I am an avid reader of biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. Especially of people that look like me. Particularly because these people have endured a plight similar to mine, so maybe I am drawn to them because of this. Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lewis and Charlemagne The God, were just a few of the autobiographical books that have had an impact on my life.
Recognizing, that the Black American experience is just “different”. I learned through these books, that we share many of the same dreams, experiences, aspirations and goals, especially if you were raised poor all you really want to do is be “somebody” when you grow up.
Often times, Black people may not know one another, but we can relate to one another. The food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, and the laughs that we share are just a few of the things that we enjoy about the African-American cultural.
Before, I read Dapper Dan’s memoir, I just remember hearing his name, not really knowing where I remembered the name from, but I do remember thinking “his name sounds cool”, Then, I researched him. I don’t know if I researched him, before or after the Gucci controversy, it was probably after, because I couldn’t believe what Gucci had done. The luxury brand had plagiarized his designed without giving him credit, almost 30 years after they served him a cease and desist order against his establishment.
Then one day, I was walking to work in Harlem, I looked up and saw the billboard. It was Dapper Dan and Gucci’s name on the Billboard together! I remember this feeling came over me. I remember saying to myself, “He won”.
Then maybe about 6 months later, I purchased an Essence Magazine with Naomi Campbell wearing a big chain, and Gucci shades. I opened the magazine to see Dapper Dan’s fashion story. I read it. I was inspired. Again, I said to myself, “He won”.
Thus, I didnt know until I read his book “Made In Harlem”, that finally being featured in Essence Magazine was also significant because back in the day when Dapper Dan was selling his luxury items to street guys on 125th Street in his boutique, the major magazine brands wouldn’t feature him in their publications no matter how great his creations were.
Never, have I read a memoir that has held such political, cultural, spiritual, and street brilliance.
The situations that he found himself in, the people whom crossed his path one wouldn’t believe until they read the book.
Dapper Dan had a very different life, a life that was destined for greatness, based on the some of the trajectories within his life, a drug dealer, drug addict, gambler and hustler; but also a disciplined spiritualist, writer and believer. Dapper Dan made the most out of what he had, and was always willing to learn from his offenses and mistakes.
Dapper Dan is a Black man, that experienced life in the major decades such as the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, He has seen and done it all. Refusing to lose, he used his experiences to make a name for himself.
Understanding, that all he had in this world was himself and his name he embarked on a life journey that would make him known to the world, not only because of his designs but because of his boldness as well.
You see, Black people were discriminated against in every facet of life when Dapper Dan was coming of age in Harlem, so no matter how great he was as a designer he was never going to get the credit that he deserved, it just wasn’t that type of society back then.
Fortunately, Dapper Dan never gave up, he believed in his talents, so when he couldn’t make money above ground he went underground and stayed there for about 20 years.
It’s sad that even in today’s society, there will be people that are highly educated, but will never have the career that they deserve; there will be people that are great writers, but will never get a book deal from a major publishing house; and there will be people that are musically and artistically talented, but will never get a recording contract because of one thing, the color of their skin, and this is a harsh truth. So when I say “it feels good, to finally see a Black man win”, I mean it.
It finally happened for Dapper Dan, he received the acclaim and respect that he deserved.
Check out his book, “Made In Harlem”, you will be glad that you did.