Tuesday, June 28, 2011

...And Called it Macaroni

With Fourth of July nearly upon us, I thought I'd take a moment to look at that patriotic American favorite, Yankee Doodle. Everyone knows that the line "stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni" was a jab at provincial colonial fashion sense, as "Macaroni" was a term for high-fashion gentlemen. Yet, the term also carried derisive notes--contemporaries poked fun at the Macaronis:

There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion.

Remember when the term "metrosexual" first came into being, and though plenty of people made fun of the feminized look, plenty of men still imitated it (and plenty of ladies still liked it)?

Yeah, seems it was kinda like that.

So not only is Yankee Doodle not pulling the look off very well, he's attempting to engage in an avant-garde, not-quite-socially normative group.

You know how there were those kids in your high school who didn't quite fit in, so tried to fit in with the goth kids or the stoner kids or the Under-the-Stairs Kids (my school had big stairs and all the alternative-types congregated there)? But that didn't quite work, either?

Yeah, that's how bad off Yankee Doodle is.

Of course, the rebelling colonists adopted the song as their own and turned the meaning on its head. Somewhat of a "we don't want your stinkin' Macaroni fashion, we'll stick our feathers where we please, thank you!" (Please imagine a British regular attempting not to laugh at that line and then offering to tell Yankee Doodle where to stick it...) Of course, by the height of the Revolution, Macaroni fashion was becoming a touch passe.

Let's enjoy some satirical prints of Macaronis, shall we?
An obscene amount of hair, ludicrously skinny physique, and giant sword bow (talk about symbolic--it was considered improper for a man to go about unarmed, but the Macaroni has found a way make even that symbol of masculinity his own) seem to be the standard for the Macaroni.
The Macaroni Family Returning from Church. I love the kids pointing and laughing in the foreground. Pointing and laughing--the ridicule that transcends all time.
The Macaroni Painter, or Billy Dimple sitting for his Picture. You know, not every man can pull off a gigantic cravat-bow like Billy here.

Do you wonder if these gentlemen, somewhere around 1785, looked back and though "Oh my goodness, what was I thinking?!?" the way we tend to do with the 80s?


MrsC said...

Delightful. I love the macaroni characters in Georgette Heyer novels; the vanity, exaggerated accessories, corsetry and waspishness, very funny. Prticularly Crosbie in The Convenient Marriage and Lord Nugent (?) in Sylvester. Adorable!

Isis said...

I'm sure they did. :) Very interetsing post!