Think Yiddish, Dress British

A long-time sufferer from Anglophilia, Izzy is in the midst of reading Ian Buruma’s tribute to that passion, Anglomania. The book contains this fascinating description of Theodore Herzl, the Austro-Hungarian founder of Zionism:

Herzl had always loved dressing up. He was a dandy, with the politics of a dandy. Here he is in a photograph of his Viennese student fraternity, looking more immaculate than his gentile friends: cap at a rakish tilt, coat buttoned up just so, ivory-toppedRobert de Montesquiou cane clasped under arm like a sword. There he is, in morning coat, gloves, cane, and top hat, looking remarkably like comte Robert de Montesquiou, the famous Parisian aesthete, in the portrait by Boldini [pictured at right]. And there we find him, waiting for an audience with the kaiser in the Palestinian desert, sweltering in black formal wear and white tie…And there, in Basel, at the first Zionist Congress in 1897, he is in top hat and tails greeting the delegates. He insisted that all delegates, many of them poor Jews from the east who had never worn such clothes in their lives, attend in white tie. That way, he said, they would appear, in their own as well as as they eyes of the world, as gentlemen of substance.

How ironic that Israeli politicians, in rejecting the jacket and tie and other niceties, became the least formal in the world.

Buruma also includes this tibdit:

Herzl’s Anglophilia as a young man, typically, was largely a matter of his taste in clothes. The playwright Arthur Schnitzler never forgot the devastating occasion when the young Herzl examined Schnitzler’s cravat with a look of distate and said: “And I had considered you a—Brummel!”

3 Responses to “Think Yiddish, Dress British”

  1. megaera August 30, 2007 at 9:52 pm #

    umm…I think you meant aesthete. And I just loooove the picture. I do like high collars on men.

  2. Izzy August 30, 2007 at 10:03 pm #

    Fixed it. Thanks.