Dapper Dan gives you permission to wear a hoodie

Barring a full-on tracksuit, the last thing you wear is a hoodie, Dapper Dan — the legendary, hugely influential, and always impeccably dressed designer from Harlem. And yet it was precisely this design that he chose when Gap asked him to collaborate. The 77-year-old hopes it will be something of a gateway drug, opening the eyes of young people (whom he’s always had his eye on) to Ascots and other ‘throwbacks’ that make up his staple. When the many, many lots The Harlem residents who stop him every time he steps out of his Ralph Lauren-inspired townhouse will tell you that the aptly named Dapper Dan (born Daniel Day) is never immodestly dressed.

Then again, the fact that Day opted for something so prominently emblazoned with the “GAP” logo — in this case modified to read “DAP” — comes as no surprise. He pioneered logomania as we know it today, and made such an impact that a few years ago Alessandro Michele emulated one of his decades-old designs. Day has the opposite of hard feelings, and why shouldn’t he? As he puts it WGucci and Gap are among those “who were dying to have something directly associated with me,” and he’s returned the love by making their clothes the only pieces in his wardrobe that he didn’t design himself.

What is your first memory of Gap?

LL Cool J. I have small memories, but none that I can recall with as much intensity as when he did that rap in his campaign [in 1999]. It was amazing – Gap is the great American company, the great American brand, and that LL showed up with rap…? He was like the Pat Boone of his generation – someone who could present something to a larger audience. That’s what LL Cool J did: Gap is mainstream America, so he brought rap into the mainstream.

I would have said Telfar but since his Gap collaboration sadly ended, maybe Kanye would be a good equivalent?

Maybe Kanye would be the modern version. What Kanye did for Gap is so amazing. He gave us all the ability to have something on our backs that is associated with the elite but suited the average American. I hope I can do that too.

Why a hoodie?

I like to stand up, so I encourage young people to dress up. What they call, I don’t know, streetwear is really expensive, and it’s a nod to the generation I grew up with. This suit look is so sophisticated so I said how can I bring her closer to that level of sophistication? I don’t wear suits [anymore]—I try to wear a lot of vest outfits; you see me [matching] Pants and waistcoat now. And I adjust the handkerchief to match the shirt or ascot. So when Gap came along and gave me the opportunity to do something different, the campaign shows me wearing a hoodie with an ascot. I’m taking the younger man upstairs, you know what I mean? Letting them know we can be sophisticated no matter what we wear.

Do you have any sense of how many pocket squares and ascots you have?

No, I do not. I do I know I need more space for her.

The hoodie is only available in one color – a rather unusual salmon tone.

I love it when parents take their kids for a walk and point at me. I use the colors to attract young people. One of my favorite things to do is when they come over and have an exciting sweatshirt on, I ask them what’s going on on their back. You almost pull a shadow around to see. And then even if you go beyond that, I ask if you know what the symbol is [they’re wearing] means just to see what made them buy it in the first place. And what I’ve discovered is that color is the #1 attraction. Everyone who replied to my Instagram [about the Gap collab]all they keep talking about is the color.

Is there a young person whose style you particularly appreciate?

There’s a young man Walter Harvin, was recently introduced to me. He’s what I call a “wonder boy” in the fashion world – let me explain what that is. A boy wonder is a younger guy who is part of a generation that everyone likes the way they dress and he influences them all despite not being a big star. And Walter is one of the guys I’m looking forward to. He has built a following for himself simply because of his style. Not by people posting – people are drawn to him for his style alone. But my #1 guy right now, today? A$AP Rocky. Because you can always stay in the room where you… you stand there with a wallet and you’re from Harlem? That’s huge.

Have you seen Rihanna’s maternity clothes?

Yes I love what she does. I also like Ashley Graham – I think they bring something to it. But Rihanna, I think she’s taking it to another level, a higher level.

What was the last fashion product you bought?

Oh, I don’t know… Being Dapper Dan and being in Harlem, the worst thing I could do is be in the club and someone went through the same thing.

How often does this happen – or has it ever happened?

No. It’s like shooting myself in the foot trying to shoot someone else. I can’t do this, you know? I see a lot of things I like and I’m like, ‘Damn. No, I know someone will show up with it and that would destroy me.” All the outfits you see me in, if I didn’t get them straight from the Gucci store, then I made them. That includes what I’m wearing right now. But I’ll put The Gap in my bag. Need the dap to widen the gap you know? The problem is that I have to get dressed to go to the store because people expect me to look a certain way. So I already put the outfits together, you know. Shoes, all figured out.

How far ahead do you plan?

It depends on what my itinerary looks like. If I don’t have anything to do, I like to have two to three days on average. But when I know I have a big schedule ahead of me, I just keep lining them up, with a few [additional] Options depending on weather conditions.

When was the last time you hoped no one would see you because you knew you weren’t at your best?

That happens all the time. As I tell everyone, I don’t dictate fashion – I translate culture. To tell you what I do and what excites me so much, I’d have to tell you a Harlem story. Born and raised in Harlem, a diverse part of East Harlem, I had Italian friends, Irish friends, Greek friends. I have seen and experienced many people and cultures and I like to see and embrace what each person brings to the culture. Many African Americans, especially young people, don’t understand the powerful influence that Italians living in Harlem had. The gangster element – the John Gottis and Al Pacinos – all gangsters had a strong influence on fashion.

So before the pandemic, I was hanging out at Puerto Rican clubs on Friday nights and embracing their style, which tends to be a bit more conservative for Puerto Ricans who were born and raised in New York. And then I went to the Dominican club on Saturday nights, where they push the boundaries more. I used to go downtown just to see what they were wearing in different communities. This gives me an idea of ​​how I should put things together. So the outfit I wear to a Dominican club I would never wear to a Puerto Rican club because it doesn’t fit. Have I ever been caught in the wrong place in the wrong outfit? Yes, I have. [Like] I thought I was going to a Dominican club and ended up in a Puerto Rican club. They say, “Damn, what’s the matter with him today?” [Laughs.]

Aside from your own store, where would you recommend people shop in Harlem?

I would only recommend stores that have this shift going on.

What do you mean by “this shift”?

You make people different. Harlem Haberdashery is still doing couture, so I would recommend Harlem Haberdashery. They’re the only ones other than me that I know of doing couture regularly at the moment.

What is the most prized possession in your closet?

I haven’t even worn them—and I’ve had them for six or eight months—but I have a pair of Gucci croc slip-ons that cost $5,400. My friends ask me to only take pictures of them, so I just take pictures of them and send them. Crocodile and alligator have always been staples if you really want to be a part of Harlem’s elite locker room circles, until today. I switched from alligator, crocodile, silk, furs and the like – what allowed me to go to a higher level was logomania. It has the same prestige as these materials but gives you more variation and more creative space to work with.

I’m so curious how you dressed as a teenager.

Like an older man because I didn’t want to be a teenager. We had two styles growing up: one was called the prep or rugby style and the other was called the hustle style. But may I tell you one more story?


Right here in this room – after the big thing when Gucci appropriated my style – at this table in the back, here was Alessandro Michele. People had told me he said that, but I needed to hear it myself. He said: “I don’t know why people didn’t get it. I didn’t appropriate you — I paid homage to you.” And here’s why: He said he saw a video of me at my boutique on 125th Street wearing LL Cool J. LL wore one of my outfits, and I wore a suit and tie, which I wore a lot in the past days. [Michele said that when he] when he saw this picture, it changed the whole world for him. He said, “I could see that people could be different and still do things, you know?” You know, back then – we’re talking about 30 years ago – in Italy it was a big thing to be gay. That’s the story he told, and it’s a story that gave me so much more depth in what I was doing. I felt, DamnedI never thought I could inspire him – someone who has reached the heights he is today.

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