By Jake Motto
Bored one day, I hopped onto my favorite online store, Grailed, to check out some clothing. About to search for sweaters, preferably mustard color, when an article caught my eye. It was about a man named Dapper Dan. I was intrigued.
The article didn’t catch my attention as it should have. As my dad’s old Italian work friend says “There was no fantasy.” But there was something special about this man. Something profound. I didn’t really know what. I was left wondering about this mysterious human being and his importance. I wanted to know more. I had to dive deeper.
Seconds later I found myself searching Google for any extra details about this enigma. Scouring through hundreds of pictures, watching useless film after useless film after useless film, I couldn’t find the one. But then it hit me. Why don’t I just hit the “All” tab under the search box? It was brilliant.
Merely six links down the page I stumbled across a link. This was the one. It had me captivated. It had “the fantasy.”
I really understood who this man was now. He was a fashion outlaw. No. He was THE fashion outlaw.
Growing up in Harlem, Daniel Day, or better known as Dapper Dan, didn’t have a lot of money at all.
He only had one pair of shoes, but they were falling apart. It got to the point where the soles were gone, he had used them so much. He complained to his mom and the next day he went to a Goodwill with this brother to buy new shoes. This was the start of his sense of style.
As a young kid he broke into haberdasheries and jewelry stores with his friends. His group was known as “Ali Baba and the 40 thieves” because there were 40 to 50 of them and they always yelled “Ali Baba” as they broke into the stores.
As he got older he started to gamble. He was a “professional gambler”. He would win all the craps games on the street corner.
Gambling was how he gained his nickname: Dapper Dan. First because he was the flyest kid on the corner, and second because he started beating an older kid who had his nickname. The older kid gave Day his nickname and replaced his name with Tenor Man Dan, he was a great tenor saxophonist.
After a life changing trip to Africa, he decided to become a clothier in his neighborhood. He already knew all of the boosters — shoplifters at department stores — so he bought clothes from them and resold the clothing with profit. He started selling out of his car and later opened a boutique.
After a dispute with a rival salesman, he realized how important the brand is. This was the moment everything changed. He started making whole outfits of designer brands and selling them to rappers and other well known celebrities. People would come from all over the nation to shop at his store. Dapper Dan was the doorway to hip hop fashion.
However, every empire has a demise. Dan had designed a jacket for the Olympic sprinter Diane Dixon with the use of a Louis Vuitton logo. Louis and other big name brands got wind of his boutique and sewed Dan’s business to the ground. It was no more.
Ironically, 25 years after his business got shut down, Gucci designed the same jacket but with interlocking G’s instead of the LV logo. A post on the brand’s official Instagram was made with the caption “a homage to Dapper Dan.”