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“Dapper Dan is a legend, an icon, a beacon of inspiration to many in the Black community. His story isn’t just about fashion. It’s about tenacity, curiosity, artistry, hustle, love, and a singular determination to live our dreams out loud.”—Ava DuVernay, director of Selma, 13th, and A Wrinkle in Time
With his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs. But before he reinvented haute couture, he was a hungry boy with holes in his shoes, a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, and a young man in a prison cell who found nourishment in books. In this remarkable memoir, he tells his full story for the first time.
Decade after decade, Dapper Dan discovered creative ways to flourish in a country designed to privilege certain Americans over others. He witnessed, profited from, and despised the rise of two drug epidemics. He invented stunningly bold credit card frauds that took him around the world. He paid neighborhood kids to jog with him in an effort to keep them out of the drug game. And when he turned his attention to fashion, he did so with the energy and curiosity with which he approaches all things: learning how to treat fur himself when no one would sell finished fur coats to a Black man; finding the best dressed hustler in the neighborhood and converting him into a customer; staying open twenty-four hours a day for nine years straight to meet demand; and, finally, emerging as a world-famous designer whose looks went on to define an era, dressing cultural icons including Eric B. and Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Mike Tyson, Alpo Martinez, LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, Diddy, Naomi Campbell, and Jay-Z.
By turns playful, poignant, thrilling, and inspiring, Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem is a high-stakes coming-of-age story spanning more than seventy years and set against the backdrop of an America where, as in the life of its narrator, the only constant is change.
Advance praise for Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem
“Dapper Dan is a true one of a kind, self-made, self-liberated, and the sharpest man you will ever see. He is couture himself.”—Marcus Samuelsson, New York Times bestselling author of Yes, Chef
“What James Baldwin is to American literature, Dapper Dan is to American fashion. He is the ultimate success saga, an iconic fashion hero to multiple generations, fusing street with high sartorial elegance. He is pure American style.”—André Leon Talley, Vogue contributing editor and author
About the Author
Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day’s work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum at FIT, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the City of New York, and London’s Design Museum. His eponymous boutique was open from 1982 to 1992, and reopened in 2017 in a major partnership with Gucci.
“Dapper Dan is a dream maker from Harlem who carved out a piece of its royal cloth, sewed it up, and shared it with all of us, creating stars through his vision. Dap was there with the hood heroes and hood horrors, the joy, sunshine, and pain; he survived it all, and finally his book is hitting the streets, letting us all know how.”—Nas
“Dapper Dan is a blazing example of how, time after time, African American people have taken what others considered ‘nothing’ and, through sheer creativity and strong sense of self, made masterpieces. This incredible book captures his journey, his community, and his determination to create. Immerse yourself in the pages, and enjoy the opportunity to travel through a rare mind.”—Taraji P. Henson, Emmy- and Oscar-nominated actress
“Dapper Dan makes manifest through garments what Black flyness, Black intelligence, Black struggle, Black courage, Black hustle, Black progress, Black resistance and Black royalty looks like. Never did he rattle a beggar’s cup outside of a fashion industry designed to exclude him and all who looked like him. He took what he wanted from the establishment and built his own damn house. His life story is a wonderful tale of brilliance, hard work, perseverance, and hustle—America at its best.”—Michaela Angela Davis, writer and image activist
“Dapper Dan is not just the epitome of style and grace, but an international treasure. He is a cultural icon who has pioneered his own path through the fashion industry, one that will influence generations to come.”—La La Anthony
“Dapper Dan’s life is a saga of grit, glamour, hustle, vision, and wily, versatile intelligence. Watch him start out as a shoeshine boy and acquire the skills to outplay Harlem’s best gamblers. Then watch him acquire the skills to outwit Europe’s top designers. ‘I blackenized them,’ he says of the Louis Vuitton and Gucci samplings which, joined to his own designs, generated an entirely new kind of fashion. Dapper Dan is a creator and entrepreneur in the grand manner. And as this memoir shows, he is a grand raconteur as well.”—Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland
“Dapper Dan is one of the most influential figures from our community who has been doing it ‘for the culture’ since day one. Before it was trending. Before it was commercial. Before it was even recognized by the fashion world. His work has paved a way for us to own the seats we’re in. His success story is one of redemption and radical resilience. He is a purveyor of the American Dream. Now that he is sitting in his rightful place in history, how lucky are we to sit beside his throne and absorb the wisdom from his journey?”—Elaine Welteroth
“Dapper Dan is a living legend, a creative icon, and a godfather to the Black community. His inspirational story isn’t just about fashion. It’s about adventure, struggle, curiosity, hustle, love, and a singular determination to change one’s life.”—Bethann Hardison, model and activist
“Dapper Dan is the original influencer, disruptor, and creative—a true visionary who inspired inclusion for those who weren’t always invited to partake in fashion. His legacy will forever impact the intersection of style and culture, reminding us all to remain authentic and live unapologetically.”—Ashley Graham, model and author of A New Model