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Awesome Men Throughout History: Evander Berry Wall

There’s been a renewed interest in men’s fashion over the past few years, to the point where it’s hard to get away with old t-shirts and cargo shorts unless you’re someone’s dad. Otherwise, pressure is slowly mounting for young men to actually groom and take care of themselves. Dressing up, for all its myriad inconveniences, is becoming cool again.

berry3Now, it’s still possible to overdo it and be a prissy, vain headcase about one’s appearance (though the preferred term is “metrosexual”), but there is a way to chronically overdress and get away with it. In fact, some would say that the only way to dress up is to go completely overboard and make a shameless peacock of yourself. That was pretty much the entire life philosophy of this week’s Awesome Man Throughout History, Evander Berry Wall.

Born in 1860, Evander stood in opposition to the plain, repressed, humorless stereotype of the Victorian gentleman, and he had the money to finance his inexhaustible thirst for new clothes. Evander complimented his walrus mustache and ever-present monocle with a wardrobe of 500 complete outfits, many of which boasted loud, “tropical” patterns, as well as a lot of checkers and tweed. He even had lavender spats.

Add the fact that he only ever drank champagne (if you offered him water, he’d laugh at you), and Evander was a baller more than a century before that term even existed. There are guys at the Players Ball right now who could still learn things from the King of the Dudes, as Evander was known in the New York City press. Back then, a dude was someone who followed current fashion trends to a clownish degree, and was intended to be an insult. Evander embraced it as a compliment.

But, like every trendsetter, he had to deal with a few haters here and there. Financier and intemperate gambler John Gates bet Evander that he couldn’t change clothes 40 times—that means 40 distinct outfits—between breakfast and dinner, because when you’re that rich you can just throw your money at crazy impulses and not suffer for it. Evander won that bet, by the way.

Later, actor and flashy dresser Bob Hilliard challenged him to what can only be described as a fashion duel, since both men had developed separate reputations as ostentatious clothes horses. Reports on who won are inconsistent, but it’s generally agreed upon that Evander won by pimp-walking into New York City’s Hoffman House bar in hip-length, patent leather boots.

Granted, Evander Wall died practically broke because he blew through $40 million (in today’s money) in less than 20 years, but literally every day of his adult life was a New Year’s Eve party that didn’t end until after daylight the next morning. I can think of worse ways to go broke.

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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.

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