Fop  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Fop became a pejorative term for a foolish man over-concerned with his appearance and clothes in 17th century England. Some of the very many similar alternative terms are: "coxcomb", fribble, "popinjay" (meaning "parrot"), fashion-monger, and "ninny". The word "fop" is first recorded in 1440, and for several centuries just meant a fool of any kind; the OED first records the meaning of "one who is foolishly attentive to and vain of his appearance, dress, or manners; a dandy, an exquisite" in the 1670's, in a play by Thomas Otway. Macaroni was another term, of the 18th century, more specifically concerned with fashion.

The fop was a stock character in English literature and especially comic drama, as well as satirical prints. He is a "man of fashion" who overdresses, aspires to wit, and generally puts on airs, which may include aspiring to a higher social station than others think he has. He may be somewhat effeminate, although this rarely affects his pursuit of an heiress. He may also overdo being fashionable French by wearing French clothes and using French vocabulary. An example for the so-called Frenchified Fop is Sir Novelty Fashion in Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift (1696). Fop characters appear in many Restoration comedies, including Sir Fopling Flutter in George Etherege's The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter (1676), and Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1696) by John Vanbrugh. Vanbrugh planned The Relapse around particular actors at the Drury Lane Theatre, including Colley Cibber, who played Lord Foppington.

A fop is also referred to as a 'beau', as in the Restoration comedies The Beaux' Stratagem (1707) by George Farquhar, The Beau Defeated (1700) by Mary Pix, or the real-life Beau Nash, Master of Ceremonies at Bath, or Regency celebrity, Beau Brummell.

Shakespeare's King Lear contains the word, in the general sense of a fool, and before him, Thomas Nashe, in Summer's Last Will and Testament (1592, printed 1600): "the Idiot, our Playmaker. He, like a Fop & an Ass must be making himself a public laughing-stock." Osric in Hamlet has a great deal of the fop's affected manner, and much of the plot of Twelfth Night revolves around tricking the puritan Malvolio into dressing as a fop.

"Fop" was widely used as a derogatory epithet for a broad range of people by the early years of the 18th century; many of these might not have been considered showy lightweights at the time, and it is possible that its meaning had been blunted by this time.

In the first decade of the 20th century, fictional heroes began to pose as fops in order to conceal their true activities. Sir Percy Blakeney of The Scarlet Pimpernel is a well known example of this tendency; Sir Percy cultivates the image of being an overdressed and ineffectual social butterfly, the last person anyone would imagine being capable of dashing heroism. A similar image is cultivated by Zorro's secret identity, Don Diego de la Vega. This continued with the pulp fiction and radio heroes of the 1920s and 30s and expanded with the coming of comic books. The fashion and socializing aspects of being a fop are present in some interpretations of Batman's second identity Bruce Wayne. These became clichéd.

Fop rock

A more recent and minor trend is "fop-rock," in which the performers don 18th century wigs, lace cravats, and similar costumes to perform, a minor movement that would appear to owe something to glam rock, visual kei, and the New Romantic movement. Adam Ant of Adam & the Ants would seem to be a forerunner of the trend, who occasionally performed in elaborate highwayman outfits. Other notable examples would be Falco's performance as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the song "Rock Me Amadeus," a #1 hit in the US and the UK, and #2 in Canada in 1986, and Boston-based band The Upper Crust.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Fop" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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