You can’t talk about hip hop without devoting a large portion of the conversation to rappers tailor Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan. He has dressed everyone from Rakim to Salt-N-Pepa to Jay-Z, using logos from fashion houses such as Fendi, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and sold out of Harlem boutiques. But while he was emerging in the hip-hop era, his own story began in a very strange Harlem.
“Growing up in the ’50s, I saw Harlem in a way that I never saw again. I am the last generation to see Harlem before the drug epidemic. I saw Harlem when everyone walked out with their doors open, no riots, no elder abuse…I never lost a friend to gang violence.
Dap, who wrote “Dap Dan: Made in Harlem – A Memoir,” recalled the whole neighborhood going out to church on Sunday mornings.
This did not change until the 60s, the first drug epidemic. So I’m grateful for that early experience. It taught me who we were, you know, and it saddened me that young people never knew the Harlem that I knew.
He talked about how his father’s incredible work ethic rubbed off on him. His first move was shining shoes and he tells you that the best place to find a shoe shine is still in his own bedroom. But it was music that opened up the world of fashion to Dap. His brothers loved the Rat Pack, and he said he noticed how Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra wore and shopped it and how it gave them a “sense of joy.”
But now we’ve got the age of hip-hop. I say I can repeat that. If I come up with ideas that give people an identity that can relate to the music of the day… then how can I take that look and give it the flavor that the jazz musicians took… But to be honest with you, my biggest inspiration to make something look cool came from me studying the zoot suit, Cab Calloway in Harlem. What did the zoot suit do? Zot Clothing is the start of street fashion culture on a high level.
He opened his boutique on 125th Street, which attracted rappers, celebrities and athletes, including Mike Tyson, for his clothing called Logomania.
“I came from the poorest of the poor in Harlem. But when I wear something new, you know, and I go downtown, nobody knows where I live. I think it gave you a different feeling. And that’s how I felt when I started Logomania. They may withdraw from the projects. You can walk out of the crumbling buildings I grew up in. But if you wear it and go downtown, you’re not in that building, you’re in that new time.
Sure, it was the hottest thing on the street, but fashion houses didn’t take kindly to splashing their logos on someone else’s designs. Follow him again and again. He was eventually forced to close up shop in 1992, but life had strange things in store for Dap.
In the year In 2017, Gucci knocks off an old jacket made by Dap, and to fix it, they decide to work with it and set it up with their own atelier in Harlem. And in the year In 2019, when the brand sparked controversy when they released a blackface-style balaclava sweater, he spoke out again but reiterated his commitment to working with the brand rather than cutting ties with them.
He called it “a critical moment in interracial public relations.”
“Every industry needs a Jackie Robinson. So with all that Jackie Robinson has been through, [nobody] He said go. No, he had to open the doors, and that’s the point,” he said. “You can’t change things from the outside. You change things from within. We can’t get angry and walk away because we won’t achieve anything like that. We take insults and turn them into harm instead of prosperity.
He went inside. Once he released outerwear and streetwear, he became part of the fashion establishment and stayed there. In the year In 2019, attending the Met Gala, A$AP said he was impressed by Rocky.
“It’s not even what he wears, it’s the way he walks in it. He is the one who makes it happen.
Dap has dressed many artists and celebrities and has a career spanning decades. But his proudest creation? The suit for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“He comes with his ideas and he translates his ideas and takes them out into the world. He literally knocks people out. In and out of the ring,” he said.
It’s amazing that Dap has been around for so long, but he has a philosophy that goes back to when he was a kid swimming in the Harlem River. Before diving in, he threw a popsicle stick to see where the current was going. He applied the same principle in his work.
He said the artists let him know which way the culture was going. “I accepted whatever they wanted to look like,” he said. He urged young designers to “be creative… but look at what you’re creating and learn from them.” It’s never out of date because you can always keep up to date.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconic Fab Five that rocked the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA before transitioning to media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Rise Up” and co-host of “Jalen and Jacoby.” He is an executive producer for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, “The Fab Five,” a fashion tastemaker and co-author of the best-selling book “Giving People What They Want” and Jalen Rose Leadership. Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.