Friday Fun: Fops

Fops in Blackadder

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?

H/t nerdbastards

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  • Mary Hart Perry
    March 8, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Shame on me! I just realized I haven’t included a single fop in Seducing the Princess. Must remember to do that in my next novel. 😉

    • cmkempe
      March 8, 2013 at 9:00 am

      Yay! More fops! I want to do a kind of Pimpernel adventure — after my eleventy million other projects…

  • LizEverly
    March 8, 2013 at 10:17 am

    When I think of fops, I immediately think of Prince.(Or the the artist otherwise known as…) HAWT! I wonder if there are fops in modern romances? I don’t have any in mine. But it might be interesting to explore…

    • cmkempe
      March 8, 2013 at 11:23 am

      There are in Heyer’s books: The Corinthian off the top of my head, but a bunch of others, too.

  • madelineiva
    March 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    LOVE Black Adder!!! Heyer had fops in Cotillion and the whole plot of Powder and Patch revolves around foppery.

    I like the fop who seems all metrosexual and is a total seducing lady killer underneath. Yoicks!

    Great post, M.

    • cmkempe
      March 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Yes! I forgot I wanted to bring up metrosexuals too. They can share hair and makeup tips with women, too. 😀

  • Joanna Bourne
    March 8, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I have to admit — I like a bit more overt menace to my hero. Right now I am enamored of Nicholas le Floch, who stalks through the halls of Versailles dressed in ‘severe and funeral black’. He manages to make a tricorn sexy, which I would have said was impossible.

    • LizEverly
      March 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      Um. Yeah. Well, I SEE what you mean, Jo. I think I’d like to watch the whole film. 😉

    • madelineiva
      March 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      AH! You’ve mentioned this French tv series and it looks AMAZING! WHY haven’t they translated it???? 🙁

      • Joanna Bourne
        March 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm

        I think the DVDs with English subtitles are available in England. They can’t be used in the States.
        There’s an episode in French here, but you need very good French to follow it.

    • cmkempe
      March 9, 2013 at 7:05 am


  • cmkempe
    March 9, 2013 at 7:05 am

    A good thing to know: VLC media player is a free program that plays any region DVDs on your computer. This looks terrific!

  • cmkempe
    March 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Reblogged this on C. Margery Kempe and commented:

    Who doesn’t love a Fop?!


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