Tuesday, 26 June 2018

“Pretty Gentlemen, by Peter McNeil / VIDEO: Macaroni fashion style, some images

“Pretty Gentlemen, by Peter McNeil (Yale). In the latter half of the eighteenth century, a new subculture emerged in England: the outlandishly dressed “macaroni men,” who flaunted a proto-dandy brand of masculinity that was often mocked as effeminate. Using sources such as caricature and poetry, this history examines the trend’s social, political, gender, and economic implications, and claims for it a role in the construction of English national identity. The macaroni style, brought from Italy and France by men who had made the Grand Tour, proved hard to integrate into English society, which was unused to such frippery. For every aristocratic youth excited to emulate the new fashions radiating from London, there was another whose first reaction was to stuff a mouse into a macaroni’s wig bag.”

A macaroni (or formerly maccaroni) in mid-18th-century England was a fashionable fellow who dressed and even spoke in an outlandishly affected and epicene manner. The term pejoratively referred to a man who "exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion" in terms of clothes, fastidious eating, and gambling. He mixed Continental affectations with his English nature, like a practitioner of macaronic verse (which mixed English and Latin to comic effect), laying himself open to satire:

There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately [1770] started up among us. It is called a macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.

The macaronis were precursor to the dandies, who came as a more masculine reaction to the excesses of the macaroni, far from their present connotation of effeminacy.

Young men who had been to Italy on the Grand Tour had developed a taste for maccaroni, a type of pasta little known in England then, and so they were said to belong to the Macaroni Club. They would refer to anything that was fashionable or à la mode as "very maccaroni". Horace Walpole wrote to a friend in 1764 of "the Macaroni Club, which is composed of all the traveled young men who wear long curls and spying-glasses".The "club" was not a formal one; the expression was particularly used to characterize fops who dressed in high fashion with tall, powdered wigs with a chapeau bras on top that could only be removed on the point of a sword.

The shop of engravers and printsellers Mary and Matthew Darly in the fashionable West End of London sold their sets of satirical "macaroni" caricature prints, published between 1771 and 1773. The new Darly shop became known as "the Macaroni Print-Shop".

The Italian term maccherone, figuratively meaning "blockhead, fool", was not related to this British usage.

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