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OKP Style: Kelefa Sanneh x Dapper Dan

Sartorial displays are one of the biggest cornerstones of hip-hop culture - and there is perhaps no one person more influential in defining the visual styles of hip-hop's rise to global prominence in the 1980s than Harlem tailor Dapper Dan. Following last year's Life+Times short interview with the man himself, writer Kelefa Sanneh of The New Yorker has now written a profile on Dapper Dan that chronicles his roots growing up in poverty, African influences, and how his clothing represented black culture and urban life at the time. Responsible for the bold style embodied by rappers on numerous album covers, as well as the outfitting Harlem's swaggiest residents, Dapper Dan's remix of European luxury brands for his clientele's taste represents not only an important moment in urban fashion, but also the larger tradition of black artistry taking claim to styles traditionally intended to exclude them. Many rappers of the time recall the impact his clothing had on their reputations:

Fat Joe, long before he got a record deal, would drive down from the Bronx to shop at Dapper Dan’s, where he was afforded the respect due an established “street hustler,” as he describes himself. “I remember going to a club in Manhattan and walk­ing in with my Dapper Dan suit, the red­ and­ white Gucci, with my jewelry,” he says. “They were looking at me, like, ‘Who is this? He gotta be somebody.’ And I wasn’t famous—I was just a nigga with a Dapper Dan suit."

After heightened publicity - Mike Tyson's highly profiled sponsoring of the boutique partially to blame - brought the heat down on Dan's business in the form of anti-counterfeiting lawsuits, the clothier went on to travel his wares up and down the East Coast, often supplying bosses of the by-then booming crack industry.

By 1992, Dan was ready to admit defeat. For a time, he be­ came a travelling salesman, peddling luxury suits and jackets to gangsters and hustlers in bleak neighborhoods up and down the East Coast, and as far west as Chicago. (Once, in Richmond, Vir­ginia, he was about to be robbed in an alley when one of the assailants recog­nized him from an old “Yo! MTV Raps” episode, and brought him to the local kingpin, who promptly became a customer.)

While Dan is currently exploring options to make a re-entrance into the fashion world, the mark he left on hip-hop culture during its rise as a cultural movement in both music and fashion is unparalleled - not to mention a fascinating personal story of triumph over adversity, even by using means considered "outside the system." What could be more hip-hop than that?

>>>Read More (via The New Yorker)