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Our America Hidden Stories: Dapper Dan talks

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NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — A little over 40 years ago Daniel Day, better known as Dapper Dan put his own spin on fashion and forever changed the fabric of hip-hop.

From the beat to the rapid-fire lyrics and dance moves, hip-hop is a culture of innovation, improvisation and flow.

The genre has always been heavily influenced by current style in fashion which found its way into the music itself.

“Not only did I give them European luxury, I gave them their own identity,” said renowned fashion designer Dapper Dan.

Few know more about hip-hop fashion than Harlem’s own Dapper Dan.

“Hip-hop gets its dressing roots and swagger from the street guys,” Dapper Dan said. “But they needed their own little flair to that.”

The influential designer and haberdasher opened Dapper Dan’s Boutique in 1982. He’s dressed clients like Mike Tyson, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J and Jay-Z.

He brought high fashion to hip-hop by taking luxury logos from high-end brands and created fresh, new looks that artists rapped about

Dapper Dan’s “logo mania” became part of a growing movement that turned hip-hop style into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Elena Romero wrote “Fresh Fly Fabulous: 50 Years of Hip-Hop Style” which explores the explosion of fashion that continued to grow out of the hip-hop genre.

“By the time you got to the 90s and hip-hop music (is) becoming mainstream, now we start seeing a number of black and brown entrepreneurs launching their own brands,” Romero said. “Cross Colors between 1990 and 99 before they made $100 million, Fubu by 1998 made $350 million. And that sense they had a spokesperson, LL Cool J.”

Artists didn’t just influence the fashion industry– they joined it.

Run DMC’s hit song “My Adidas” highlighted their love for the shoe, leading to an unprecedented million-dollar endorsement deal. A pivotal moment in hip-hop fashion history.

“The fashion industry had not really taken it seriously,” Romero said. “I mean, quite frankly, I think they thought that this was going to be a fad, but a fad that’s lasted close to 50 years and hopefully even 50 more.”

Dapper Dan was forced to go underground decades ago after luxury brands sued him out of existence for copyright infringement, but in recent years he’s now finally getting recognition for his contributions as a pioneer.

“Gucci allowed me to open my own atelier and do what I’ve always done,” Dapper Dan said. “And that’s the rebirth of Dapper Dan.”

Catch the first episode of “Our America: Hidden Stories” Saturday at 2:00 p.m. on Channel 7 or wherever you stream ABC7NY.

We worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah Jones and her award-winning “1619 Project” to produce this series.

ALSO READ | New music industry leaders push to give artists more control

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