Originally Posted by chogall
Originally Posted by Godot Dandyism was initially imposed on black men in eighteenth-century England, as the Atlantic slave trade and an emerging culture of conspicuous consumption generated a vogue in dandified black servants. "Luxury slaves" tweaked and reworked their uniforms, and were soon known for their sartorial novelty and sometimes flamboyant personalities.
Learning something new every day!r.
You can see it in a lot of the portrait paintings of the 18th century. Young exotic-looking males in fancy livery (often complete with turban or feathers) were very much the fashion accessory of the day. They were not just African. You also had adolescent Indians or Arabs in these roles. I believe it reflected the growing role of international trade to Britain's economy and the desire to import some of that exoticism. In much the same way as they might have served exotic fruits at dinner, drink tea and coffee and have delicate carpets or silks in their house, they had foreign servants and dressed them exotically to match. Interestingly, they're frequently depicted as being pages for the women or children of the house and sometimes adorned with ornamental collars with silver padlocks and the like, despite technically being servants not slaves.
There were totally free blacks too of course, and I seem to recall reading about a black man who became one of London's most famous and fashionable fops. Sadly, I can't recall his name (I'll google it in a second; edit: yup, here we are: it's Julius Soubise). In this light, you could argue that for a black, indian or arab man to deliberately dress in immaculate exotic finery is to take ownership of the trappings of being considered an exotic fashionable accessory. You could draw parallels with how certain slur words for blacks or for other groups (e.g homosexuals) are appropriated by the community they originally targeted, as a way of asserting an independent and proud identity.
Bringing this to the present day, there is certainly something of "the other" to dress smartly in a world characterised by sloppy dressing. "The other" can be both exotic or intimidating. Certainly, to dress differently from most is to send out a message about yourself and your identity. So, what kind of "other" you dress as is laden with symbolism. A black man dressed in flamboyant colour is perceived very differently to a black man modelling his dress on traditional outfits, for example. Traditional "good taste" (and I use that term cautiously but not entirely unintentionally, given the SF thread with the same title) generally echoes an establishment perspective, whereas flamboyance is a deliberate identification with some form of "other". It's interesting that today, as both traditional "good taste" and "flamboyant other" are BOTH in short supply in a drab dressing world, the two forms share more with each other than might otherwise be the case.
Anyway, I ramble...