WORDS: Andrew Amelinckx
There’s a quiet, if rather colourful, revolution in men’s style taking place. You won’t find it at the fashion shows in Milan, Paris or New York, but if you look closely, you’ll find it happening on these cities’ streets - and hundreds of other cities across the world - and in small shops where young artisans are busy hand-crafting felt hats, cufflinks, leather braces and bow ties, among other apparel. You’ll also find it on social media, especially Instagram, where individuals or small groups from far-flung locales in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere are dressing to express, rather than to fit in, or for utilitarian purposes. For want of a name, let’s call it Neo-Dapper. It’s all about a return to a classic men’s look that was killed off in the 1960's, but in Technicolor and with individuality taking centre stage.
Adaption is the keyword here. This isn’t about mimicry or rehashing the past. It’s about taking the best the past has to offer, reinventing it to suit your own style and tastes and making it your own. By mixing and matching vintage with new, we create something unique. The details are important: the perfect cufflinks, tie bar, tie, pocket square and socks. This attitude extends right down to the handkerchief you blow your nose on and the razor you shave with. Hand-crafted apparel born out of the DIY movement plays an important part, as these items fly in the face of mass production and the homogenisation of clothing, again helping to put the stamp of individuality on the wearer.
The movement’s members represent all colours, sexual preferences, ages and genders. In Angola there is a collective of friends known as the Dandy Gorillas whose brilliant clothing, smart hats and keen sense of detail are put on display and broadcasted to the world through Instagram and YouTube.
As in other cultural movements - the fashion side of punk or hip hop, for example - the style signifies more than itself. But unlike these other fashions, Neo-Dapper goes beyond merely expressing one’s individuality to creating a new way of living. It dovetails with the international Slow Movement, whose guiding principle lies in the belief that we all need to stop our modern breakneck pace in order to live a fuller life. Taking the time to get dressed in a deliberate way - choosing each piece of clothing with care - is an act of being present in the moment. And so is a haircut or wet shave at a classic barbershop where you are forced to sit, put away your smartphone and enjoy the experience for the experience’s sake. We are realising that a haircut is more than just getting a trim and a wet shave, more than just having your stubble lopped off. Our grandfathers knew it, but somehow that knowledge had been lost over the years.
As the world continues to shrink thanks to technology, individuality suffers in the face of rapid assimilation of styles, fads and even language. Neo-Dapper flips this idea, allowing us to broadcast our individuality out to the world, a small act of defiance against a world rushing towards homogeneity.
Andrew is a writer, artist and the cofounder - with his wife Kara - of the online men’s accessory company Fellow Well Met. He is also admittedly a clotheshorse.