When Harlem’s Dapper Dan holds up a Louis Vuitton snorkel jacket made some 30 years ago and worn by the infamous drug dealer known as ALPO, still in pristine shape, you wonder how that’s even possible. Dapper Dan made his reputation in the 80s on outfitting drug kingpins, gangsters, boxers and rappers with high quality custom clothing that had brand name recognition and impeccable street flair. Dapper Dan didn’t just open a regular clothing store in Harlem. He opened a store that “catered to the hustlers.” Dapper Dan’s flashy designs borrowed the fashion logos of Louis Vuitton and Fendi and crafted clothing that Fifth Avenue fashionistas scoffed at. But in Harlem and the other ghettos of NYC, wearing a Dapper Dan creation was a sign that you had ‘made it.’
In this video interview conducted by the folks at Life and Times, Dapper Dan recalls his ascent from corner lookout to designing custom threads at his Dapper Dan Boutique and dressing luminaries like Mike Tyson, LL Cool, Salt & Pepa, Fat Boys and Floyd Mayweather. Rappers did album photo shoots with Dapper Dan designs; check out the album cover for Eric B. & Rakim’s Follow the Leader. For those that grew up in NYC in the 1980s, you couldn’t miss the Dapper Dan style.
Among the anecdotes in the five and a half minute long video, Dapper Dan discusses how rappers would come in after the gangsters finished shopping to find out what they bought, so they could emulate them. In 1988, Dapper Dan’s shop became part of an international news story when Mike Tyson, a frequent customer, gave fellow boxer Mitch Green a real fistfight right in front of the legendary store.
It is well worth it to hear Dapper Dan reflect on Harlem’s past and present, the importance of keeping his ear to the streets and seeing him chat with close friend, Rucker basketball legend Pee Wee Kirkland. For now, Dapper Dan owns a brownstone in Harlem, having never left the neighborhood that provided many an inspiration, enabling Dapper Dan to establish a career that might have never happened had he followed his peers into the world of drugs. With a book in the works and a newly established website, Dapper Dan appears to be ready to continue building on his legacy for years to come.
Watch Harlem World: Dapper Dan (via LifeandTimes.com)