In the words of Salt-n-Pepa, “I want to take a minute or two, and give much respect due to the man that made a difference…He dresses like a dapper don, even in jeans…the man of dreams…What a mighty good man!”
The intersection of fashion and music has always been one to watch. In the 1920s, jazz musicians, like Louie Armstrong, ushered in a new style of what is cool. In the 1930s, Duke Ellington brought big band orchestra to the forefront, with men of color in tails and tuxes. The Nicholas Brothers exuded style and elegance. The men of the Harlem Renaissance, like Langston Hughes and WEB DuBois, brought panache to fashion, intelligentsia, and the arts. In the 1940s, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie introduced bebop and Afro-Cuban beats. Zoot suits were all the rage. Minnie the Moocher and the incomparable Cab Calloway, showcased how to wear it well!
In the 1950s and 60s, the men of Motown brought sexy back via Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Four Tops, and the sultry Marvin Gaye. How sweet it is to behold a well dressed man! Meanwhile, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., and Harry Belafonte set a new standard for the Hollywood heart throb. The silver screen never looked as debonair as when graced by the appearance of these refined men of color.
The 1970s was an explosion of color and pride. Parliament and Funkadelic brought the funk in music and style. Blaxploitation films and Soul Train celebrated the music, culture, and style of a new generation of black pride in all its natural glory – afros, braids, and all. Bob Marley gave us sexy dreads and culture conscious lyrics. Designer Willi Smith set the fashion scene abuzz as the first major black designer to get worldwide acclaim in menswear. He is considered the pioneer of “street wear” fashion. Billie Dee Williams was all things suave. And Richard Roundtree as Shaft was every urban child’s hero – right on! We can dig it.
These refined men of history left a legacy of style, confidence, and pride in culture. For today’s Mr. Refined, pass on the baton of refinement to future generations and continue to leave women breathless with your style. In the words of Salt-n-Pepa, Whatta Man!
For more history on African American style makers, check out the Schomburg Center’s ode to the ever dapper men of Harlem and its Renaissance legacy.