Lewis.  Reject dandyism.

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