What, exactly, is a dandy? The Oxford English Dictionary suggests its roots lie in vanity: The 17th-century term “Jack-a-dandy” was slang for “conceited fellow.” But the modern definition of dandyism is less clear; the (very loose) Urban Dictionary extends it to any “arbiter of culture and refinement and wit,” and in fashion circles, it carries an element of nostalgia, with dandies being those who long for the cane-and-bowtie style of yore.
Locally, dandy culture began to make a comeback in 2009 when a Washington area social group, Dandies and Quaintrelles, launched the city’s first autumn tweed ride — a group cycling tour in which participants don head-to-toe tweed for a leisurely spin around the city. A spring version, the Seersucker Ride, soon followed, and on June 9, the pastel-draped event — which includes an afte post-ride lawn party at the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens — returns for its third year.
“It’s as much about an attitude as it is about a style of dress,” said Holly Bass, a performance artist who lives in Adams Morgan and helps organize the events each year. “It’s about harking back to an era when the way in which you presented yourself was viewed as a reflection of respect, courtesy and manners.”
Bass said that the rides tend to draw more people than the post-ride social gatherings, but they’re prepping for about 1,200 attendees at each event, both of which are open to the public.
“It’s one of D.C.’s most leisurely events,” Bass said. “People aren’t networking, they’re just enjoying being dressed up on a beautiful day. In Italy, they call this buona figura, which means to make a good impression. It’s nice to see Washington slow down and embrace this for a day.”
The social will include a performance by the Dandy Wellington Band, food trucks, badminton, crafts for children and docent-led tours of the museum’s collections. Hillwood Museum will provide blankets for picnicking and lounging.
The ride kicks off at 11 a.m. at a secret location that will be emailed to participants the day before; the social is from 1 to 7 p.m. and can be registered for separately from the ride. Advance tickets are $15, $5 for children ages 6 to 18 and free for children ages 5 and younger. Tickets are $20 the day of.
Megan Buerger is a reporter for the Washington Post’s Local Living section. Follow her on Twitter @meganbuerger.