Boston, Massachusetts, Spring, 1875. There has been a fashion explosion in New England and across much of the Northeast. Americans are pulling themselves out of the muck that was the American Civil War, dusting off, and re-establishing a mended United States. This includes not only government and industry but fashion as well. People want to re-invent who they are not only by healing the wounds of the past but also by setting up new trends and styles. As one prominent Bostonian businessman and snazzy dresser, Carl Weathers, said, “We must forgive the errors of the past and become reborn from the flames of war. The best way to show we have changed from the past is to physically show we are different in the here and now.” Thus began the era of fashionistas, or fashion experts.
Men were tired of being portrayed as unsmiling, dirty, hirsute, warriors, as seen in civil war photographs, and wanted a fresh, elegant representation of themselves. There were few places to go and even fewer experts in the area of looking good. Some people turned to certain districts of Boston that many referred to as “Effeminate” or “Offensive”. These small boroughs in New England would develop into what are referred to as “Gay Districts” and “Boy’s Towns” in today’s vernacular. Most people steered clear of these areas and abhorred the lifestyle these folks were living but the overwhelming consensus was that they could definitely dress well. In May of 1975 the invisible barrier was broken when a group of tailors, desperate to find fashion tips, came to the “Dandyville” District located just outside Boston proper. The men and women of Dandyville welcomed them with open arms and mouths. Within a week of arriving the fashion experts shared all of their hints and tips with the newcomers such as bright colored suspenders with cut off shorts, pants so tight you could tell what religion one was, striking poses, maintaining a proper pube to skin ratio, and most famously, trimmed and treated facial hair on men that no heterosexual woman could deny.
Within the next year these fashion trends exploded onto the scene throughout the Northeast and Fashion-specific retail stores blossomed all over New England. The most famous of these stores was “Henry Teller and Associates” Clothiers and Moustachery. Men came from all around to get fitted and trimmed with new outfits and learn how to maintain their special facial hair. By the spring of 1877, men could be seen in the finest of clothes and the hottest new moustache trims. They started referring to these people as “Dapper Dandies”. Researchers have found dozens and dozens of photographs from this region and era of men actually smiling and posing for their portraits instead of looking like angry, rigid reanimated corpses. But with the success of these Dapper Dandies also came the spite and jealousy of religious and generally up-tight people that the Fashionistas called “Uggos”.
The vocal leader for the Uggos, Eugene Blatt, was a religious zealot that hated anything that wasn’t gray and hairy. Even his wife, Gertrude, was covered in more hair than most Dapper Dandies of the time. Being a hateful bigot, he wrote a manifesto covering the inappropriateness of flaunting looks and being visually appealing. He even went as far as setting up a rating scale from 1-10 that established one’s visual attractiveness, 1 being his wife and 10 being “Someone who would arouse the loins of my deceased father”. He sent request after request to the Senate, demanding to outlaw or jail anyone that exceeded a 5. Although there was never any government intervention or laws passed, Eugene Blatt made it his personal crusade to punish those he found offensive. It came to a head on September 19th, 1877 when Blatt and a team of 25 Uggos invaded a fancy party that the Dandies were holding in Boston’s Rainbow District.
The Uggos busted in wildly waving razors and paint brushes, shaving and ruining anything in their path. When the dust settled and carnage was over 82 moustaches were ruined, 14 perfectly waxed eyebrows were removed, every single piece of clothing was spoiled, and one extremely cute and small Bichone Frise puppy was killed. As many Dandies mourned, others demanded justice. The Government, being afraid of another civil war, this time between hot people and ugly people, established an edict that outlawed any sort of maintained or trimmed hair of any sort known as the ‘Stache act of 1877. Outraged, the Dandies formed a protest on the steps of Massachusetts Governor, Francis Stephens’ mansion. The US Army was called in and eventually the protest turned into all-out rebellion. Dandies from all over the area came and fought the troops, not with conventional tactics and weapons, but with stunning good looks and dance. As the Army reinforcements wore down, it seemed the Dandies were gaining strength and stamina until the conflict hit a climax on the morning of September 30th.
Forming the first and still currently longest Mambo line ever, the Dandies, as a unified group turned to their oppressors and struck their sexiest and most provocative poses. Witnesses to the event chronicled what they saw. One man wrote, “As the line of dancing men suddenly turned to the soldiers, I beheld the most beautiful and arousing scene my visage has ever regarded. Before me stood over 300 men but they were not standing as much as simply exuding the spirit of what I have to refer to as effeminate sensuality. Mine eyes have not seen such a gorgeous thing since.” Another witness, De’Andre McCringleberry, accounted, “DAMN! That’s some sexy s#!t!” By all accounts the rebellion turned the tables in favor of the Dandies. The Governor immediately recalled his troops into the mansion and abolished the ‘Stache Act of 1877 two days later.
From deep V-neck shirts, to Jeggings, to multiple scarves worn by males in the summer, we as Americans owe all that is fashion and looking good to the brave men and women who stood up as one voice and proclaimed, “I’m sexy and I know it! And my pants really show it”