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  • Mikelle Drew

28 Days of Black Fashion History: Dapper Dan

Dubbed as the original hip hop tailor, Dapper Dan’s boutique on 125th street in Harlem, NYC was the spot to get your gear hooked up (if you could afford it) during the 80′s and early 90′s when hip hop began to emerge in a more mainstream way.

Dapper Dan with hiphop legend, LL Cool J.

Born in Harlem, Dapper Dan (born Daniel Day) calls himself “a hustla/designer”. He opened his store in 1982 selling furs at a slightly lesser retail than his counterparts. As he tuned in more and more to his customer base and their wants, he began to do more customization, making bolder fashion statements throughout his designs.

Dapper Dan’s storefront in Harlem, 1984.

As his business grew, he began to add high fashion logos to his creations. Originally, he would buy and cut apart Gucci, Fendi and other coveted fashion brands’ handbags, but it was, of course, extremely expensive, especially if you wanted to create an entire suit. Eventually, he began to silkscreen the logos which created limitless possibilities for creating emblazoned jackets, hats, coats, even car interiors.

If you look at 80′s and 90′s hiphop album covers, magazine spreads, and vintage photos, you need not look far to see Dapper Dan’s creations. One of the many iconic photos is Eric B. and Rakim’s cover for their first album, “Paid in Full”. A classic album in its own right, but fans were not only excited about the music at the time but were also in awe of the custom Gucci leather jackets they were wearing.