Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem

Rate this book
The story of a legendary designer who pioneered high-end streetwear, from a storefront in Harlem to the red carpet in Hollywood, dressing everyone from Salt-N-Pepa and Eric B. & Rakim to Beyoncé and Jay-Z along the way.

With his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the early 1980s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own flamboyant designs. But before reinventing fashion, he was a hungry boy with holes in his shoes, a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, a young man in a prison cell who found nourishment in books, and, finally, a designer who broke barriers to outfit a whos-who of music, sport, and crime world celebrities in looks that went on to define an era.

By turns playful, poignant, and inspiring, and featuring two incredible eight-page color photo inserts, including the only existing, never-before-seen images of the notorious Mike Tyson-Mitch Green street fight, Dapper Dan's memoir is a high-stakes coming-of-age story, spanning more than seventy years and set against the backdrop of an ever-evolving America.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published July 9, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Daniel R. Day

2 books26 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
875 (53%)
4 stars
579 (35%)
3 stars
161 (9%)
2 stars
23 (1%)
1 star
6 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 272 reviews
Profile Image for Robin Loves Reading.
2,239 reviews391 followers
July 11, 2019
Daniel R. Day became known as Dapper Dan. This incredible man became an overwhelming success after decades of fighting on the streets of Harlem. Dapper Dan suffered great poverty and survived as a hustler. He wanted to design clothes. The ideas were many, even if the opportunities were few. Always finding his way into success, while dealing with drugs, credit card fraud and other nefarious activities, he kept his eye on the prize. Despite the many setbacks and constant rejection, Day was a fighter. He made sure to find a way and to rise above his competitors.

What a journey! Day's experiences were a sharp contrast to his creative ideas and amazing intelligence. To learn about his years of great difficulty - which turned out to be the ultimate example of survival - was beyond amazing. Yes, Day is a survivor. There is absolutely no doubt about that. I loved reading this memoir. Maybe because of his outright honesty of his past, his fantastic story kept me glued to the pages.

This compelling read was an eye-opener for me. I even loved how Day got the name Dapper Dan. His references to successful black men and women, as well as how he survived despite overwhelming odds was nothing beyond breathtaking. This story was balanced between light moments and heartbreaking ones.

When doors began opening for Day I applauded. Even when the light didn't remain bright he never lost his focus. I cannot recommend this book enough!

Many thanks to Random House and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Profile Image for Obsidian.
2,791 reviews961 followers
March 12, 2019
Please note that I received this book via NetGalley. This did not affect my rating or review.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes

Wow. So it's funny that I now know who made the clothes that the rappers that I grew up watching (Big Daddy Kane) on tv wore. I never heard of Dapper Dan before, but I found myself engrossed in his story as he recounts how his family left the south (Great Migration) and them settling into Harlem. We follow Dan as he starts playing dice and using that to make money. From there we follow him as he gets caught up in the drug world, going to jail, becoming addicted, and follows how Dan turns his life around and starts making clothes that will eventually have drug kingpins and rappers at his shop day and night in the late 80s and early 90s.

Dan Day has a beauty with words. You can tell that this book was researched. Besides providing us with personal anecdotes, we also get some history while reading. I have read about the The Great Migration or the Black Migration that occurred between the early 1900s and late 1970s with African Americans moving out of the South up North and parts of the Midwest. However, reading about how Dan's father and mother both moved up to New York and found themselves struggling there made it more real to me than just reading about it in a history book.

Day shows you that for many African Americans, the decks were stacked high against them to even have enough food to put on the plates for their children. Many of the boys Day's age end up dropping out of high school and going to work selling and taking drugs.

Day's fall into drugs, him seeing what it does to two of his brothers, eventually has him kicking the habit (after a stay in jail) and him embracing the tents of the Nation of Islam. He ends up not following them or the Black Panthers though due to some of the violent rhetoric they get into about drug dealers. However, he still exercises and stops eating meat. When Day travels to Africa, he eventually finds himself a tailor that makes him clothes that has all of the men in Harlem wanting to know where did he get that look. From there Day is able to start his own empire providing clothes to rappers, athletes (like Mike Tyson) and even meets a future Supreme Court Justice.

When the book goes into Day's next downfall (dealing with Gucci and Fendi suing him for taking their trademark/luggage and working them into clothes) you wonder how is going to recover from this.

I thought this book was raw and honest. Day doesn't blink from the things he did and offers no apologies except when mentioning how he had multiple children and wishes he had been there more for them. Day's insights into people like Don King, Mike Tyson, and even Muhammad Ali just made the book feel like you get a front page seat watching history as it unfolds. I still don't get dice (yeah I have tried to follow that even when I was a girl) and it seems as if Day has the magic touch for dice. Him realizing that he is not going to be able to feed and clothe his family if he can't figure out another way to provide for them and his flair for designing clothes was great.

I loved that the book included some pictures of Day's family growing up. Since this was an ARC there wasn't a description on the photos, but I still enjoyed seeing them. I do wish that we had gotten some pictures of the singers and rappers he mentions wearing his designs. I think that would have made the book pop even more.

The ending leaves things with a big question about what the future held for Day. I got nosy and found out that he ended up in a partnership with Gucci last year in a new Harlem atelier, a space for him to work his sartorial magic with a free hand and raw materials supplied by Gucci, see https://www.gq.com/story/dapper-dan-g...

Profile Image for WTF Are You Reading?.
1,306 reviews91 followers
April 7, 2019
There's so much to be said for Dapper Dan as a book.
Because just as it is the autobiographical narrative of one man's life.
It is also The narrative of a people, Harlem, and a way of life.

Dan's honest and sometimes hard to read introspective on himself, his family, and his community. Gives readers a very clear understanding of the effects of gentrification, drugs, and economic opportunities, or the lack thereof. In the formation or degradation of a society's population and growth as a whole.
While never losing sight of fashions affect on all aspects of said population.

It is very hard to read this book, and not fall in love with its author, his experiences, and his life.
For his life in so many ways, echoes lives of so many others of color. Including myself. And all of this is even before the passion becomes an issue of note.

Dan's rise to fame in the fashion world. Seems almost a separate entity from the tapestry of his life as a whole. But it is a beautiful sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes triumphant, and always brilliant story.
Of how life changed a man. He changed fashion. And his fashion change the world.
Profile Image for Karen_RunwrightReads.
428 reviews99 followers
August 30, 2020
Dapper Dan is not just an icon in the Harlem community, but his life, as a metaphor for the community, reflects its hutzpah and resilience, his memories uncoiling to reveal a heyday long gone and hailing a new, replacement dawn in its wake.  Daniel R. Day shares his recollections in a new book entitled Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem and reading this memoir is like running a finger along an African American timeline marking the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. Day introduces his family, migrants from the south, his mother from the South Carolina Geechees, both parents hopeful young people when they arrived in New York like the hordes of blacks who were part of the Great Migration during that time, armed with big dreams and not much else, some hanging on on to dreams, long after they were deferred, and even when they became nightmares. The author describes those experience as they were told to him, and even shares his own poetry that reflects his understanding of his parents' attitudes towards the dream they passed on to their children.
Dapper Dan: Made In Harlem is a gritty rehashing of Day's youth, a lifetime that included selling and using drugs, gambling, credit card fraud, embezzling funds from his corporate job to invest in the drug trade and the cycles of crime and punishment that he and his peers got involved in. Yet there are some hopeful themes that emerge even in the darkness of his recollections - his strong bond with a father who showed his children another, more honest way of life, and didn't abandon them when it took several tries for the lessons to stick, Dap's own spiritual beliefs and a code of ethics that honored how he treated even his hustler friends. The descriptions of unconditional love ripple through the memoir, and make this a truly exceptional read.
The book is written in a very conversational tone, and "Dap" gives the lowdown and skinny on not just his dark past but also shares little-known or vaguely remembered highlights from Black celebrity news of the 1980s through the early 2000s. To add to all that, he describes the birth and development of his groundbreaking fashion business and overlays that with a tapestry of cultural exposé that is as entertaining as it is revealing.
I loved every aspect of this book. Having lived in Harlem for several years and learning just enough about its indigenous culture during that time to whet my appetite for more, I enjoyed Dapper Dan's stories about his own family as well as the rise and fall and rise again of the predominantly Black New York urban community. Dap maintains a strong connection with the story and its intent throughout the book, never sinking too far into criminality or glorifying the dysfunction but also not whitewashing his past. This book will make an excellent resource for anyone interested in Black culture and art, specifically with fashion as a medium of expression, but this will be equally enjoyable for anyone looking for the true story of one man living out the dreams of his forefathers the only way he knew how.
Note: I received a complimentary eARC from Penguin Random House in order to complete this review.
Profile Image for Amy Bruestle.
273 reviews209 followers
May 27, 2020
I won this book through a giveaway in exchange for an honest review...

This was truly a really great book! I am really picky when it comes to memoirs too. I think because he talks about addiction and related things is a big part in me liking it so much because i could literally either relate to what he was saying, or I knew someone who could. I flew through this one quickly and I enjoyed the whole thing!
Profile Image for LeeTravelGoddess.
784 reviews48 followers
August 21, 2019
UNCLE DAN, UNCLE DAN!!! My Lord, what a book. I do not know what I was getting into but BAYBEEEH... Uncle Dan didn’t leave anything on the table and I LOVED EVERY CRUMB—EVERY BITE!!!

I was laughing, I was emotional... and I really was astounded because I heard of Dapper Dan via The Friend Zone Podcast being that he is from Harlem and the first to partner with Gucci. I was pulled in from the 1st sentences, I had no idea that he was so influential or moving that much money at his Boutique. I pray that the statutory limitations have passed cause he gave up all the goodies 😹😹😹!!

Overall, I enjoyed reading about his family— what they went through and how they stuck together no matter what & the nicknames they gave one another. This is also in my tops... once again African American’s are taking industries to the next level YET & STILL!! 💚💚💚
Profile Image for Anna Alexander.
285 reviews5 followers
July 28, 2019
This book should be required reading for every Business 101 class. Want to be successful? Learn how to hustle.
Profile Image for Gail.
480 reviews
November 28, 2019
Interesting random find about a guy growing up in Harlem back in the day and all his hustling (drugs, dice, gambling, credit card fraud, etc.) that led to him ultimately setting up a boutique clothing shop in Harlem. He was smart and worked very hard. The reader was great and the book was written with the poor grammar the author used, which added reality and color. I thought it was interesting that after all the cheating he did in his life, he was so angry and indignant when the feds confiscated his brand new wildly expensive embroidery machine and shut down his operations because he was copying the logos and designs of the major design houses. I felt really sad for him that it happened, but it sure didn't seem like he had the right to complain. Oh and he also complained about others copying HIS designs... It was as though he thought it was OK for him to cheat and steal others ideas, but not for others to cheat and steal from him.
Profile Image for cinder .
62 reviews
November 12, 2022
I always knew that Dapper Dan was a prominent figure in the fashion industry but didn’t know much about him past that. Reading this book felt like a wild ride because it seems like he’s lived so many different lives outside of his fashion career. I loved his dedication and passion he has for Harlem and how much of that influenced not only his work but who he is as a person. It was also inspiring to see how he wasn’t afraid to start over when things weren’t working out, in a lot of his situations it would’ve been understandable if he would’ve given up but he was always able to redirect and come up with something new.

Whether you’re into fashion or not this book was a very good read and I’m excited to dive more into his work. Also I really enjoyed Omari Hardwick narrating the audiobook!
Profile Image for Sharon :).
349 reviews32 followers
July 7, 2021
This memoir was so interesting! Definitely one of my favorite memoirs!!! Highly recommend
Profile Image for Tamara Evans.
843 reviews34 followers
July 24, 2023
“Dapper Dan: Made In Harlem: A Memoir” is a nonfiction book focusing on the journey of iconic streetwear fashion designer Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day.
The book consists of a prologue and twenty-five chapters divided into four parts.

In the prologue, the reader is transported to Harlem 1989 at Dapper Dan’s Boutique. Day explains the reasoning for never closing his boutique or rarely leaving is due to the protecting the anonymity of customers visiting late at night as well as keeping his eye on employees who were stealing his designs. Day always remembers his humble fashion beginnings of making and selling clothes to gangsters and drug dealers before gaining popularity with rappers and basketball players. Day’s secret to success is to use clothes to capture what you think you look good in. Despite leaving the street life, Day was still connected to the underworld through his clients. When a dangerous situation occurs outside of Day’s boutique, he makes the hard choice to follow his long-held advice of minding his business and not get involved despite others suggesting him to help. In hindsight, Day is haunted by not acting in that situation.

In part one “Danny Boy,” the reader learns of the Harlem of Day’s youth and a world where you didn’t have to lock your front door. Day was the fourth out of a total of seven children. Day grew up in poverty after his parents moved from the South as part of the Great Migration. Day learns early on that if he wanted anything, he’d have to get it himself. As a child, Day realizes the power of words and the importance of reading things closely and carefully to prevent trouble in the long term. Despite doing well in school, Day is eventually drawn to the hustling life after seeing an uncle with a suitcase of cash. Soon Day begins to view the hustlers and pool sharks as heroes rather than his father and other legally working residents in his neighborhood. Day discusses his first job as a dice lookout at neighborhood dice games. Part one ends with Day becoming a hustling nerd, dropping out of high school, making a good salary from shooting dice, and his transformation from “Dancing Danny” to “Dapper Dan.”

In part two “Middle Passages,” Day experiences a brief period of legal work but his hustling mentality quickly ends his time gainfully employed. Day finds motivation to turn his life around while in prison and once released, he begins a lifelong journey of health and spiritual. Although Day cleans up his spiritual life, his love life is a mess and he eventually becomes the father of eight children. At the age of twenty-three, Day is provided with an opportunity to earn a GED and takes a once in a lifetime trip to Africa. After returning from Africa, Day is awarded a scholarship to obtain a bachelor’s degree and decides to major in history. Unfortunately, balancing college life during the day and playing dice games at night proves too much and he leaves college. After returning to the streets, he finds a lifelong friend in an unexpected place. Day suffers massive family losses of his niece, uncle, mother, and brother in a short time and decides to handle his grief by returning to Africa during the Muhammad Ali/George Foreman boxing match and an International Black Music Festival in Zaire. During an extended stay in Africa, Day is inspired to create his own custom tailoring and clothing shop, fill a tailoring void in Harlem, and dedicate the rest of his life to making people look fly. As a way to leave the dice game life, Day engages in credit card fraud in other countries with former Nation of Islam members before eventually getting caught and imprisoned for nine months in a Dutch prison in Aruba. Day uses his time in prison to become a fruitarian, exercising daily, reading his spiritual books, and learning more about the credit card industry and international drug trade. Part two ends Day returning to the United States and redirecting his money-making efforts into remaking credit cards using discarded credit card receipts then stopping that venture when he learns that new legislation would make it easier for him to be arrested with a long prison sentence.

In part three “The Shop That Never Closed,” Day takes a year break to figure out his next hustle to continue providing for his children’s expenses and private school tuition. During his break, he buys a new car and house then decides to open a fashion shop to cater to drug dealers since they like being well dressed. After he is successful selling furs, Day decides to branch out into selling luxury leather clothing as a way to keep making money during non-cold month. By customizing clothes with the customers in mind, he soon has a robust customer base. When he experiences a broken partnership with his leather provider, he finds a way to continue to get his raw materials turned into finished products by partnering with African tailors. Although Day doesn’t sew, he loves learning the difference between low- and high-quality clothing and the clothing design process. Through a promise made while sleep deprived, Day becomes a trendsetter by incorporating logos on a piece of clothing. After Day’s father dies, Day is sad for the loss but happy both his parents lived to see him turn his life around. Day is forward thinking and begins to expand into upholstering car interiors. Part three ends with Day closing his shop due to continual raids from famous fashion brands.

In part four “Underground Runway,” Day is mentally and physically drained as well as depressed after his shops are forced to closed. Eventually Day makes money by returning to his dice gambling roots and is able to relaunch his fashion business using new techniques. Day turns his business into a home studio, learns how to use a computer, streamlines his mass production process, and takes his fashion collection on the road. Day helps his friend and brothers recover from drug addiction and turn their lives around. Despite being courted by major designer brands to work for them, Day refuses to work with them and prefers to work on his own. A Harlem undergoes gentrification, Day gets a resurgence through making clothes for rappers showcased in rap videos and other new superstars. Part four ends with Day’s reflects on how despite all that has happened in his life, he has managed to continue to reinvent himself and help his customers see them best in themselves.

As I finished reading this memoir, I was impressed by how transparent Day is in sharing both the good and bad experiences in his life. He admits his past promiscuous behavior but strives to mend his broken fences and leave his children and grandchildren with a proud legacy. The use of black and white as well as color photos helps the reader better understand the world in which Day came of age in as well as how the world shaped him into the global fashion icon he is today with generations of fans.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Teonna Taylor.
194 reviews12 followers
March 10, 2020
Daniel "Dapper Dan" Ray does an amazing job of bringing readers into his world and detailing what made him into the fashion extraordinaire and Black man he is revered for today. Dapper Dan grew up in Harlem with both parents and six siblings. Although he was rich from the love, teachings, and closeness of his family, he and his family grew up poor and on welfare. Living in poverty coupled with living in the streets of Harlem begun Dan's hustling spirit. Dan first began hustling with dice and then moved on to other money making endeavors before he began his career in fashion.
Dapper Dan's entrepreneurial spirit and intellectual curiosity is what fascinated and motivated me to keep reading. As a youth he won writing contest and loved to read. His love for reading and learning stuck with him throughout his life. He was always observant of the people and environment he was in. Thus, he took in a lot of life lessons and experiences. Learning from his family, the streets, and various philosophers and literature made him into a tenacious man.
While detailing his story of wins and points of learning (while he had down falls he always used them as opportunities for growth), he also details the history and change that occurred in Harlem. Harlem, the Black mecca, was the result of the Great Migration. Yet, the people, streets, and spirit of it was forever changed due to the introduction of drugs, War on Drugs, depletion of resources, and gentrification of Harlem. Dan accurately pens the aforementioned catastrophes as "state sponsored traumas." Dan writes "Drugs and racism were destroying the black communities all over the country. And Harlem was the worst of the worst...There was no longer that sense of collective benefit. No one was connected to each other anymore, so that left everyone vulnerable. The new frontier wasn't just about looking fly anymore. It was about surviving the war going on outside."
I appreciated the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual strength Dan had to not only survive but thrive and write this memoir. Dan showed his spirit of determination to grow spiritually and physically, his desire to increase his intellectual curiosity, and willingness to help youth who come from backgrounds that make them vulnerable to the street life. He includes many gems of knowledge and thought provoking questions. I especially loved the following:
"Before I do anything, I try to understand it from as many angles as possible. Is it dangerous? Is it risky? What are the consequences? Can I do it alone?"
"Who are you really? How do you really feel? What makes you feel strong? What brings you joy?"

Overall, I loved how he wrote a memoir of himself and Harlem.
Profile Image for Summer.
1,413 reviews15 followers
June 6, 2021
Dapper Dan was borned, raised and still lives in Harlem and this is his autobiography. His story offers a view of the Harlem during the Golden Age and moves into the way it is now. I found that a fascinating bridge during a part of history in that location that I knew little about. He gives memory of the diverse, busy and living Harlem to one less alive with projects and drugs ruling. Along the way he tells how fashion always caught his eye as those that dressed "fly" were the ones making it in the world. He talks about jazz and rumba evolving into hip-hop and rap. Cocaine turning into crack and the devastation it brought to Harlem and other communities.

There were several things I found hard to read about, the drug scene, the hustling scene which involved most of the book. He admitted several times that he doesn't trust white people because his mama never did and he wants nothing to do with them. He came up with his own spirituality that fit him and how he wanted to live and I think to a certain extent let him, in the moment, justify his taking advantage of others. He admits they weren't good choices looking back, and does tell them honestly. There was and still is the murky water of copyright/design expression in the fashion business. For that reason he produced Lous Voutton and Fendi clothes, which those companies weren't making at the time but he did it copying their logos and seemed to not have a problem with, but when others copied his designs, he was not happy about that. The inconsistency bothered me.

Things I appreciated about the book. How he kept fighting not matter what life brought and didn't give up and once he decided to quit the hustling life, did not go back. How he is always making an effort to help kids get on the right foot by running with them and helping them to have life skills, he mentioned once they hit puberty, you've lost them, but if you can help them before it makes all the difference. A good reminder on setting up good habits now. He said at various times through out the book that buddies and acquaintances he talked to realized in jail that the small, nice ordinary moments/memories mean more than all the hustling and money would ever get them.

And, the cover is gorgeous.
Profile Image for Jamise.
Author 2 books158 followers
August 29, 2019
As soon as I saw that Dapper Dan had memoir coming out, I knew without a doubt that I would read it. Dapper Dan is a legend and a icon. You can’t speak about fashion without including Dapper Dan in the conversation. The original innovator of custom designs and luxury. I remember him well and really enjoyed getting a peek behind the curtain to gain more insight on his life , fashion career, struggles and resilience. Dapper Dan provides a road map & shows the reader how hard work, perseverance and determination can bring about positive outcomes.
Profile Image for Zardoz.
431 reviews9 followers
November 14, 2020
A great history of Harlem and the experience’s of the African American residents from the early 20th century to the present. Day lived an interesting life and managed to survive and thrive through so much hardship and challenges.
Starting out as a Dice hustler he learned that his success meant that others failed and suffered by his actions. He then sought out new ways to earn a living without causing misfortune to his community.
Profile Image for Erika.
64 reviews4 followers
November 16, 2020
An enthusiastic 4 stars!! Highly recommend this one! Come for the fashion and innovation, stay for the insights into life, the evolution of Harlem and culture, and a cameo by a Supreme Court Justine back when she was practicing in a private law firm 👀
Profile Image for LoweLowe ByTheBook.
100 reviews3 followers
July 6, 2019
Thank you Randomhouse for gifting me this book in exchange for my honest review.

The memoir of Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day is phenomenal and I enjoyed every bit of it. In it is not just the history of a person but also a place, Harlem. Being born and raised in NYC, I had such nostalgia reading about a place that I miss because I know it no longer exists in that same form.

Daniel Day is an exceptionally determined man. Having come from “nothing” he learned the art of the hustle at a very early age. Time and time again those streets smarts allow him to build businesses after many setbacks.

We learn how Dapper Dan received his infamous moniker, the different ways he provided for his family not always on the right side of the law, how visits to Africa inspired his future fashion empire, and just how far the reach of that brand is from the streets of Harlem to the worlds of Hip Hop, sports and entertainment.

Lastly there is the growth of not only a business but also a man. The story of how someone can evolve from just wanting to make money by any means necessary to wanting to build up a community and no longer wanting to “profit off of other people’s sorrows”.

I do not read many memoirs but was very excited about this one and I was not disappointed!
Profile Image for LiteraryMarie.
610 reviews52 followers
July 3, 2019
The memoir opens with a prologue sent in Harlem, 1989. Even though it was midnight, the lights were on and the door unlocked to Dapper Dan's Boutique. It was open "all day every damn day for nine straight years." Many people chose to shop and get styled by thee Dapper Dan. This night was no different except for it being a premonition to what was to happen a week later.

Rewind in time to the young Daniel, one of seven children. He tells a captivating coming-of-age story and does not mince words. It is evident how raw the retelling of his life is. He does not paint a pretty picture either. Being poor, his mother's alcoholism, his own addiction to drugs, rolling dice and "gang" activity is laid bare for readers' judgment.

Harlem is a main character too. The capital of deferred dreams. Dapper Dan is about Daniel as much as it is about the city of Harlem in the midst of its Renaissance. Its gritty existence. Its swinging jazz and bebop music. Its glamour at night. Its addictions like drugs, alcohol and gambling. Its streets full of hustlers, go-getters and sharply dressed men such as Tenorman Dan—the original Dapper Dan.

The journey of Daniel Day to Dapper Dan is more than interesting. But I couldn't help but to side-eye how he "customized" brand clothing and balked at raids. So while I don't agree with the foundation on which he handled business, I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys a good ass coming-of-age story, likes fashion and has a hustler spirit.

Happy Early Pub Day, Daniel R. Day. Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem will be available Tuesday, July 9.

Profile Image for La'Tonya Rease Miles.
306 reviews11 followers
December 14, 2019
I am an 80s/90s hip hop head, so I was very aware of Dapper Dan and his iconic looks. But I mistakenly believed that the cultural movement shaped his work and I see now that it was the other way around.

I was loathe to part ways with Uncle Dan when I got to the end of the journey. I felt like I got to know him, hip hop, and Harlem even better. To be clear: this is a book about being black in America, but specifically being black in Harlem. 75 year old Dap witnessed the neighborhood's high and low periods and was shaped by the area just as much as he influenced the streets. I don't want to give away any spoilers but it is safe to say that Dapper Dan has lived an interesting life and I am thrilled to see that his career has been revived. Again.
152 reviews2 followers
May 13, 2019
Loved this book. At first I was anxious to get to the clothes, the store etc. But of course the clothes are about the young life of the Harlem family. I wish there were more pictures of the different changes made to his styles. I am inspired by the many reinventions and once again the Harlem grit comes through. I kept on expecting LV and Gucci to shit him down in the early years. They either didn't travel uptown too far or not as worried over Logo copyright as they are now. Thank You Daniel Day for sharing your story with those us who can't afford high fashion.
Profile Image for Abbi.
235 reviews4 followers
April 17, 2020
"Listen, if you go and see how things are born, then you can grow them yourself."

Daniel "Dapper Dan" Day is truly the man! I absolutely loved his memoir, specifically his transparency and vulnerability. He tells it like it is and how it was, which allows readers to imagine for ourselves how beautiful, twisted, bittersweet, and mesmerizing Harlem was before it became home to high-rises and Starbucks. Do yourself a big favor and read this book sooner than later! You won't regret it.
Profile Image for Janelle.
271 reviews18 followers
August 1, 2019
Were you fly? Flyness wasn't about how handsome you were, although that helped, or about how expensive your clothes were, although that helped, or what brand they were. ... Power was fly, and fly was power.

I only learned who Dapper Dan was recently, in the context of hearing about his partnership with Gucci after years of being raided and copied by major European luxury brands.

The short version of who he is and why he's known: Dan was a hustler who had made a name for himself making "knocked up" (not "off") fashion. He applied the logos of famous brands to clothes that were closer to the aesthetic of the street. He wasn't copying a Gucci bag, he was making sweatshirts and jackets and branding the leather with the Gucci logo. His styles were enormously popular, first with the local Harlem hustlers and dealers, then with rappers. As rap grew, so did Dapper Dan.

That's the Cliff Notes, though. Dap spends most of the book describing how the streets of Harlem led him to fashion. The journey winds around, hitting some expected corners as well as some unexpected ones.

The long-term benefits of getting an education seemed abstract at best and a lie at worst.

A lot of Dap's years are spent on the wrong side of the law, though I suspect that he would take a more philosophical view. A lifelong student of metaphysics--there's a whiff of hotep-ism in there--I imagine that Dap views laws in about the same way he views religion: there's a kernel of truth there, but the manifestations of it are more artifice than real. He's very matter-of-fact about his life of crime, and doesn't spend a lot of time regretting the petty thievery that kept him from hunger or the scams that paid for his children to attend private school.

The book is written in informal African American Vernacular English, but it sounds very natural. I could hear any of my uncles in the voice and that was somewhat soothing. I would read this in conjunction with The World According to Fannie Davis. Where Fannie's life as a hustler ends, Dap's story begins.

If all you know about Dapper Dan is his clothes, and you've almost certainly seen his clothes if you saw any rap video in the late 80s, this book will introduce you to the warm, intelligent, creative man behind them. (You'll also find a couple of giggle-worthy swipes at LL Cool J.)

And to Teddy Riley, LL Cool J, and the Boogie Down Productions crew: technically y'all still owe me money.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in order to facilitate this review.
Profile Image for Megan.
92 reviews11 followers
December 24, 2019

Ya’ll this story will inspire you to hustle. A fashion icon from the hood of Harlem, NY who designs are featured in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), FIT museum and many more. This is a memoir fill with many truths of the African American community during the great migration to the early 2000s. Dapper Dan was a creative and self-educated man, who fed into his own curiosity and made them into hustles.

This memoir talks about how important is knowledge is and how it can save you in the long run. Every time Dapper Dan would allow himself to go down an avenue where he was educated by others instead of himself, the outcome was not positive. Which shows it’s good to learn from others but it’s better to educated yourself to ensure you understand all aspects of whatever you may be studying.

This memoir mentions themes of poverty, addiction, patience, fashion, mass incarnation and many more. I will definitely say this is a top ten of 2019 for me and when I feel like my back in against the wall, I will read this. I am in true awe of Daniel R. Day’s resilience.

This memoir had so many gems in it. Being from NY, living in poverty, understanding the curse of drugs and addiction; Dan’s story resonated with me something serious. But he also provided wisdom that I need to hear (talking reading a book at the right time).⁣
548 reviews10 followers
October 14, 2019
I like what one reviewer said "This is a lively narrated tour of Harlem". Everything you were ever curious about is spoken of in this thoroughly provocative and astonishing memoir. Daniel Day's journey to becoming Dapper Dan is told openly and directly from hustling, drug addiction, gambling to rising above it all, also using it to become a fashion entrepeneur. It's more than a personal biography as it also gives you a bird's eye history of what it was like being black starting from the Great Migration and settling into the projects of Harlem. I don't think I've ever read a more open and revealing memoir. Nothing is held back. You bet I like Dapper Dan. He's not a perfect man but one who shares those imperfections with no excuses. I think what he writes about himself in this particular paragraph about sums up his relentless initiative. "Right or wrong, my attitude was, if you see me fighting off a bear, help the bear. I don't need anything from nobody. I had gotten us into this situation and I was determined to get us out".
Profile Image for Sownbrooklyn.
75 reviews6 followers
January 8, 2020
This book is a masterpiece. Truly. I just finished it after starting it last night. And I don’t even really like biographies. I rarely finish one. It took me longer than that to read Mrs. Obama’s.

Dapper Dan has given me so, so much to think about. What an incredible force of will! I hope someone’s made a booklist of every influential text mentioned. If they haven’t maybe I will. There should be a Dapper Dan Syllabus. I bought two copies of this for work but I need one of my own. .
This is just a remarkably well told story. So visual! Maybe that’s the New Yorker/80s baby in me. I could SEE alllllll of this. What an incredible film this would make! It has it all. Multiple comebacks, massive successes and greater defeats. I feel like I need to dive even deeper, commit more fully to my passion, writing, than I already have. Whatever you like to do, this life story (of a man, a family, a neighbor and a way and time of life) will make you want to do the damn thing. And do it with style ❤️
Profile Image for BMR, LCSW.
649 reviews
March 30, 2019
I received an ADC from Netgalley for review.

This memoir of a street fashion innovator and icon was amazing. I had never heard of him prior to reading this book but between that cover photo and the description...he sounded like he had QUITE the story. And he does. I didn't know his name, but I absolutely knew of the fashions he created for stars of the golden age of hip-hop.

Dapper Dan's story is really the story of Harlem, the Great Migration, and all the social changes associated with both. This included the best explanation I have ever seen of how Harlem was devastated by racist housing restrictions, poverty, drugs, and neglect (which describes the trajectory of every marginalized and minoritized community in the US). Racist housing restrictions gave way to gentrification over many decades, of course. As James Baldwin said, "Urban renewal is Negro removal."

I read this on the edge of my seat, and had trouble stopping to eat or sleep. It was that good.

Recommended for: anyone who is into fashion, cultural scholars, sociologists, economic studies, and urban studies.
Profile Image for Lauren.
156 reviews12 followers
September 9, 2019
This is one of the most interesting biographies I have ever read. I loved reading a different perspective from my own upbringing and also within a fashion industry that tends to be very white and very aristocratic. The only thing keeping it from being 5 stars for me was I felt that some pieces were a little too repetitive, such as the drug problems of specific people in Dan’s life. However, that is only a personal issue and really doesn’t diminish the quality and importance of the whole work. I highly recommend this book for everyone. Not just people who like biographies or people who like fashion. EVERYONE!
Profile Image for Marianne.
1,302 reviews30 followers
August 16, 2022
Very interesting, very frank. He comes across as a thoughtful and consistent person, and someone who cares for his family a great deal. And his style impact is significant, I liked reading about the details of his work there too.

CN: substance abuse, addiction, violence including murder and attempted kidnapping
Profile Image for Jonathan Lees.
102 reviews8 followers
June 10, 2019
What a rare individual. Someone who still has something positive to say despite having everything stacked against him throughout life.
Dap's wordplay might not be as slick as his dice game or as taut as the threads in his clothes but this is as close as you'll get to an in-depth conversation with the man himself.
A rich, detailed history of not only his come-up but of New York during tumultuous change and the colorful characters that defined a style, a flavor, and a history that belongs only to Harlem.
I adore this book and Dapper Dan. Now if only I could afford a visit to his atelier...
Profile Image for Jessica.
139 reviews11 followers
September 21, 2019
I highly recommend this book! Dapper Dan has led a fascinating life, from hustling with dice to fashion, he has put in so much work in achieving his dreams. I love memoirs because they feel as though we are reading the author’s mind or diary (and with their permission)! I really appreciate seeing how much Dapper Dan’s influence has touched the world around me. When I think of the quintessential look for the 90s, it’s the clothes he created that come to my mind, and I would never have known who deserves the credit until reading this.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 272 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.