Being in Fact the Latest Society Dodo.
The Evolution of the Same.
N. Y. Post.
When a foreign term is suddenly naturalized we may e sure that there is something in teh atmosphere of the place of adoption which makes it convenient and useful. Dude is said to be originally a London music hall term, but it has been transplanted here, and its constant use shows that it is for some reason well fitted to take a permanent place in the vocabulary of fashion. Many of our readers may not know what a dude is, and some of them, perhaps, do not even suspect his existence. The allusions to him in the press are of that sort which seem to imply contempt. We shall, therefore, to guard against all misconception and suspicion of unfairness, describe what we understand a dude to be.
A dude, then, is a young man, not over twenty-five, who may be seen on Fifth avenue between the hours of three and six, and may be recognized by the following distinguishing marks or signs: He is dressed in clothes which are not calculated to attract much attention, because they are fashionable without being ostentatious. . . . His trousers are tight; his shirt collar, which must be clerical in cut, encircles his neck so as to suggest a sudden motion of the head in any direction will cause pain; he wears a tall black hat, pointed shoes, and a cane (not a "stick"), which would, we believe, properly have a silver handle, is carried by him under his right arm, projecting forward at an acute angle, somewhat in the manner that a sword is carried by a general at a review, but with a civilian mildness that never suggests a military origin for the custom. . . . [H]e parts his hair in the middle and "bangs" it. . . . .
A dude cannot be recognized by his conversation, for he has none; and in society, as at present organized, this negative mark is not distinguishing, because the number of people of any kind who have any is admitted to be small and steadily decreasing.
The dude is evidently the social successor of the swell, the fop, and the dandy, but the type is a very different one, and it is in this fact that the social interest in him mainly centres. Teh fashionable types which prece3de him - the fops and dandies of our fathers' and grandfathers' time, and the swells of our own - were evolved in an "environment" which does not any longer exist. They devoted themselves to fashion, but it was in a different spirit from that shown by the dude. . . .
The dude's object is not to exaggerate fashions, but to make them less and less noticeable. He acts as if his desire was not to attract attention to himself by any of the peculiarities we have described. His gray, tight costume, his clerical collar, and his general demeanor produce almost the impression of a protest against fashinable folly. He never laughs aloud, or looks gay, as his predecessors used to do. . . .
There is something very pathetic and at the same time interesting about the development of a social type of this kind in our busy, noisy, pushing civilization. Society is, as everybody knows, in a highly critical state. Its exclusiveness, its etiquette, its decorum, is threatened on every side. New people, who know nothing about the traditions of good taste in dress and manners, are crowding into it by means of money; the newspapers invade the privacy of the home, and worse than all, a large portion of society encourages them to do so, because newspaper notices has become one of the avenues to social success. Society, which hitherto has preserved and handed down from one generation to another the traditions of refinement hs developed a taste for vulgarity, which is the explanation, of course, of the fact that no satisfactory answer has ever been returned to the question: "What is society coming to?"
The cad may appear to have been completely successful, but, lo! while he is apparently victorious, the meek, silent, quiet, and refined dude appears by his side, and we see that he it is who is handing down the traditions of "good form" to future generations. The cad may gnash his teeth, but he cannot be a dude, for it is not in his vulgar nature. Verily, the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but if our view of the subject is correct, the self-respecting dude, who cares more for the cause than for the lusts of the eye, will never overdo the part, and consequently should not wear white gaiters.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, March 6, 1883, page 3.