The Distorted Definition of ‘Dapper’

A newspeak definition of tasteless peacocking.

Once upon a time, the word dapper had a respectable meaning:

Dapper (/ˈdapə/)
(of a man) neat and trim in dress and appearance.

Oxford english dictionary

Yet, I cringe whenever I hear the word; especially if it’s uttered in my direction.
Why is this, that even though the word often does describe me, that I hate hearing it?
Let me show you.

The Skinny Jeans of Suiting

The problem that the word dapper carries with it is similar to the word gentleman, these days.
Instagram marketing and a wave of impossibly skinny-fitting suit wearers have flocked to the word and taken possession of it.
When I think of the words dapper and gentleman, I think of this starter pack meme:

The word dapper has become a substitute for tasteless peacocking.
Yes, the self-styled gentlemen who see that also as a surface word, a costume to be worn (the change in definition of gentleman doesn’t bother me, I don’t consider myself to be one).
Gaudy ties, lapel pins, pocket squares escaping the pockets.
That’s what I think of when I hear the word dapper.

Marketing Takeovers

Looking at the way the word has involved, the change has mainly stemmed from Instagram users, who were originally influenced by marketing.
It’s been accessories companies who sell the kind of lapel pins, tie pins and other bells and whistles, alongside a slew of made-to-measure mobs purveying suiting with fits and construction no better than entry level ready-to-wear.
I’m not going to name any, because I could spend a day listing them all.
The important thing is that there are plenty of us out there who dress tastefully, and makers who make good quality and well fitted clothing.

It makes those of us who wear tailoring not ‘dapper’ in the modern sense, but instead, people of taste.
The buzzword hunters will have a lot more trouble appropriating that term.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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