Fashion Icon Dapper Dan Discusses Harlem, History & Infuences With Life+Times

10.17.12 5 years ago 13 Comments

With the launch of Jay-Z’s Life+Times YouTube channel, we wondered what type of content would stock the channel. Would it be loaded with extended promo for Jay and Roc artists, filler content or substantial work to engage potential viewers? Today, we get an early indicator as they’ve released a clip featuring the legendary fashion innovator Dapper Dan for his first interview in over 20 years.

Harlem born and bred, Dapper Dan’s a gentlemen to whom many of today’s brands geared towards streetwear and urban culture should pay homage to. But the reason so many may not is because he’s only existed in name for so many years, mentioned in epic lore in songs, his work seen in photos and discussed in conversations regarding early rap culture’s innovators, mostly notably in Rob Walker’s 2008 tome Buying In.

In the booming ’80s, Dan became a created customized clothing for Harlem’s local street hustlers who afforded themselves the handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces of apparel. With his store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dan pioneered streetwear by co-opting luxury branding from the likes of Louis Vuitton and MCM and designing original menswear with high-end detail—exquisite leathers, furs, and skins. In the video, Dap displays a piece made for the infamous, de facto mayor of Harlem, Alberto “Alpo” Martinez. And as rap began to rise, the artists aspired to be seen as flamboyantly dressed as the guys who ran the streets. To dress the part, they went to the source – Dapper Dan.

Who came? The bigger question is who didn’t as the list of artists reveals a proverbial who’s who from the era. To sum it up best, look no further than the God MC and Eric B., who were immortalized wearing Dap’s gear on the album covers for both their 1987 debut Paid In Full and 1988’s Follow The Leader. From there, the list of artists is endless, ranging from Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J and Salt N’ Pepa all the way to the Fat Boys and Rob Base, many of which will now be documented on his site If you had a hit, Dapper Dan was the guy who mostly likely designed your outfit for the accompanying 12″ cover photo shoot, the video, or public appearances.

With a wealth of experiences and years under his belt, Dapper Dan sits alongside childhood friend, Pee Wee Kirkland, to talk about with Life+Times regarding his recent work with Floyd Mayweather Jr., his childhood growing up in Harlem, how he got into fashion, and more.


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