Fop

From Academic Kids

The fop is a stock character who appears from time to time in fiction. He is a person who makes a habit of fastidiously overdressing and putting on airs, aspiring to be viewed as an aristocrat. In English, the word fop is older, but the meaning of an overdressed, frivolously fastidious man may not be; Shakespeare's King Lear contains the word, in the general sense of a fool. Osric in Hamlet has a great deal of the manner.

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Molière's Bourgeois Gentilhomme practices fencing

One of the first full-blown appearances of the stereotype on the stage is Molière's well known play from 1671, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. This play takes for granted the social structure of France at the time. Its central premise concerns M. Jourdain, a bourgeois, a member of the middle class, attempting to remake himself as an aristocrat and a "gentleman". The play's comedy comes from the title character's ridiculous overdressing, and clueless statements. One famous passage has Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme expressing surprise that he has been speaking prose all his life, unawares.

In the first decade of the twentieth 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 civilian 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. The retiring and ineffectual parts of the stereotype are more a part of Superman's routine as Clark Kent.

A more recent and minor trend is "fop-rock", in which the performers don eighteenth century wigs, lace cravats, and similar costumes to perform, a minor movement that would appear to owe something to glam rock and the New Romantic movement. Adam Ant of Adam and the Ants would seem to be a forerunner of the trend, who occasionally performed in elaborate highwayman outfits.

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