Black people have been connected to style since the beginning of style itself. Since the 15th century, Europeans would go to Africa for their beautiful, beaded jewelry. When Africans were brought to this country their access to anything other than rags limited what style they could wear, but they never lost the sense of grandeur that their ancestors showed through elaborate colored daishikis, headdresses, and tribal markings.
As Blacks regained their freedom and became valuable members of society, eras like the Harlem Renaissance brought back the impact of style. During this time men of all races started wearing suits more frequently. Suits were different fabrics, colors, and styles, all fitted to perfection. This was to show the world that they were more than just laborers and that they were living their life with intention. As with all styles, Black men took this style and adjusted it with their own unique flare.
In the 80s and 90s, Black men, especially youth, focused on streetwear due to the huge impact of hip-hop culture. Men went to the baggier, street style in a way to stand out from those who didn’t identify with the struggle and to maintain a rebellious spirit.
This style faded in the 2000s, and although some amazing designers have come up and the hip-hop style has expanded into the mainstream, plenty who had previously focused on the hip-hop style has slowly converted back, to the look of being a “gentleman”. This is partly due to the black man becoming more engrained in the professional world, and also realizing that one can dress up and still put their own twist on style.
Black men have taken the classic suit and added brighter hues, and accessories such as wide-brim fedoras and elaborate shoes in order to take the professional “sharp-dressed man” look to a different level. There are even movements such as Black Menswear, a world-traveling flash mob started by Ne’Andre’ Broussard, who use the beauty of black men’s style to help change the narrative media has spent years creating of black men being slobs and less than elegant.
There is a certain feeling that one feels and a different respect that one is given when they put on a suit. In a world where the black man automatically faces prejudice and stereotypes when they enter a room, there is nothing better than commanding respect immediately upon entry. We all know the phrase “clothes don’t make the man, the man makes the clothes” and when it comes to a well-dressed black man, the statement rings true.
Founder of The Forge