Much of the style and grace we have grown to love in Hip Hop culture, especially fashion, begin with an ambitious African American tailor by the name of “Dapper Dan.” This was a time before dad hats and hoodies represented black fashion. Even before other popular urban brands such as Cross Colors or FUBU, It was Dapper Dan who would provide the hip hop culture with it’s stylish ambiguity. Between his tailoring skills, bold designs, and edgy logo placements Dapper Dan was coined and rightfully so, the “God Father of Hip Hop Style.”
As hip-hop begin to define itself in the black communities, artist alike would also need style to match their sound. Something different to compliment their flavor. Although, Dapper Dan would soon cater to all of their needs. It was however, first the hustlers on the streets of Harlem that would truly propel Dan’s design inspirations. One Dan likes to describe as, “a macho type of ethnic ghetto clothing.’”
“They were my primary clientele. The look spread outside the hustler culture and was embraced by the whole rap world, and they just took it everywhere”, Dapper explained.
He would soon open his own boutique on the popular 125th street in Harlem, New York. His custom designs available for 24hrs. Catering to all the big street names and rap kings and Queens of the time. After being denied the rights to certain big brands to sale in his store front, Dapper Dan begin sourcing faux prints of the labels straight from Korea. These prints included Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Fendi designs. He say’s, “He likes to think of it as a knock-up vs knock-off.” Much like our current Hip-hop turned fashion pioneer Kanye West. Like West, Dan wasn’t let “in” per say, which forced him to create his own way.
According to an article by fashion columnist woody of Sneaker freaker, some of Dan’s biggest clients were Run DMC, Mike Tyson, Salt and Pepa, LL Cool J, Alpo, Rich Porter, Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie among others. Dan says, “My customers were all gangsters, the rappers wanted to be like the gangsters. They would wait for the gangsters to leave the store then come in and ask what did the gangsters buy.”
Unfortunately, During the rise of his popularity and fame the European fashion houses had had enough. Infuriated with his blatant trademark and logo infringement they decided to take legal action against Dan. This would be the beginning of the end for the Hip hop God Father.
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