“Stylin’ out.” That’s how Monica L. Miller, an associate professor of English at Barnard College, describes the way black people have used dress to expand definitions of blackness, gender, and sexuality. Men in particular have “styled their way from slaves to dignified human beings,” she writes in Slaves to Fashion (Duke University Press, 2009).
The first book-length study of black dandyism, Miller’s work is part of a growing scholarly interest in how clothes fashion our lives. It also signals the blossoming of black dandyism—fedoras, silk ascots, flashy socks—on the streets of major cities. Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Outkast’s Andre 3000 have made it cool to rap in Polo shirts, bow ties, nerd glasses, and boat shoes. The NBA’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant pull off dandyish without being pretentious.
And now black dandyism is trending in the halls of academe. Scroll down to meet three academic dandies.
— Stacey Patton