The 80s Harlem Hip Hop Tailor: Dapper Dan

By

30th Apr, 2013

 

He was selling custom-made clothing to Hip Hop’s finest for thousands of dollars a piece, fashioned from rolls of fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi prints imported from Korea out of his Harlem boutique during the 1980s. His name is Dapper Dan and before the likes of Kanye West and Rihanna were doing it, this guy was the first to bring designer fashion into the context of street culture. Dubbed “Hip Hop’s fashion godfather” who “planted the seed for fashion” in the music genre, Dapper Dan’s client list included everyone from Harlem hustlers to the likes of Run DMC, Mike Tyson, Salt and Pepa, LL Cool J and Bobby Brown, who would spend hours at his store on 125th street which stayed open all night and day for 8 years.

Dapper Dan (left) at his boutique’s storefront in 1983

In 1988, two of Dapper Dan’s clients, boxers Mike Tyson and Mitch Green crossed paths upon entering and leaving the Harlem boutique at 5AM in the morning. The encounter resulted in an almighty scuffle that hit headlines everywhere and landed Dan’s boutique with some unwanted publicity. As a result of the exposure, the brands that had refused to sell Dan their wares for his 125th street boutique, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Fendi, all sued him.

A special creation for Mike Tyson back in 1986.

Salt-N-Pepa album cover in 1988, featuring Dapper Dan creations

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 recognising 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.

Above: Olympic gold and silver medalist, Diane Dixon. Below: A pair of Dapper Dan sneakers that recently sold at auction. 

Even though Dapper Dan’s outrageous fashions went out of style in the 90s, his legacy lives on and some archival pieces have recently been selling for impressive amounts at auctions and novelty sales. He’s also recently found his way to the web – where he’s begun sharing some great pictures of his clientele from back in the day.

Above: Bobby Brown in 1988, in Dapper Dan’s Gucci suit, Below: Dan with LL Cool J

Check out this rare interview Dapper Dan did late last year with Life + Time, his first in 20 years:

YouTube Preview Image

All images via Dapper Dan

:::

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:

.

You Might Also Like

Comments

More in AbandonedArt & Design AwesomenessEditor's PicksInspiration VaultLost & FoundNostalgiaTime travel

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

SONY DSC

10 of the Most Fantastical Burning Man Creations

This week, an otherworldly gathering in the desert is taking place in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. A celebration of life, earth and all the incredible things we're capable of building and...

Trending 15,090
johnies

Hollywood Ghost Diner

I've been on the lookout for a truly authentic 1950s diner since I arrived in California. I finally found it, driving down Wilshire Boulevard and screeching to a halt as soon as I locked eyes o...

Trending 8,458
featureclub

My LA Boogie Nights Bar

After 24 hours in the city of Angels, I had yet to find the perfect LA hangout I was looking for. I have this romantic vision of Angelinos hanging out on seventies lawn chairs in their backyards wi...

Trending 4,455
phantomlake

Unmasking the Parisian Phantom of the Opera

What if I told you there is a lake under the Paris Opera House, just like in The Phantom of the Opera? Down, down, down, deep underneath the Garnier Opera in a dingy room with a square-shaped hol...

Trending 21,104