Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Evander Berry Wall ... When "Dude" meant something else ...

 Evander Berry Wall (1860 – May 13, 1940), was a New York dude who became famous in the 1880s for his extravagantly refined look.

He was the son of Charles Wall and Elizabeth A. Wall, and the brother of James R. Wall, and Mrs Louise Berry Wall Ladew who died on 22 April 1910 and who divided her property between her son Harvey Smith Ladew and Elise Ladew (later Mrs William Russell Grace), and left an annuity of $3000 to her brother James, but none to Evander.
At the age of 16, Wall owned his first race horse. Having inherited $2 million before the age of 22, he became a leader of the American cafe society. He was popularly credited with the possession of over 500 trousers and 5,000 neckties.
He is credited for having been the first person in the United States to have worn during a ball, at a time when the tailcoat was still the rule, a white dinner jacket, sent to him by the London tailor Henry Poole & Co "to be worn for a quiet dinner at home or at an evening's entertainment at a summer resort". He was immediately ordered off the floor.

 He generally wore "very extraordinary" costumes: a dust coat of a reddish havana brown, a suit made of a large grey shepherd plaid check; extremely wide trousers tapered at the ankle, and turned up several inches to display white spats and highly varnished shoes; a "startling" striped shirt in red and sky blue, with very high false collar of a pattern different from the shirts, a striped vest and a widely spread stock-cravat

A journalist of the New York American, Blakely Hall, made Wall famous, proclaiming him in 1888 "King of the Dudes" for having won the "Battle of the Dudes" against Robert "Bob" Hilliard, another sartorial dude when, during the blizzard of 1888, he strode into a bar clad in gleaming boots of patent leather that went to his hips. Nevertheless, some historians still consider it was Hilliard who won that dude battle.
Wall won another contest in Saratoga Springs, New York against John "Bet a Million" Gates, for having changed clothes 40 times between breakfast and dinner, appearing on the race track "in one flashy ensemble after the other until, exhausted but victorious he at last entered the ballroom of the United States Hotel in faultless evening attire"
After an ill-conceived stock-broking career and additional failures as a stable owner which ended in a 1899 bankruptcy, Wall decided that "New York had become fit only for businessmen" and left for Paris in 1912.

Berry in a caricature by Sem at Charvet declaring “Look here! I want a Chinese neck-tie for my dog.” and at the Ritz with bartender Frank Meier.

Whether in Paris, Deauville, Biarritz or Aix-les-Bains, Wall and his wife were famous members of the French social elite, with a society that included the Duchess of Windsor, the Grand Duke Dimitri, the Aga Khan and ex-king Nicholas of Montenegro, whom Wall called a "magnificent old darling".
They lived with their chow dog Chi-Chi in the Hotel Meurice, near Charvet, where he had his signature "spread eagle" collar shirts and cravats custom-made for himself and his dog: Wall always dined at the Ritz with his dog, whose collars and ties were made by Charvet in the same style and fabric as his master's.
Wall ascribed his longevity to the fact he never saw physicians and never drank water, claiming: "There are more old drunkards than there are old doctors".

The Memoirs of Chi-chi le Chow, their dog who enjoyed a French life ...

A year before his death in 1940, he wrote his memoirs, published after his death, where he noted:"I keep reminding myself as I draw nearer my last great duty, the obligation upon me to thank the God I believe in for the gift of life."
When he died, he left only $12,608, having "squandered nearly every cent on pleasure".

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