'I came up a black staircase': how Dapper Dan went from fashion industry pariah to Gucci god
In the 1980s, his Harlem store attracted famous athletes and musicians. Then the luxury brands got him shut down. Now, at 76, he’s more successful than ever – and still on his own termsIt was a mentor on the gambling circuit in Harlem, New York, who gave Daniel Day the moniker that would make him famous. Day was just 13, but had revealed himself to be not only a better craps player than his guide, who was the original Dapper Dan, but also a better dresser. So it came to be that Day was christened “the new Dapper Dan”.It wouldn’t be until decades later that Day would truly make his name. Dapper Dan’s Boutique, the legendary Harlem couturier he opened in 1982, kitted out local gamblers and gangsters, then later hip-hop stars and athletes such as Mike Tyson, Bobby Brown and Salt-N-Pepa. His custom pieces repurposed logos from the fashion houses that had overlooked black clientele. A pioneer in luxury streetwear, Day screenprinted the monograms of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, MCM and Fendi on to premium leathers to create silhouettes synonymous with early hip-hop style: tracksuits, bomber jackets, baseball and kufi caps. In the process he became a pariah of the fashion industry – and to this day, now aged 76, still one of its great influencers.