The ill-clad populace accuses me of foppery; I accuse them of feeble taste.
-Lord Robert McIlhenny
A fop in the word’s driest sense is a man overly-concerned with or vain about his manner of dress or, more vividly, a dandy, a coxcomb. We experience the traditional image of foppishness today primarily through antiquated representations of pompously-styled men in theatrical period pieces, such as the male participants of the grand ball in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” although the term predates the French Revolution by a century.
‘Fop’ originated in late 17th-century London as an acronym: F.O.P., meaning Friend of Peter, a contemporary euphemism for a ‘dainty’ man with affected speech patterns. Peter, in turn, referred to Peter Stent, a prominent London printmaker active earlier in the century. Stent was a rumored member of the underground community of flamboyant gallants due to his fondness for large powdered wigs, ruffled shirts, elegant coats, and haughty speech. With Stent the most well-known member, other purported members of the group were labeled as his friends.
Although no longer termed as such, modern-day foppishness is exemplified by Ivy-educated, collar-popping, seersucker-clad youths and metrosexuals.