Much of my childhood was spent during the phenomenon that would become today's global cultural evolution. In the early 80s, rap took off, with icons like the SugarHill Gang, Fab Five Freddy, Kurtis Blow, and Whodini at the helm. Their gift to rap was their presence, and the music was full of flavor. But even so, as a kid I never could take them seriously as artists. Their delivery didn't match their appearance. Men wearing shiny open chested shirts, the glitter, sounding tough, just didn't appeal to me. But soon, that appearance would change.
Entered in world renounced Fashion Designer, Harlem's Own Dapper Dan. 

Dapper Dan started working with all the hottest artist. Such as the Fat Boys, LL Cool J, Eric B and Rakim. The Paid In Full album started it for me. Before even listening to it, just one look and it spoke to me. As a young teenager, times were changing fast. Not only the times around me, with the emerging crack era, but me, myself, I was changing. No longer was the love era of the 70s able to fight off the pressures of this capitalistic life we live in. No, we needed money. I mean, real money. It seemed to be the only way you were going to escape what felt like the deterioration of a generation happening right before your eyes. Hopes and aspirations of leaving to find or to build a place that wasn't collapsing was a real thought for a young teenage boy.

Anyway, one look at that Paid In Full cover and I felt that either these guys had made it or were about to. Looking back now, I didn't even know what "It" was, but to me, it appeared they had arrived. Then the hits, those iconic beats and lyrics, they matched the look. Soon after, there was Kool G Rap and DJ Polo’s Road To Riches. Its harshness was even further from the love movement. This was actually the truest expression of the times for me. Both lyrically and appearance wise, this was the personification of a whole generation that had seen the deterioration of so many lives while growing up in this era. These artists had not only survived it, but rose out of the ashes. And nothing said more about this than the clothes they were wearing.
I remember looking at their Gucci and Louie Vuitton outfits in amazement. Thinking the money those suits must have cost! Their gear spoke more to me than the cars and dollars they were flashing. Then one day while watching either Yo MTV Raps or RAP CITY, I heard an artist mention Dapper Dan's name for the first time. Outside of Ralph Lauren, Dapper Dan was the first designer that triggered something in me. I mean some pieces were over the top in my opinion, but the overall collection seemed like the truest statement of one arriving, of living a luxurious life style status.
This designer from Harlem, left quite an impression on my overall outlook of what success looks like. I give him credit for my ambition as a whole, all because of what my eyes were seeing.
Unfortunately, he quickly disappeared, mostly due to the ignorance of the competing brands of the day, blinded by their segregation and intolerance thought patterns. They lacked the correct forethought to know that inclusion of Dapper Dan’s designs would have surely generated even more wealth. Instead of welcoming his designs, offering Dapper Dan a designer's cut, they opted to sue him for brand infringement rights. This forced him back underground, and slowed their growth as well. Over time their brands became stale. Regurgitating the same looks for the next 20 years. Did they make money? Absolutely. Could they have made an enormous amount more? Without question. Dan's cuts are that unique. That’s the one thing about a true artist, their vision can be copied, but never rebirthed. And then one day it happened. Gucci pulled a Dapper Dan move and stole the concept of one of his early designs. Social media was in an uproar. This lead to Gucci attempting to make it right. They came and met Dan in Harlem and finally hashed out that designer's cut. Why the details haven't been fully released, Dan has global distribution of what he creates. They're sent to every Gucci store worldwide, with an agreed upon percentage, a storefront in Harlem, just like he use to. Well maybe with a few more high end finishings. 

Just as this story is mine alone, you have your own story too. Just as Dan has his own. But the details in everyone's story, takes shape individually. Creating something very unique to itself. All of which, when authentically displayed, touches like minded spirits, from as far as east is to west. Dapper Dan managed to touch our greatest aspirations within the cultural, through the creativity in his designs. Dan has a telling quote in his memoir (which I encourage everyone to read in its entirety). He says, "Nothing changes a man faster than a garment." If you take a homeless man off the street, clean him up and put him in a custom suit, he immediately feels different. He is indeed looked upon differently.
Dapper Dan, Isabella Magazine salutes you for the impact you made on a generation. You inspired that generation to be more, to do more and be better. To hustle harder and to ever strive to stay FRESH. Grateful.

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