The Dandy Lion Project | A Comprehensive Survey of Global Black Dandyism

Khumbula | Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese | via Loux the Vintage Guru

Khumbula | Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese  & Lukas Amakali | Compliments of Loux the Vintage Guru

Four years ago, when Ngozi Odita (Society HAE/Afrika21/Social Media Week Lagos) asked me to curate an exhibition at her pop up gallery in Harlem, I had no idea at the time that I was foreshadowing a subcultural movement that was on a resurgent rise across the globe. That one exhibit has evolved into the most comprehensive multi-media survey of global Black Dandyism to date. Over the past four years, the exhibition has traveled to notable institutions including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Brooklyn, NY); Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art (Newark, NJ); the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture(Baltimore, MD); and Open Ateliers Zuidoost in (Amsterdam, NL). Additionally, it has served as a platform for scholarship and academic discourse both here and abroad, including panels and lectures featuring Dr. Monica Miller, author of Slaves to Fashion.

As the project expands and connect with the contemporary connoisseurs of this phenomenon, I continuously marvel at the historical images I meet at the crossroads of time, space and style. Men of African descent were dandy and fine well before fine and dandy was even a “thing” by Europeans or anyone else for that matter.

Here’s to rebellious Black men around the world, whose sartorial decisions are challenging mainstream narratives of Black masculinity, creating a space for elaboration on elegance and allowing a moment for us to indulge in collective nostalgia. For those of you who have supported since Day 1, thank you. And to everyone just hopping on…buckle up and enjoy the ride. Cheers!


The Bow Tie Business

William and James

After spending so much time surrounded by dapper men and constantly reviewing images of the Diaspora’s best dressed, it was only a matter of time before the “fashion” bug bit me. Well more like the design bug. This Fall I’ll be launching my attempts to create a physical, wearable manifestation of The Dandy Lion Project. Look out for William + James…coming to a haberdashery near you. The line will represent a marriage between the charming aesthetics and revolutionary philosophies of William Edward Burghardt du Bois and James Baldwin.  Want to be added to the select list of VID (Very Important Dandies) to learn about the launch before we launch? Email me at thedandylionproject@gmail.com and put William + James in the subject line.

William + James | Coming Soon

William + James | Coming Soon.


 Documentary for CANAL PLUS (France)

 Photographer: Russell K. Frederick | Brooklyn, NY

Photographer: Russell K. Frederick | Brooklyn, NY

A few months ago, I was contacted by Laurent Lunetta, a Parisian filmmaker who wanted to interview me about The Dandy Lion Project during NYFW for a documentary on Black Dandyism to be aired on Canal Plus (FR). To help organized the shoot, I contacted my frat brother (Shout out to the Ques!) Barnabas Crosby, co-founder of Whiskey Boys. In typical Coleman Love fashion, we made magic. Special thanks to Ali of a Noble Savage, who most graciously invited us to his Brooklyn chateau (read loft) for the afternoon.

To document participate in the actual shoot, I called one of my right hands, Russell K. Frederick. I couldn’t have cooked up a more dynamic environment or conversation even if I wanted to. The shoot was incredible. The brothers who rolled through included Barnabas Crosby, Ignacio Quiles, Kevin Gray, Mike Barnett,  Robert “Max” Twitty and Kenard Bunkley. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

Shantrelle P. Lewis and Ali of a Noble Savage | A Noble Savage

Shantrelle P. Lewis and Ali of a Noble Savage | A Noble Savage


African Street Style Festival in the Streets of London, U.K.

Samuel Seth Mingle | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Samuel Seth Mingle | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Dandy Lion Portrait Session

Kevin Kittoe | African Street Style Festival | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

This summer, British-Iranian artist Sara Shamsavari was invited by the producers of African Street Style Festival to create London’s first Dandy Lion Portrait Session. Some of London Town’s finest came out to represent for the Black Brits. It’s no wonder that England gave birth to the phenomenon that is traditional dandyism.

Sara has garnered international attention for her series on veiled women in London and Paris. I’m so excited to add her to our magnificent roster of artists.  Special thanks to Jeff Lennon for the invitation and James Maiki for producing this amazing video! Shout out to all of the gentlemen who lent their energy, their philosophies and and those [British accent] voices.

Click here to watch the Dandy Lion Portrait Session at the African Sreet Style Festival


SAVE THE DATE

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculinity

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

April 2 through July 15, 2015

Slated to be the largest iteration of Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculinity to date, a host of internationally and nationally recognized photographers and filmmakers have been added to the roster of artists including Baudoin Mouanda, Daniele Tamagni,  Rose Callahan, Sara Shamsavari, Arteh Odidja, Richard Terborg, Numa Perrier, Allison Janae Hamilton, Rog Walker and L. Kasimu Harris. Start making reservations to join us in Chicago and thank me later.

To give you a taste of some of the newest additions to the exhibit…

ARTEH ODIDJA | London, United Kingdom

Stranger in Moscow | Photo Credit: Arteh Odidja

Stranger in Moscow | Photo Credit: Arteh Odidja

Last summer, U.K. based photographer Arteh Odidja’s Stranger in Moscow exhibit opened at Ozwald Boateng’s flagship store on London’s historic Savile Row. Despite missing the show during my last trip on the other side of the pond, my British network enabled me to connect with Arteh and invite him to participate in Dandy Lion. Needless to say, he said yes.

Hear Arteh in his own words here.  | Follow him on Instagram.

BAUDOIN MOUANDA | Brazzaville, Congo

La S.A.P.E. | Photo Credit: Baudouin Mouanda

La S.A.P.E. | Photo Credit: Baudouin Mouanda

Baudoin Mouanda is a young, award-winning photographer from Brazzavaille. His images of the Congo’s sapeurs have been shown around the world and received critical acclaim. I’ve been following his work and anxious to include his images in the show. for a few years now. It was important for me to include the voice of someone who can express the stories of his own people as opposed to merely showing the images of sapeurs from an outsider’s view. He also said yes. We will be able to see La S.A.P.E. through the eyes of one of their own brethren. Special thanks to Daphne Kolader and Alexis Peskine for all of their translation assistance.

Read more about Baudoin’s critically acclaimed work and listen to him here.

LOUX the VINTAGE GURU | Namibia

Loux the Vintage Guru

Loux the Vintage Guru | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese & Lukas Amakali

Several months ago, multiple friends posted a link on my timeline. It  was the profile of a handsome, bearded gentleman donning vintage suits in Southern Africa. Hailing from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, Loux the Vintage Guru is rapidly becoming to the Continent what Street Etiquette is to the U.S. and Art Comes First is to western Europe. A sequence of features in major international publications followed that initial post and Loux and his co-compadres are now the faces of a fresh movement of a classic era in post-Independent Africa.

As of today, Loux and the Love is African Collective, have been added to the growing roster of esteem style gurus featured in The Dandy Lion Project. Between their photographs and Jim Naughten’s stunning images floating around of Herero women in traditional colonial dresses with cattle headpieces, I think I found my next new destination on the Continent. Travel Noire soiree in Namibia anyone? S/O to photographers Harness Hamese and Lukas Amakali for their stunning images.

Read more about Loux’s philosophy here. | Follow Loux the Vintage Guru on Instagram.

ROSE CALLAHAN | NEW YORK CITY 

Barima Owusu-Nyantekyi, London, 2013 | Photo Credit: Rose Callahan

Barima Owusu-Nyantekyi, London, 2013 | Photo Credit: Rose Callahan


Rose Callahan and her writing partner, Nathaniel “Natty” Adams, have made quite a name for themselves with their collaborative effort – I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman. They don’t just capture the well-dressed, their portraits and interviews are a documentation of exquisite gentlemen from around the world for whom dandyism is not just a closet of nice clothes but a lifestyle. Rose and I first met during the opening reception of Dandy Lion‘s inaugural show. We’ve followed each other’s work since. I’m so thrilled to finally formally work with her through our shared love of the well-dressed.

Check out a recent feature on I Am Dandy Here. | Follow The Dandy Portraits Blog Here. | Order a copy of the book here.


Collecting Vintage Images

Mr. Ulysses Brooks and his cousins ca. 1930s | Submitted by: Deborah Singletary

Mr. Ulysses Brooks and his cousins ca. 1930s | Submitted by: Deborah Singletary

I’m still collecting vintage family photos of men of African descent from around the world (that includes Afro-Latinos and South Americans) for the forthcoming publication of Dandy Lion with BlackPrint Press. I’m especially interested in images from Brasil, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa for that matter, London and the Caribbean. If your grandfather, uncle or dad was dapper, please give him some shine and send over his photo!

GUIDELINES
NOTE: Write your name and VINTAGE DANDY LION in SUBJECT LINE of the email.
EMAIL | thedandylionproject@gmail.com

1. Please submit a hi-res scan of the image. The scan should at be at least 300dpi. Please do not send a photocopied image or a scan of a photocopied image. Only scans of original photographs will be considered.
2. Details about the Dandy Lion: Please include the following information:
Name(s) of anyone pictured in the photograph
Location of the photo
Approximate date (Year is sufficient)
Name of photographer (if available)
3. Name of the individual who owns the photograph (for appropriate credit).
4. Please include personal information about the photograph’s subject(s): personal interests, birthplace, occupation, pastimes, personality, etc…
5. Submissions from institutions and organizations will also be accepted with appropriate signed releases for use.


GET DAILY INSPIRATION AND FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK 

Barbershop Ad | Francophone West Africa ca. 1960s

Barbershop Ad | Francophone West Africa ca. 1960s

Advertisements

Bow Ties & Rude Boys: The Global Black Dandy Takeover

Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

*First Posted on Afro-Punk.com

Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable trend on the streets of urban landscapes in metropolitan areas all over the map – the rise of the global Black dandy. I found myself immersed in this alternative world of fine and flyyyyy Black men and when I say fly I mean from head to toe, when I curated the first iteration of my Dandy Lion exhibit. Launched at Society’s HAE’s Pop Up Gallery in Harlem in November 2010 during the nascent years of the resurgence of the Black dandy movement, in terms of imagery, Dandy Lion read like a breath of fresh air.

Up until that point, there were very few conversations being had about the Black dandy in contemporary popular culture. There was an inundation of images of the Black man as “thug” however, (a trend that we haven’t been able to shake over the past 400 years). Then in Fall 2009, Columbia University professor Monica L. Miller, published her dissertation research – Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Diasporic Identity. Despite its academic tone and extensive research which could have easily intimidated the leisure reader, the book was widely discussed in pop culture, fashion and academic circles everywhere, especially in New York City. In this critical text, Dr. Miller provides an extensive chronology of the Black dandy from his 18th century European origin – Julius Suboise – to his present day contemporary, Andre 3000.

Photo Credit: Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Photo Credit: Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Coinciding with the release of Slaves to Fashion, an Italian photographer by the name of Daniele Tamagni also published a body of work called Gentlemen of Bacongo, in which he documented the phenomenon that is the Sapeurs of west Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo. Better known as La S.A.P.E. Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (translation: The Society for the Advancement of Elegant People), the sapeurs of the Congo, gentlemen who exude style and class in brightly adorned suits, defy the impoverished socio-economic realities of their community and use fashion to assert their masculinity and humanity.

Photo Credit: Russell K. Frederick

Photo Credit: Russell K. Frederick

What and WHO is a Dandy?

To some, the word “dandy” is more of a turn off than a compliment. Particularly within the Black community, the term dandy is associated with its classical European origins, white men in petticoats, pointed shoes and multi-layered lace blouses with accompanying ruffled sleeves. While both the word and style has its origins in Victorian and Edwardian era Europe, the presence of Black men in classic European fashion has always disrupted this European aristocratic aesthetic.

Throughout history, most notably the past two centuries, Black men have used fashion as a tool of rebellion. When self-styled, the African Diasporan man in the West has relied upon his innate sensibilities to express his masculinity, his humanity, his individuality. In styling himself, particularly in dress mostly associated with a particular class, station in life, education and social status of another race, as trickster the African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. A Black dandy is deliberate about letting you know exactly who HE is and not what you want him to be.

Photo Credit:  Kia Chenelle, 2013

Photo Credit: Kia Chenelle

Be clear, every brother in a zoot suit and bow tie does not a dandy make. It is the combination of specific elements and accoutrements that distinguishes Black dandies from your every day dapper don. A Black dandy can be defined as a self-fashioned gentleman who intentionally appropriates classical European fashion with an African Disaporan aesthetic and sensibilities. He is a rebel – a modern day representation of the African trickster. His style and identity are generally a contradiction – to the stereotypes, boxes, categories, or ideas that society has about him (and in some cases… her).

Today, the fashion of Black dandies is more a nod to the style of their grandfathers than the likes of Oscar Wilde or Beau Brummel. They mix vintage with modern pieces designed on London’s Seville Row, African prints with polk-a-dots and plaid, flamboyant colors with classic lines. The sampling of their style from various eras and cultures is a manifestation of the hip-hop era that has produced them.

 

The Dandy Lion Project

The men photographed in The Dandy Lion Project are exceptional in both style and manners and provide the opportunity for a paradigm shift to occur as it relates to how men of African descent are seen and but more importantly as a platform, it highlights the self-articulation of sartorial Black men.

This traveling photography and film based exhibition project features the images of photographers and filmmakers from various regions around the African Diaspora. Their subject matter is young Black men in city, rural, literal and abstract landscapes across the globe, who defy stereotypical and monolithic understandings of masculinity within the Black community. Dandy Lion confronts the “thug” narrative and represents alternative identities.

Photo Credit: L. Kasimu Harris

Photo Credit: L. Kasimu Harris

The subjects are all Black men, yet are as diverse in ethnicity and culture as the project’s photographers. The nationality of The Dandy Lion Project’s subjects range from British, Jamaican, African American to South African, French and Congolese. Also, the project is not specific to locale – images were shot in various places around the Diaspora including throughout the U.S., South Africa, the Congo and Europe.

The first comprehensive exhibition of its kind, The Dandy Lion Project provides an exploration of a popular conversation in nuanced contemporary sartorial expressions and the fluidity of Black male masculinity. It is my hope that these well-dressed trickster, rebels continue to push the envelope and that talented photographers are nearby to document them bucking against the system, in their suits and ties.

Photo Credit: Caroline Kaminju

Photo Credit: Caroline Kaminju

For more information about The Dandy Lion Project, visit:
http://www.thedandylionproject.tumblr.com

Contact info:
http://www.shantrelleplewis.com

%d bloggers like this: