I’ve always been enamored with the look, feel and reputation of a suit. I still remember when my mother took me to the infamous (but now defunct) Krass brothers on South Street to “get fitted”. There is no better feeling as a pre-teen from the hood then having a middle-aged Italian guy fuss over my every dimension building a look to my exact specifications. Although the suit was simply altered “off-the-rack”, I swore it was bespoke. I felt invincible in that thing! I felt like one of the “Buppies” downtown, a Hollywood A-lister or dare I say, Nicki Scarfo.
My mother in her infinite wisdom knew it was important for my brother and I (and every young man) to have at least one good suit or even better, that “good suit experience”. I thank her every day for that priceless gift she gave that probably cost a week’s salary.
Today, there two main adages I live by personally and professionally: “Women always respond positively to a suit” and “You can get in anywhere with a good suit”; but why? Why is it that the suit and all its variations (English cut, French cut, and Italian cut) is the epitome of a well-dressed man? When I see a man in an Achkan or Grand Boubou is he viewed as “well dressed”? Is he universally accepted anywhere? Well, not really.
Why? Yup, you’ve guessed it; the scourge of white supremacy, mental colonialism, and classism. So much of early American style was adopted from former slave masters. The suit’s origin has roots in the American bourgeoisie and even further back to British nobility when it was illegal for a commoner to wear fine fabrics and rich colors.
Revolution is in my blood, I was born into the ever self-aware, rebellious fist pumping, rugged individuality of hip-hop culture. Long Before beat-makers were billionaires and Rappers were power brokers, they were stylishly vigilant street urchins with anti-establishment middle-finger swagger. So how does a pre-teen b-boy Tyreney reconcile the look and feel of a suit and its heinous origins with the unabashed blackness of the ominous “Rap life”? I instantly began thinking, how I can foil yet another attempt by the oppressor to white wash everything about my existence.
Stripped of our original name? We gave ourselves Tags, AKAs, street names. Stripped of our original languages and denied proper education? We cleverly invented our own vernacular within the English alphabet. Stripped of our music? We simply spawned every genre of authentically American music and spearheaded social movements in the process.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
As a stylist, I encourage you to take a suit and recreate it in your own image, Strip it down and flip it. Accessorize with a vengeance, alter the fit, and experiment with color and fabric. Take the established language of style and rewrite it in slang, Become a movement and you too will feel invincible.