Although the dandy had its place once in the French and English imagination, during the early part of the twentieth century, the dandy concept, and its accompanying codes of behavior as embodied in dandyism, is largely a thing of the past.
What, exactly, is a dandy? There isn’t, of course, one specific definition, simply because the dandy went through several phases of evolution. Wikipedia alerts us that a dandy is “a man who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self.” This definition does the concept of the dandy justice to a certain extent, but the French poet Charles Baudelaire, a self-proclaimed dandy, took things one step further.
Baudelaire basically surmised that the dandy is not caught up in the trivial pursuit of material things, nor is he a lazy man. Dandyism is essentially a state of mind. A dandy is refined but never takes himself too seriously. He’s both serious and easygoing. And he makes good use of his reasoning faculties along with his more sensual, animal side.
In his essay on “The Dandy” Baudelaire explains in his own words what constitutes a dandy:
“…If I have mentioned money, the reason is that money is indispensable to those who make an exclusive cult of their passions, but the dandy does not aspire to wealth as an object in itself; an open bank credit could suit him just as well; he leaves that squalid passion to vulgar mortals. Contrary to what a lot of thoughtless people seem to believe, dandyism is not even an excessive delight in clothes and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, these things are no more than the symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his mind. Thus, in his eyes, enamored as he is above all of distinction, perfection in dress consists in absolute simplicity, which is, indeed, the best way of being distinguished. What then can this passion be, which has crystallized into a doctrine, and has formed a number of outstanding devotees, this unwritten code that has molded so proud a brotherhood? It is, above all, the burning desire to create a personal form of originality, within the external limits of social conventions. It is a kind of cult of the ego which can still survive the pursuit of that form of happiness to be found in others, in woman for example; which can even survive what are called illusions. It is the pleasure of causing surprise in others, and the proud satisfaction of never showing any oneself. A dandy may be blasé, he may even suffer pain, but in the latter case he will keep smiling, like the Spartan under the bite of the fox…”
While we can often become too wrapped up in all the accoutrement of being a proper gentleman, like figuring out what are the most suitable colognes, clothing styles, etc., we may forget how, exactly, we wish to define ourselves when we say “gentleman”. As Baudelaire noted, the exterior things are important insofar as they are a reflection of an inner refinement and sensitivity. Here, the Baudelaire-ian notion of the dandy is perhaps perfectly suited for Ape to Gentleman, because both the blog and dandyism (as Baudelaire envisioned it) attempt to define a man by his own self-constructed originality, while always keeping in mind the fact that we are―in the final analysis―animals.