Flaneur (French, masculine noun) = gentleman stroller of city streets, a person who walks the city in order to experience it. (Baudelaire)
In the 19th century the term flaneur has accumulated important meaning and was associated with urban life and modernity.
The flaneur was seen as the educated, wealthy gentleman, strolling through the Parisian Arcades, observing, watching.
Parisian streets of the 19th century had become a place of display, manifestation and expression, they had been widened and rebuilt so that they allowed unhindered access to the eye, and easier access of law enforcement in the same time (for political reasons – in case of riots)
The gaze was turned into an instrument of knowledge. The flaneur could be seen as an agent in the process of space making, as a voyeur, they are observing how the rational and irrational are working, observe the world and interact with it.
19th century literature emphasises the role of individual outfit. Balzac, in this case, was a master at showing that the anxieties caused by the clothes the flaneurs wore because of their belief in their magical ability to reveal the character and personality of the wearer. There was constant tendency in watching and appreciating the beauty of the dress, regardless of time and space in which it is used.
Fashion practices seemed to be the privilege of a perfect modernity, in which the individual has his own choice of product that are expressed and displayed through the body. Thus the modern body, the flaneur’s body, becomes the mediator of the individual presentation in the public space.