Vintage Files! Dapper Dan of Harlem
Who || Dapper Dan Of Harlem
AKA || The King Of Hip Hop Fashion
Occupation || Style Icon, Extraordinar Tailor
Known For || Owner of the famous 125th Street Tailoring Boutique Shop from 1982 until it closed in 1992. Using fabrics from high fashion European houses such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci and MCM. Dapper Dan became known for re-purposing, revamping and remixing the brand fabric into custom garments. His clothing and styling has influenced Hip Hop culture since the early 80s.
When || 1980s
Where || New York, New York
Why We Love Him || O.G. Style ... Dapper Dan redefined high fashion tuning luxury garments into statement pieces for street wear during the 1980's. His own story is more than his brand and clothing; it is also about the beautiful struggle in being a young black male designer in America during the 80's and about how is personal success has aided in the development of a collective fashion identity in the hip hop community and urban culture.
Favorite Quote II "I was dead broke. I told my friends back then, if they weren’t going to let me in the door, I’ll just do what they do better than they do it. And do it for us."
Custom Bally, Fendi, and MCM walking suit and short sets.
was a "fashion hustler" who became a fashion legend in the 80s for making "bespoke
menswear garments at his eponymous boutique in Harlem for black
celebrities like Mike Tyson and crack kingpins like Alberto “Alpo”
Martinez. His clothes were emblazoned with the monograms of European
fashion houses at a time when those companies—Gucci, Louis Vuitton—were
mainly producing leather goods and accessories." People traveled far
and wide to place personal orders, either getting custom pieces that
were unique or asking for versions they had seen on their favorite
rappers, athletes, socialite or drug dealers. (vice.com)
Dapper Dan on why he got into fashion: "Here are two points—two major points with me being involved in fashion. The first point is, I didn’t have any influences in terms of people already in the fashion industry who excited me or anything like that. It was more about stores, as opposed to fashion designers. Stores had the influence. Major stores where guys like The Rat Pack used to shop. Frank Sinatra, all those guys we saw as hip, were the influences in terms of me being excited about fashion. Even more so than that was the hustlers on the street, who had the money and were major influences in fashion at the time. So that was my primary motivating force initially. I went into fashion as an alternative to being in the street and doing other things. I turned away from that. But at the time what was going on, the designers at the time, they were stigmatized that you had to be of a certain sexual persuasion. So the inner city didn’t gravitate towards that till later on." (Mass Appeal)
Dapper Dan (right) posing with customers from New Haven, CT
Three brothers in customized Louis Vuitton and fur gear in 1988
Dapper Dan in the store w/ Gucci Raincoat and Rain hat, custom made jackets in the back.
Words Of Wisdom! Dapper Dan-There's No Right or Wrong - "Fashion Gems"
Coming Soon! Dapper Dan (left) at his boutique’s storefront in 1983
Dapper Dan on the first piece he sold: " The piece that triggered everything was a Louis Vuitton sweatshirt, and I sold it for $100. I felt excited, and the excitement that generated from the piece. The Louis Vuitton sweatshirt only needed a small screen [to print the design]. I began to explore how to make larger formats that I could use and print on, as well as printing on leather. So the first thing I made was like a Louis Vuitton sweatshirt. It made me go deeper into the direction that I eventually ended up going in—and at the time, $100 was a lot for a sweatshirt."(Mass Appeal)
The Dapper Dan storefront in Harlem in 1984
Dapper Dan's MCM Wrangler Jeep
Kwamé picking up his custom made jacket , 1989
Dapper Dan on his customers: "Okay, to give you an example, the average person would not accept
what I was doing in the beginning, because they were like, “Oh no, Gucci
didn’t make that, he made that.” So, my most loyal customers
were those who were already outside of the system, which were the
so-called gangsters and the money-men in Harlem. They didn’t talk about
it, so it didn’t make no difference. As long as it was fly and it fit
and it made them look good, they was with it. So, I would say the
gangster element was my most loyal. From day one to today, those are the
most loyal. So after the street guys put on for you and your designs, when did
the artists see what you were doing and say, “Yo, we want a piece of
that too”? Which artists gave your brand the most exposure?" (Mass Appeal)
Mike Tyson with a customized piece from Dapper Dan
LL Cool J performing in Dapper Dan in 1987
Salt-n-Pepa in customized Dapper Dan jackets, 1987
Watch! Dapper Dan Vice Interview: Harlem World
Dapper Dan on brands using his ideas today and “blackenized” fashion: "When I began to take the Louis Vuitton symbols and use them in a way they had never been used before, it opened up a new world for them. Now you see them copying and taking graffiti and using it on their bags and circles. We see them looking for other ways to be creative with their brands and their trademarks, so they reach out to further what I had already started. The interesting thing I found about all this shit is when [Louis Vuitton] started using the artist Murakami because of the flowery designs. If you get deep into fashion, you look at what the designers are doing, what the statements are all about, and it makes you go into the mind of whoever is creating that statement." (mass appeal)
Diane Dixon, 80's Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist
Rob Base & DJ E Z Rock
Dapper Dan on his mission: "What I want to bring to fashion is something that makes people look
at our culture and say, “Wow, these people are deep, ya know?” I think
that’s the greatest part of what’s going on, because people can see our
contribution; the minorities’ contribution to fashion now. In an
artistic way. So, I am fascinated that people are beginning to see that
they’re following path, and taking fashion and embracing different
concepts by different artists.I found a quote on Twitter that said, “You can’t be in it and not
be of it.” I just wanted you to explain that to the newer generation of
folks who feel like creating original content and clothing is easy.
Custom Air Force 1, 1986
Rakim wearing a custom Gucci sweater and matching hat
Stepping on toes! While it’s no surprise that "the designer brands objected to Dapper Dan’s use of their logos during the uprising of Harlem’s crack era. it’s still worth recognizing that what Dapper Dan did was a totally original re-imagination of style. It wasn’t available to them, so they made it their own– not necessarily in an attempt to undermine the brand. Love it or hate it, it’s well-worth a second look from anybody interested in a crossroads of aesthetics, class and culture." (vice.com)
The infamous drug dealer Alberto "Alpo" Martinez in 1988
Bobby Brown in 1988, in Dapper Dan’s Gucci Suit
In 1989, Dapper Dan made a cameo and did wardrobe for DJ Chuck Chillout and Kool Chip’s music video for their single, “I’m Large”, which was directed by "Blow
director Ted Demme.
director Ted Demme.