Green’s Dictionary of Slang

natty adj.

[all SE by late 19C]

1. of individuals, well-dressed, smart.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 136: And as the kelter runs quite flush, / Like natty shining kiddies, / To treat the coaxing, giggling brims, / With spunk let’s post our neddies.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Nov. III 96/2: You will [...] have the pleasure of being estimated by [...] the pretty fellows and natty beaus, as a mirror of fashion.
[UK] ‘This London Agrah!’ Wellington’s Laurels 7: From great Londonderry to London so merry, / My own natty self in a waggon did ride.
[US]Kaleidoscope 5 Dec. 183/2: Willy Whyte was a tailor by trade, / And, in truth, he was a natty blade; / And he fell in love vich one Sall Green.
[UK]R. Nicholson Cockney Adventures 10 Feb. 115: At that moment, a natty-looking young gentleman came up.
[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 126: There’s Charley Rattan, and natty Jack Rann.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 14 Mar. 2/5: Mary M’Cann, a natty little piece of property, made her bow for taking ‘her malt above the meal’.
[US] ‘Billy Vite’ Jolly Comic Songster 192: He was [...] noted for a natty blade.
[UK]Empire (Sydney) 3 Oct. 3/1: [N]or is it infrequent to find members of this class [i.e ‘the natty beau of the Domain’] launching into the flash slang so generally indulged in here.
[UK]‘George Eliot’ Mill on the Floss (1985) I 116: A connoisseur might have seen ‘points’ in her which had a higher promise for maturity than Lucy’s natty completeness.
[UK]E.J. Milliken ‘Cad’s Calendar’ Punch Almanack n.p.: Mustard-coloured togs still fresh as paint / Like to know who’s natty, if I ain’t.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 May 4/4: He looks as snug and natty as ever, and ‘does’ Queen-street as jauntily as heretofore.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 3 June 6/7: He graduated in his trade as the natty barman of the then fashionable Thames Hotel.
[UK]Binstead & Wells A Pink ’Un and a Pelican 44: The ‘star turns’ in the entertainment [...] were the then unknown Paul Cinquevalli, Batty, the natty horseman [...] and two savage and sullen brown bears.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 14 Jan. 4/7: She ’as a boshter figger [...] she is the nattiest thing wot is.
[UK]A.N. Lyons Arthur’s 73: Sich a natty friend in a nobby coat.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 326: All faithful copies of Fourteenth Street window-dressers’ models for ‘natty men’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre Bits of New York Life 13 Dec. [synd. col.] Natty dressers, who breeze about hotel lobbies several weeks ahead of the styles.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 256: Father John was very neat an’ natty, an’ kept his garden like anursery.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Swag, the Spy and the Soldier in Lehmann Penguin New Writing No. 26 32: Despite this he still looked natty, his trousers were knife-creased.
[Aus]F.B. Vickers ‘The Pommies Club’ in Drake-Brockman West Coast Stories (1959) 30: He was a neat and lean man, short, and natty as a new pin.
[UK]A. Burgess Doctor Is Sick (1972) 89: A keen-eyed, natty man came in.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 93: He’s a natty little man who always wears a gray felt hat with a wide brim, a black shirt and silver tie, and a striped suit.

2. of objects, typically clothing, neat, spruce.

[UK]F. Pilon He Would be a Soldier II ii: You don’t know what’s taste; my hair’s the nattiest thing in town as it’s dress’d now.
[UK]C. Dibdin ‘The Soldier’s Last Retreat’ in Collection of Songs II 153: Dapper Ted Tattoo is my natty name.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Orson and Ellen’ Works (1801) V 394: ‘I recollect,’ she said, ‘Full well thy natty bob.’.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 11: ’Mong the vehicles, too, which were many and various, / From natty barouche down to buggy precarious.
[UK]N.T.H. Bayly Spitalfields Weaver I ii: The waistcoat’s a natty concern enough.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds ‘The House Breaker’s Song’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 123: But if ever a pal in limbo fell, / He’d sooner be scragg’d at once than tell; / Though the hum-box patterer talked of hell, / And the beak wore his nattiest wig.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 102: The natty tight trousers and flat-brimmed hat peculiar to frequenters of betting-rooms.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Ask Mamma 361: His rich orange and white silk jacket, natty doeskins, and paper-like boots.
[Aus]C. Money Knocking About in N.Z. 11: My attention was attracted to the store by the natty appearance and manner of its proprietor.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Ochre’ in Punch 15 Oct. 169/1: Lor!, to think what a butterfly beauty I was when I started, old pal! / Natty cane, and a weed like a hoopstick.
[UK]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 189: The natty little bonnet.
[UK]A. Binstead Gal’s Gossip 156: Minnie [...] must have looked prettily in her natty get-up, poising her electro-plated jimmy.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 124: A natty light gray suit.
[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 143: Nettie left Odgson’s and took a billet boxing sweets [...] in a natty little counter opposite Bodio’s.
[UK]Wodehouse Leave it to Psmith (1993) 482: Baxter had left [...] in the big car, with the Hon. Freddie puffing in its wake in a natty two-seater.
[UK]R. Westerby Wide Boys Never Work (1938) 99: Three new suits, natty affairs which would have gladdened the heart of any Astoria, or Corner-House boy.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 28: The next youth looked like Hollywood Boulevard: a good-looking young husky in a natty topcoat.
[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 129: The pin-striped brown suit which had been natty at the beginning was now loose and dirty.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 87: Larry noticed what a fine suit Mr. White had on. His immaculate white shirt and natty striped tie made Larry think of the men in banks.
[SA]A. Fugard Tsotsi 145: It says you can’t work at Natty Outfitters because your last employer did not sign your book.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 19 Nov. 15: Dressed in a natty camouflage cap.
[UK]Guardian Guide 8–14 Jan. 24: Possessing a natty line in dark-suited, nonchalant cool.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] JJ wore a natty suit with a skinny black tie and trilby hat.

3. adept with the hands; skilful in any manner.

[UK]‘The Rage’ Jovial Songster 19: Thus the rage is the rage: if it hides or reveals, / So ’tis jemmy and natty and knowing.
[UK]E. Howard Jack Ashore II 125: So, sir, if you will just step home and draw up something natty, [...] So set too, and begin driving the quill.
[US]‘Ouida’ Signa III 221: Lying must be handy in it; that would suit him. No one lies so nattily as Toto.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 191: ‘That’s natty,’ He says. ‘Let’s have a go.’.

In compounds

natty lad (n.) (also natty, natty kid)

a young thief or pickpocket.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795).
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Natties, or natty lads young thieves.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 58: natty kids Young thieves; smart, well-dressed youngsters.
[US]Cairo Bull. (Cairo, IL) 5 Nov. 2/3: [from The Graphic, London] My cracksmen all and natty kids, / Clyfakers and the rest.
[US]Dly Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 1 Nov. 3/3: ‘Natty kids’ are generally young thieves.