You may not know Mr. Dapper Dan by name, but trust me, if you are a fan of hip-hop, especially during its early stages in the late 70s and early 80s, you have seen his work on a few of your favorite athletes and musicians.
Born Daniel Day in Harlem New York, in 1944, Dapper Dan’s fashions were the epitome of “fresh,” and everyone from Run DMC, LL Cool J, Salt N Peppa, Mike Tyson, Bobby Brown, Jay-Z, and so many others adorned the designs of Dapper Dan. So popular, Mr. Dan’s first Harlem store named Dapper Dan’s Boutique remained open around the clock to cater to his famous clientele’ schedules.
Dapper Dan, who initially set out to be a clothing wholesaler, changed course when he faced continued prejudice and racism within the wholesale clothing industry. Determined and unstoppable, Mr. Dan began teaching himself as much as he could about the fashion industry, even inventing a new process for screen printing logos onto leather that he would later use to make his designs from scratch.
The King of luxury brand knockoffs, Dapper Dan took the logos of brands like Gucci, Fendi, MCM, and Louis Vuitton and printed them onto everything; from coats and jackets, sweatsuits, hats, and more, adding his flavor and style to the already famous logos making them accessible and affordable to a young mostly black and brown hip-hop community. He also designed flamboyant “Rat-Pack” style apparel for neighborhood hustlers, including bullet-proof parkas and hats.
It was the moment The New York Times infamously printed an image of boxer Mike Tyson fighting in front of Dapper Dan’s Boutique that ended Dan’s fashion empire. In 1992 after Fendi took legal action against Dan for using their logo on his creations, he was shut down for good and was shunned by the mainstream fashion world for many years. Unbothered, Dapper Dan continued to work underground and began outfitting undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather in 1999.
In 2017 a familiar foe, Gucci, partnered with Dan for a men’s wear line, and in 2018, Daniel Day opened a new boutique Dapper Dan of Harlem, the first luxury house fashion store in Harlem.
Goodwill salutes Dapper Dan and all those who’ve followed in his groundbreaking fashion footprints!