The Battle of the Dudes / by Tony McMillen

Hail, hail

Hail, hail

12 Ways The “King of the Dudes” Kept His Crown

Before cultural shepherds Kenan and Kel dropped their identity politics truth bomb Good Burger and its irrefutable maxim of “I’m a dude, he’s a dude, she’s a dude, we’re all dudes, yeah” the word “dude” used to actually mean something. And what it meant was insulting. To be a dude was to be a man overly preoccupied by your appearance and dress. Otherwise known as a clotheshorse, a coxcomb, a fancy Dan, in other words: being a dude meant you were a dandy. Dude was an insult hurled at you from real men who had real jobs back in the 1800s (dragonslayer, indigenous people remover, general inequality division supervisor) men who didn’t get all tarted up and whisker-trimmed just to go preening about at the latest monocle gala. Harrumph. But there was one man who took back the word dude, who wore it proudly (the way he wore everything) his name was Evander Berry Wall and in 1888 he was crowned “king of the dudes” after winning a brutal, months long duel of the dandies in New York City that the papers dubbed the “Battle of the Dudes.”

How is this not already a Coens Brother movie?

Yes, Evander Berry Wall was King Dude, here are his bona fides.

Dude Never Had a Real Job

Evander Berry Wall was such a dude. He never even really worked a day in his life, at the age of 18 he received two separate million dollar and more inheritances, one from his father and the other from grandfathers. Wall lost all of this money by 29. And he did it in style.

Literally.

Almost his entire fortune was spent towards his flights of fashion. According to various sources Wall owned 500 different and complete outfits, 365 suits, and 5,000 neckties.  Supposedly he changed his necktie six times a day.

Dude.

Dude Claimed to Never Drink Water, Only Champagne

Before entering hipster Thunderdome in 1888 Wall was already on the rise as a New York curiosity due to the printed press’ minor infatuation with him. Living up to his descriptions in the New York Times and the like, Wall would not only wear the newest and most extravagant suits he also made many bizarre and weirdly endearing claims, one being that he only drank champagne. Later during the “Battle of the Dudes” when Wall became strapped for cash, champagne companies actually paid him to sponsor their drinks! Which if you were a finely tailored, upper class but nearly penniless sparkling wine vampire, is a win/win.

Dude Met His Match in 1887

Wall’s fetching ensemble soon became a national concern thanks to Blakely Hall, a reporter who was routinely desperate for something to fill his pages. Every other week, Hall would print a new article centered around Wall and some of the lesser dudes and their conquests in clothing and gadabouting through Gotham. These stories traveled the country as more and more newspapers picked them up.

Apparently shit else was happening in the world during 1887-1888.

Well, just like in regular Gotham, a finely costumed champion appearing can only breed colorful competition. Eventually another reporter started doing stories about some other dude, an actor named Robert "Handsome Bob" Hilliard. This dude was flashy as all get out and Wall and Hall (tell me their folk album is still available in the CVS bargain bin) decided it was time to declare war.

Dudes Ran a Furious and Fabulous Campaign During the “Battle of the Dudes”

The “Battle of the Dudes” made the “Battle of Helm’s Deep” look like a polite disagreement at a Lilith Fair concert. Shit got fierce. Basically both combatants used the streets of N.Y.C as their extended catwalk and tried to out-dress one another in an ever escalating arms race of finer and finer dudery. And they were serious as slacks about it.

Wall’s regular tailor went insane from stress and our dude had to send for another from London. Handsome Bob conversely developed a plan to win over the ethnic melting pot that was turn of the century New York by paying tribute to their various home countries and their respective styles of dress. I’m sure it was about as culturally sensitive as Trader Joe’s and their various ethnic themed sub-brands, i.e. Trader Jose’s, Trader Giuseppe’s and (Jesus) Trader Ming’s.

Dude Won the “Battle of the Dudes” Wearing Patent Leather Boots That Went All the Way Up to His Hips…Or Did He?

But despite Handsome Bob’s one man reenactment of the racist cavalcade of ethnic stereotype mice from the boat scene in An American Tail, the dude lost the battle. Probably. What stopped the fighting was the Great Blizzard of 1888. According to the Times, Wall finally defeated Handsome Bob once and for all by showing up in the middle of the blizzard at Hoffman House bar like some kinky BDSM Eskimo replete with shining black patent leather boots that extended up to his hips.

There are, however, a vocal minority who claim it was actually Handsome Bob who donned these high boots and bested Wall. They claim that this attire was actually part of a Western costume that Bob was using in a play he was acting in.

But even if Wall was bested here he’s still the genuine King Dude and won the true battle by duding it up until his death in 1940.

Dude Made More Crazy Ass Claims

Oh yeah, besides drinking nothing but champagne Wall also says he was the first American to wear a dinner jacket, also known as a tuxedo. And there’s actually someone to corroborate his story.

Basically, back in the 1880s, the only acceptable evening wear for dudes all featured a tailcoat. Then the Prince of Wales (a real dude’s dude) and his crew started rocking tailless coats.

Henry Poole, a big time tailor and dude behind the dude sent one of these cutting edge numbers to Wall. Wall took the puppy out for a spin at an opera house and was promptly thrown out for looking like some common flightless ice bird. But the seeds had been sown and boom, flash forward to 1889, after Wall had won his crown as King Dude and gentlemen were now being permitted to wear tuxes whenever to whatever dude-hang they wanted.

Dude Made Even More Crazy Claims

Oh, Wall also said he was a champion amateur walker with a seven minute and thirteen second mile. What? Yeah, after the Civil War when more and more people moved to the cities to live “pedestrianism,” that is competitive walking matches, became a thing. A big thing. There was no better way to pass the time. Have you hugged your internet provider today?

Dude Once Won a Bet that He Couldn’t Change his Clothes 40s Times Between Breakfast and Dinner

After donning his final new outfit and arriving at a veranda to claim his victory a band there startedplaying, “Hail the Conquering Hero Comes” and Wall, King Dude that he was, claimed his money (which he really needed at that point) and continued in his duding duties.

Dude’s Wife Wrote an Entire Memoir from the Perspective of their Chow Chow

His wife Lomie Wall’s book was titled, “The Memoirs of Chi-Chi The Chow” and yes, it was entirely written from the dog’s point of view. Wall himself once wrote: “If you are ever really cold, snuggle up to a chow and like it.”

Dude Pulled the “I Don’t Know Her” on Handsome Bob Way Before Mariah Carey Ever Did

Wall wrote his own memoir titled, Neither Pest Nor Puritan in his 70s and in it he never mentions Handsome Bob or the Battle of the Dudes at all. In a total queen bitch move, Wall only seems to reference Bob slightly by stating, “Soon a lot of actors and racing men and sharps began imitating me, and I began to stay away from Broadway.”

Dude, I Forgot, Dude Once Wore the Same Outfit as the Another Dude in Dude Battle

Apparently in the midst of the great battle one day Wall and Handsome Bob were both walking down Fifth Avenue towards one another and realized that they were wearing almost exactly the same outfits. Naturally, reality ceased to exist for a sliver of a second and God himself wept openly, embarrassing the angels and some of the more uptight Episcopalians up in heaven. But all The New York Sun reported from this meeting was:

                “Mr. Hilliard smiled very slightly and said casually: “Good mawning.”

                “How-do,” said Mr. Wall, serenely, with just the suggestion of a smile, and a gentle beaming of the eyes.

                Then they both skulked away and were later seen wearing completely different outfits.

Dude Died Having Spent Almost His Entire Fortune “Pursuing Pleasure”

Evander Berry Wall died in Monte Carlo on May 5th 1940 with only $12,608 to his name. He outlived his wife as well as their beloved chow-chows. But he is reported to have had died happily. Before his wife’s death The Walls were known to dine out every night, and both had an enormous amount of friends; Wall himself was considered by some to be one of the best dancers in Paris. Plus, dude lived to 80 back in a time when reaching middle age meant when you graduated high school nowadays.

At the outbreak of WWI The Walls remained in France rather than kennel their chow, Chi-Chi (dude, it’s a fucking show dog; besides, it wasn’t like it was WW2) but eventually the seriousness of the first world war struck home and Berry and Lomie both became involved with raising funds for the wounded and in particular raising funds for blinded servicemen. They were even each awarded the Legion of Honor in recognition of their charitable activities after the war.

Dude.

Wall once said, “Fashions change, what is vital never does.”

Dude.