Friday Fun: Fops
In that strange serendipity that comes around from time to time, I’ve been talking about fops in unexpected places with the most unexpected people. Fops, you say, what’s that?
If you know your 17th and 18th century history, you may be familiar with these young men of fashion of whom Lord Chesterfield was heard to say,
“The difference between a man of sense and a fop is that the fop values himself upon his dress; and the man of sense laughs at it, at the same time he knows he must not neglect it.”
The true fop could be recognised not just by his fancy breeches, lace sleeves and flowing cravat but by his makeup, too. The song ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ refers to a young man sticking a feather in his cap and calling it ‘macaroni’ — which doubtless confused other kids like me. It didn’t refer to pasta however, but was another term for a fop.
They first flowered in the heady period of the Restoration. After the cheerless years of the Puritan rule, people went a little wild. Not only did theatre, music and various frivolities return, but ostentatious dress did too. The restored king himself was a bit of a fop and hung out with many more, including the infamous Lord Rochester, John Wilmot. Most people know him today if they do because of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of him in The Libertine (Depp seems to have a love of foppish attire that he’s indulged in the Pirates of the Caribbean films). By the 18th century the fop had become a figure of fun, displaced by Beau Brummels and his followers. Fashion changes.
The feminised appearance meant the Scarlet Pimpernel could hide his derring do behind the most unlikely of façades; sink me! Who would expect a fop to be tough? It’s a bit unfair that assumption, but these gender binaries still plague us. In the midst of the all the shiny, hairless hard-body covers in romance, I find myself longing for a little variety. Music used to offer some variety: there was glam rock in the 70s that gave rise to folks like David Bowie and Roxy Music. Then after the punk revolution the New Romantics brought back the lace cuffs and elaborate styles of the fop with groups from Adam & the Ants to Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet.
What do you think? Can you get hot for a fop?