I promised I would do this so here it is. As I mentioned for the female post of Black style icons, there is no way I can include everyone. However, I would love for you to leave me a comment if you think I have forgotten someone major. There were a few strong runner-ups such as Nat King Cole and Run-DMC. And I contemplated on Barack and Kanye…
(in no particular order)
Sammy Davis Jr. - Singer, dancer, comedian, actor, musician -- as a member of The Rat Pack, Mr. Davis did some movin’ and shakin’ with the best of them. When he started performing in Vegas during the ‘50s, he reportedly couldn’t stay in the same hotels that booked him for shows. The conked hair (I know, I know but it was part of his signature look). The sharp, tailored suit. The ever-present cigar. The latter might have contributed to his throat cancer. He was a little man with a lot of style.
Andre 3000 - Dang. I dunno even know where to start. This man has swagger for days. Any male who can pull off wearing feathers and a kilt without anyone questioning his manhood needs to teach a class or something. His effortless and out-the-box looks just might be available to the masses soon when he launches his Benjamin Bixby line later this year. (It is expected to hit Barneys stores this fall.) It doesn’t hurt that he’s also half of one of our most prolific hip-hop duos of all time.
Sean Combs/Puffy/Puff Daddy/P. Diddy/Diddy - I know some of y’all are gonna hate me for this one. But I had to be objective. I have my issues with him too. Still his impact on popular culture over the past decade or so is undeniable. An entire ghetto fabulous obsession exists largely because of this man. He introduced Versace to Bed-Stuy and the two-step to The Hamptons. Combs certainly didn’t invent it but he did have a big part in bringing it to the masses and Madison Avenue aka the advertising world continues to profit from it. Like it or not, that indicates major influence. He is also a workaholic times ten. (I actually remember, albeit vaguely, when he was a party promoter.) I don’t think my big bro will ever let me forget about City College though…
Pictured here are Langston Hughes [far left] with [left to right:] Charles S. Johnson, E. Franklin Frazier, Rudolph Fisher and Hubert T. Delaney, on a Harlem rooftop during a party in Hughes' honor, 1924. [courtesy of pbs.org]
(Who knew rooftop parties were poppin' for so long???)
The Men of The Harlem Renaissance - Geez. I honestly couldn’t decide on just one. James Baldwin, Langston Huges, Duke Ellington and all the unsung tastemakers made it hard for me. This era of tailored three-piece suits and slick fedoras forced men all over to step it all up a notch. From the pics that I’ve seen, these cats (of all economic backgrounds) stayed clean. I think they set the tone for how dudes Uptown dress to this day. (Always a little bit "extra".) Part of the reason Harlem Nights remains to be one of my favorite films is because of the costumes and how dapper the men appeared throughout the movie.
Michael Jackson - I almost forgot about the King of Pop! Perhaps I was nervous about most of the men on this list being entertainers but I just couldn’t forget about Mike. Nutty as a fruitcake he might be but Mr. Thriller certainly had everyone in the 80s dressing like him ALL OVER THE WORLD. From zippered jackets to sequined gloves, epaulets to rhinestones, Michael was without a doubt the trendsetter of the Reagan years. Personal Realization: My red Capezio shoes from first grade were probably inspired by this man.
Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. - They are on this list simply because the revelutionaries always appeared perfectly intact (wearing suits no less) while in the face of some of the most unbearable situations imaginable. Part of their influence resulted from them being very powerful men and their images helped exude that power. I imagine most of us would look a bit frazzled to say the least if faced with the types of pressures these men were under. Something tells me that they would have looked just as polished and authoritative wearing an off the rack suit from Woolworth as they would donning a bespoke number from Saville Row. And the entire time they were fighting for what they believed in. That is quintessential style.