If you read French, a good book on the subject is Masculin Singulier: Le Dandyisme et Son Histoire by Marylene Delbourg - Delphis. Â It has sections on these subgroups like the Incroyables and the Muscadins that emerged as a reaction to the leveling of the French revolution and runs right through to the Velvet Underground. Balzac is an authority on dandyism to the extent that he created the greatest dandy literary hero of all time, Lucien de Rubempre, in his novel Lost Illusions. A definition of dandyism I have always liked is a phrase F. Scott Fitzgerald applied to Jay Gatsby: "an unending series of successful gestures." Â It captures the idea of a frivolity to which a unique and apparent imagination has been applied, a surface trifle that has a large impact on others despite its putative insignificance.
Greatest may be subjective but there have been others who perhaps exceed Balzac's creation in terms of sartorial prowess if not literay notability. For example Swann in Marcel Proust's "Recherche de Temps Perdu," or that perennial Dorian Gray. One can also make a case for Baron de Charlus. Then there is Theophile Gautier's "Mademoiselle de Maupin," and Benjamain Disraeli's Vivien Grey.