Beyond the velvet rope, men in velvet pants. Johnny Depp, André Benjamin and others rock the ''neo-dandy'' look

When Miami’s heat couldn’t keep Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg from donning velvet and paisley at last month’s MTV Video Music Awards, it was clear that peacocks are first in style’s new pecking order. And the neo-dandy look — patterned fabrics, billowy silhouettes, and velvet — isn’t just for the red carpet: Johnny Depp and Heath Ledger flaunt flouncy shirts in The Libertine and Casanova, respectively; Ludacris sports a fedora and channels Austin Powers in his ”Number One Spot” video; and OutKast’s André Benjamin is known as much for his natty ensembles as his music. Meanwhile, top designers will push the trend for fall, most notably Gucci, with velvet jackets, and Armani, with fur-trimmed leather.

”This era is about standing out,” says Heatherette designer Richie Rich (who put Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears in a rhinestoned vest for Live 8). ”Brad Pitt can wear a flowery Miu Miu shirt and women are thrilled.”

The go-to fop artist is Depp. In addition to The Libertine, the actor voices the impeccably dressed Victor Van Dort in Corpse Bride and suited up in a red velvet jacket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Says Andrew Bolton, curator of 2004’s ”Bravehearts: Men in Skirts” exhibit at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art: ”Depp is never afraid to tackle roles that, sartorially speaking, challenge dominant ideals of masculinity,” while his offscreen look is ”associated with the 19th-century French dandy.”

Break it to Depp gently, but flamboyant male fashion is nothing new. ”The heyday of male peacockery was in the 17th century, when men outshone women,” says Bolton. And today’s peacocks are just as keen to preen. Says the Black Eyed Peas’ ”Jay-Z and Diddy are now CEOs saying you don’t have to do the baggies and T-shirts.”