No word on whether this will travel to the USA (although it’s not the first documentary on this specific subject matter), but for S&A readers in France, you should know of this new documentary that I’ve been informed will air on Canal+ tonight, March 25.
Titled “Black Dandy,” and directed by Ariel Wizman and Laurent Lunetta, the film traces the history of “black dandyism” and the reinvention of “masculine chic.”
The filmmakers say that they want to pay tribute to the men who fight against the stigma that sometimes comes with being a man who pays very special attention to his appearance, his style, adding that, “The idea was to restore dignity to a global African culture and find a certain conception of independence vis-à-vis white-black codes,” said Ariel Wizman.
The filmmakers also want to explore “black dandyism” as a form of protest, tracing it all the way back to the days of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, where blacks at times adorned their meager wears, as a sign of affirmation of their existence, to contemporary incarnations in the cosmopolitan art worlds of London, Paris and New York; From Julius Soubise, a freed slave who sometimes wore diamond-buckled, red-heeled shoes as he navigated the social scene of eighteenth-century London, to Yinka Shonibare, a prominent Afro-British artist who not only styles himself as a dandy, but also creates ironic commentaries on “black dandyism” in his work.
Having not seen the film, I can’t offer any meaningful commentary; for example, just how thorough it is.
Dandyism was something imposed on black men in 18th-century England, as the slave trade and an emerging culture of conspicuous consumption generated a vogue in so-called “dandified” black servants. They tweaked their uniforms, and were soon known for their sartorial ingenuity and sometimes flamboyant personalities. I’d expect that they film traces the history of the black dandy, to contemporary celebrity incarnations, to show how black people became arbiters of style and how they have historically used the dandy’s signature tools – clothing, gesture, and wit – to break down limiting identity markers.
“Black Dandy” will air tonight, March 24 on Canal +. If I hear of any screenings of it here in the USA, I’ll certainly pass the news along.