Dandies exist in a particular urban context—one in which a growing bourgeoisie accumulates the time to sit in cafés and watch these dandies strut by, along with the ability to afford the kind of bespoke suits and tailored waistcoats d’Aurevilly so adored. The possibility of being subsumed into an anonymous urban mass fills the dandy with terror, but that mass, with its disposable income and its penchant for reading the gossip column in newspapers, gives the dandy an audience to “effect.” An 1886 newspaper article about d’Aurevilly informs us that “his costume is his hobby and, though he would prefer that only his talent should be talked about, the masses know him rather by this and his general reputation for eccentricity than by his writings, which are only appreciated by the literati.” The dandy may live in horror of “the masses,” seeking the original and the bespoke over the common or the factory-produced, but it’s mass production that enables him to embrace artifice over reality. Technology at once threatens the dandy with anonymity and provides him with the tools to distinguish himself from “the rest.”


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