Modern-day dandy Patrick McDonald on the genesis of his audacious style and the transformative power of clothing


Known for decades as The New York Dandy, the impeccably debonair Patrick McDonald has made a successful career of standing out from the crowd. Achieving cult status in the late 70s for his striking ensembles, McDonald quickly graduated from Studio 54 fixture to influential style icon – becoming one of the most photographed men by discerning New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham. Recently relocating to Palm Springs, California, McDonald is putting his fashion know-how to use owning and operating a curated boutique alongside his twin brother Michael McDonald. The newly-minted “Desert Dandy” talks velvet suits, wearing makeup and being mesmerized by David Bowie.

“I see beauty in everything, that’s how I live my life. Beauty is something pleasing to the eye and senses. It can be anything – from a flower to a person to an item of clothing, I try to find beauty in everything I experience.

“I realized the transformative power of clothing from a very young age. Even in kindergarten, I liked to dress myself. I dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy, in little velvet jackets and pants. One of the first toys I got as a boy was a tiny bird brooch from a crackerjack, I put it on my jacket and wore it every day. When my mother took me shopping, I would choose clothing for myself. We shopped at a Californian luxury department store called I. Magnin & Co – I was always drawn to interesting textiles, rich fabrics, print and colour. I wanted beautiful things like velvet coats, and didn’t care if they were meant for girls. My style just escalated from there and got out of hand!

“From a young age my twin brother had a similar style, but was more conservative. We went to London with my mother in the swinging 60s, and I loved all the amazing suits in opulent fabrics and wild prints. I remember going to Biba and just loving everything. I still do. I’m still inspired by Biba, Ossie Clark and that era in general, I have such an affinity for 60s style.

“People call my style ‘dandy’ but I call it my DNA. It comes from inside me, it is a reflection of how I live my life.”

“People call my style ‘dandy’ but I call it my DNA. It comes from inside me, it is a reflection of how I live my life. My style is a product of what I do: looking for happiness, contentment and pleasure. I love to experiment and mix unusual patterns and colours together. I have a little quote that sums it up:‘I like to mix this with that.’

“People sometimes say they’re intimidated by my look, perhaps because what I wear gives me confidence. I feel the most important thing about how I dress is that it attracts the people I want to be around, with similar likes and tastes. It keeps the others away. So it’s protective too, like armour that shields me from people and things I’d rather not see.

“There’s no question that I was mesmerized in high school and college by David Bowie. The way he wore makeup and it looked so natural was an inspiration to me – I saw that makeup didn’t have to be just for women and experimented with it because of him. I loved the clothing he wore, especially the looks Issey Miyake created for him, and his androgyny – the effortless mix of feminine and masculine that he portrayed is something I added into my style. I felt if he could do it, I could it, so in the 70s I wore the biggest platforms and bell-bottoms of them all! Fred Astaire inspired me too, because I loved that in real life or on-screen he dressed impeccably. He was always debonair, a fabulous person.

“My grandfather was also a huge influence on my style. I never knew him, but saw lots of photos and always thought he looked fantastic! His name was Eric Cesar Wickenden, he was one of the first men to have a haberdashery solely for men in California. He always wore beautiful suits – every look of his was complete, right down to his boater hat and spectator shoes.

“After living in New York for many decades, I’ve now moved to Palm Springs, California, where I have a men’s clothing store with my twin brother. It’s called No. 6 and sells all things we love. In my heart, New York will always be my home. Palm Springs feels a little in-between, I think I’ll eventually land in San Francisco. The way I dress may change for the climate, but I’ll never change my style.”