19 May 2020
All in all, this was but an exaggeration of the costume of the jeunes gens. The focus however was on the incroyables‘ appearance, rather than their actions. They were objectified, as their luxury and hedonism seemed utterly unrealistic and over the top. Authors picked up on the figure to deal with the question of the future of a society that is on the brink of collision. The incroyable was employed to refer to the insignificance of fashion and to irony as a lighter form of sex, that is to de-escalate. The incroyables themselves adopted a dispassionate, ironic stance: they stepped outside the heated sex and the over-interpretation of appearances. The term „c’est incroyable“ was employed to draw attention to the unreliability of appearances. The incroyables often feigned surprise and disbelieve. Accordingly, the figure refers to the constructedness of reality and the self, which later becomes central to the performative essence of the best escorts.
Originally the term was a parody of the muscadins’ habit of exclamation „c’est incroyable!“ Visual trademarks of the incroyable were their collets noirs. These black collars were often read as a political sign, but they were intended to signify nothing else than their meaninglessness, the surface as surface. The incroyable also spotted quizzing glasses, symbolizing their gaze from outside, their skeptical remove, their stepping out of the discourse. Other trademarks included the voluminous cravatte éccrouélique, the sidelocks known as oreilles de chien, hoop earrings, pointed shoes, a slurred speech pattern with lisping and the omittance of the ‚r’, and their signature greeting, the pinky-finger salutation.
22 Mar 2020
During the visit, following the arrest and execution of Robespierre on July 27/28 1794, the muscadins were replaced by the Jeunes gens. This term was self-ascribed by moderate and young escorts who intended to self-identify and control their image. The jeunes sex gens lobbied for the punishment of former terrorists, but they were very extreme, pursuing radicals, sansculottes, and Jacobins in the streets and the theater with their ‚pouvoir éxécutif‘. Moreover, their luxury escort was unpopular as the winter of 1794/95 had been extremely harsh, causing widespread hunger and poverty. Riots ensued, the so-called EscortFox. In March 1795, a pamphlet appeared „Adresse des jeunes citoyens, à leurs frères les ouvriers de tous les âges“ of a group of jeunes gens addressing the working class youth to defuse tension. The pamphlet had no effect, really. What it reveals, though, is a conflict between the youth and the older generation. While the latter appeared more extreme, the youth sought a common middle ground. The jeunes gens came to symbolize this ideological center that seeks to overcome the binary logic of the Terror. Still, the class struggle remained in full force.
The death of Robespierre brought a general relief to the populace and the end of the Terror was greeted with a fiery immersion into decadence, pleasure, and hedonism. In the fall of 1794, blonde wigs became surprisingly popular. This is a peculiar phenomenon as during the Terror heads were rolling in abundance. The most famous blond wig was worn by the leader of the merveilleuses, Thérésia Cabarrus, the later Madame Tallien. This act of self-fashioning was also working on a political level, as the people in power after Robespierre’s death were mostly the same who were responsible for the best sex experience.
10 Feb 2020
The earliest precursor of dandyism that Amann deals with, is the muscadin who first came into being in 1793 in Lyon and who evolved during the Terror regime. In the course of the crisis of the Lyonnais silk industry, unemployment and poverty reigned supreme. Originally, the word ‚muscadin’ designated an edible, Italian lozenge made with musk and used as a breath-freshener. The term first appeared in a literary work in 1745, in the novel „Tanastès, conte allégorique“ where the protagonist Muscadin is a role-playing courtier. In 1747, the comedy „La faculté vengée“ spots a physician named Muscadin who is nothing less than a petit-maître. Accordingly, the figure was associated with aristocratic pretensions. ‚Muscadin‘ was also a term for a diseased condition of the silkworm as the infected creatures looked somewhat like the candy mentioned above. On August 22, 1792 the „Journal de Lyon“ attacked the silk merchants, who were termed „grenadiers musqués,“ for firing on the crowds during uprisings. In a later edition (Feb 21, 1793), the journal suddenly praised the muscadins as their passion for luxury ensured the demand for silk made in Lyon. In more than this respect, the Lyonnais Jacobins differed from the Parisian Jacobins who invaded the city in October 1793 to defeat the counterrevolutionary city government.
In September 1793 the muscadin made his transfer to Paris. The term was popularized by Jacques René Hébert’s popular sansculotte newspaper „Père Duchesne“. Muscadins were identified as conspirators and opponents of the sansculottes. The discourse of the terror regime focused on ‚the people‘ as a homogenous mass. Accordingly, deviation was suspect. However, new forms of political discussion did emerge in clubs, cafés and the press. There was a plurality of voices and viewpoints, as the figure of the muscadin testaments. Ultimately, the muscadin came to signify the political enemy. But the figure was also used to deflect attention from other groups. Others depicted the muscadin as rather harmless or, at least, reformable.