While the photos and paintings of Whistler don’t fully convey elements of his dress, his personal style attracted the attention of many of his contemporaries. No less a dandy than Oscar Wilde, contemporaries admired his admired black suits, patent shoes, monocle, bright lock of white hair, roguish mustache, and elegant hands. A Russian student at the Royal Academy vividly recalls his hair in particular, noting it was so strikingly white that “one the first day I thought he had a streak of white paper in his hair.”
Noting the mutual affinity Whistler and Mallarmé had for one another, French symbolist poet, Henri de Régnier, observed:
Mallarmé instantly succumbed to Whistler’s magic and was touched, as though by a conjurer’s hand, by the ebony cane which this great dandy of painting wielded so elegantly. Everything in Whistler justified the curiosity and affection Mallarmé felt for him: his mysterious and ponderous art, full of subjective practices and complicated formulae, the singularity of his person, the intelligent tension in his face, the lock of white hair amid the black, the diabolical monocle restraining his brows, his prompt wit in the face of scathing ripostes, that ready and incisive wit which was the weapon of defence and attack. (Ronald Anderson, Anne Koval, James McNeil, Whistler: Beyond the Myth).