Dapper Dan was the first hip-hop clothing brand. His custom tailored garments dipped America's most legendary drug dealers, athletes, and rappers. Mike Tyson punched Mitch Green in the face in front of Dan's Harlem storefront back in '88. These days the fashion icon is spending his time lacing Floyd Mayweather for fight nights. Pretty Boy will try to tie Rocky Marciano's 49-0 boxing record tonight in Las Vegas as he steps into the ring with Andre Berto. Mayweather will be wearing custom boxing shorts and a robe made by Dan and his team just like he's been doing for the last 10 years or so. But tonight is special. With this being the fight that will more than likely proceed his attempt to become the first fighter to retire 50-0, Dan put together 11 different sets for Money to chose from instead of the usual three. We spoke with Dapper Dan about the materials they used, Floyd's input on the designs, and the set he hopes Mayweather chooses.
Tell us about the outfits you created for tonight's fight.
I don't know which one he's going to choose but to give you a range some of them are a mix of pony skin, ostrich, and fur. Others are made from perforated leather. Some are embossed leather with nail heads. There's a whole variety of exotic looks.
He prides himself in his defense and elusiveness, are his shorts heavy?
This is why he's so amazing. When I used to design boxing shorts for Mike Tyson, he wanted the lightest material possible. By the third or fourth round the shorts start to get heavy because of the sweat. I think he mentioned the weight this time around, but usually the shorts don't hinder Floyd's performance.
With this being his second to last fight, do you guys have something special planned for tonight?
Let me explain to you why I'm so glad I had the opportunity to work with him. Floyd is the boxer of this generation's hip-hop era. My favorite fighter is the boxer of the bee-bop era. Sugar Ray Robinson was the first fighter people referred to as the best pound for pound boxer in the sport. The parallels between the two fighters are uncanny. Look at the names Sugar Ray and Pretty Boy. They have the same ring to it. I used to see Sugar Ray Robinson in Harlem and saw the contrast in the way he dressed.
He's the Sugar Ray Robinson of Hip-Hop. Floyd can go from ring to runway.
You hear Cam'ron and them talk about pink? Sugar Ray had pink gators, pink suits, and he had a pink Cadillac. He was flamboyant and today you see that same flamboyance in no other fighter except Pretty Boy Floyd. He reminds me of watching Sugar Ray in the ring when I was a kid. He's the Sugar Ray Robinson of Hip-Hop. Floyd can go from ring to runway.
Did you customize his boots too?
We do sometimes. He didn't giving us any for this fight, just the color schemes. Everything has to scheme up and match.
Which of the 11 outfits is your favorite?
One that stuck out for me was one that was pink snakeskin and leather. I really like it. It's like a multicolored snake but the dominate color is pink. Whichever one he picks is going to make a profound statement.
Tell us about the robe for that particular one.
It's motorcycle style and sleeveless. All of the jackets have a very upscale street feel. That's the direction we always go with. He can take the trunks and the jacket and wear them in the street.
You mentioned pink. What other colors did you guys work with?
You got sky blue, you got black. A bunch of different colors. Some are mink and velour. Some are perforated leather with metal ornaments all over it. Floyd comes with the ideas and we get them to the finish line.
What was your inspiration when you making them?
Floyd gives me a chance to represent traditional inner city flavor. I draw from African-American and Latino flavor. I grew up in Spanish Harlem. My roots go all the way back to the fusion of Puerto Ricans and Black Americans. I also grew up around Afro-Cuban jazz music. Take the zoot suit for example. Jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie used to go to Cuba wearing them. So, the Cubans started to wear them and when they would play in Mexico, the Mexicans picked it up. We always inspired each other.
You designed Floyd's outfit on Cinco De Mayo in 2007 when he fought De La Hoya.
Exactly. That was a Mexican theme. In certain cultures you adorn something from your enemies to symbolize you devouring them. To me this is deep [Laughs.] Latinos and African-Americans are two sides of the same coin.
How far in advance do you start making everything?
Oh man, let me tell you. This is the first time I ever had a rest period before a fight. Usually we only have the four days before the fight. It get hectic. One time before a fight it was so close. We shipped it out to be there next day and it ended up like 250 miles from where it was supposed to be. Floyd had to send somebody in a car to go get it so he could have it in time for the fight. That was a pins and needles thing. I don't remember which fight that was for. This time we didn't have to rush. We finished in about five days.
I draw from African-American and Latino flavor. I grew up in Spanish Harlem.
You do this all by hand?
Yup, everything is in house too. We do it all from the raw to the finish. It keeps the cost down. That's how I was able to survive throughout the years. I like having control.
How many people do you work with?
Around four. We'll be at it all night sometimes. One of us would be doing rhinestones, the other would be on nail heads, and so on. All that is very tedious work. We use special zippers. Generally zippers are $2-$3. The zippers we use are $25 and up.
So Floyd gave you input on all 11?
Yeah. He FaceTimes us to check out the cuts and the materials. He's really involved in the process.
You can catch Dapper Dan in the new documentary Fresh Dressed about hip-hop's style history.