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The Well Dressed Man Makes a Comeback

02 Nov

In the area that I lived in growing up, the system for integrating schools started the first few years at the Elementary and Middle School level. I was one of the first black males to attend an “integrated” Junior High School (7th and 8th Grades) in my county.There were a whopping 2 black boys and 5 black girls that first year in a school of 1800.

My father took me out “shopping” before the first class, and purchased for me 5 white shirts, and several ties. My Dad was known by friends and family for always wearing crisp white shirts,a tie, and a suit to work every day. He was a strong believer in looking respectable to be respected.

Every morning he would check me to make sure I had my “uniform” on before school. Heaven help me if I stopped by on the way home for a game of baseball with the other kids in the neighborhood and got my clothes dirty!

As we got to know each other better, some of the white kids would tease me about always wearing a tie to school – and being the “best dressed” kid in Junior High. They would ask why I always wore a white shirt and tie – I just passed it off as a “Dad thing”.

I found later in the business world that how people perceived you, and how well your initial introductions went depended highly on how well you were dressed. A Sales guy in the company I worked for at the time taught me to always dress one cut above the client, and that the perception of being successful was just as important as the fact itself.

The goal was to look professional, and as I rose in the ranks, the make, quality, fabric, and cut of your suit and accessories indicated whether you “belonged”.

Look professional…To be professional Glad to see some youngsters have figured this out.

How the Well Dressed Movement Demolished Black Stereotypes

Kwame Phipps looking great at Syracuse University

Three African-American students at Syracuse coincidentally dressed up on the same day, and soon decided to form a movement to combat prejudice sartorially.

I met Kwame Phipps five years ago, at the end of his junior year in high school, through a Harlem-based youth development organization to help him apply to college. He was always neatly dressed and attentive to his grooming. So I am not surprised he would become a founder of the Well Dressed Movement at Syracuse University to promote better dress habits among his peers.

One reason I volunteered to mentor students like Kwame is that media portrayals of young black men have burdened them with numerous disquieting stereotypes. Like many stereotypes people affix to particular groups, they are highly simplistic and often neglect larger societal issues that produce and perpetuate misperceptions. Such perceptions prove harmful to nearly all black men. Young men like Phipps are often overlooked in such generalizations, so he and his friends have taken conscious steps to dispel negative myths.

Phipps, a 2016 Syracuse graduate, and his roommates, Joshua Collins and Elijah Biggins, started the Well Dressed Movement as a direct effort to counter some misperceptions. In 2014, their sophomore year, each had dressed up one day, but Phipps said, “It was random. I had an internship, Josh had a job interview, and Eli had a class presentation.” Unaware each had dressed up, “we left our apartment at different times and met later at the library for a social. Everyone saw us and asked why we were dressed up. We pretended it was intentional and said it was “Well Dressed Wednesday.” From there, they decided to make a Wednesday tradition of dressing up and enlisted their friends to join them.

They began the Well Dressed Movement in the wake of high profile killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and college campuses were rife with discussion about race. Syracuse was no different. Phipps said there was extensive racist dialogue in online articles in the school newspaper, The Daily Orange, and on Yik Yak, a location-based social media platform popular on college campuses.

“My friends and I are from inner city Philadelphia, Paterson (New Jersey), and New York City,” and they felt the sting of such commentary. Dressing up was a constructive response to address perceptions others might have about them. They took inspiration from earlier black pioneers who tackled social justice issues. The group’s motto, When you look good, you feel good,facilitated engagement with their peers. Their movement took hold and spread to other campuses, including Binghamton, Cornell, Howard, and Pace universities and Utica College, which validated their efforts.

Looking good takes money, however. As budget-conscious millennials, they shopped at H&M, Zara, local thrift stores, and they tracked sale items at Macy’s. It was worth the effort. Phipps said dressing up without a specific purpose elicited positive responses from those with whom he interacted, and it instilled a professional mindset in him.

“Dressing up on campus prepped me for interviews,” he said. “I already had the pieces, so I didn’t have to think about it too much. Because I had already experimented with different combinations, I can put on an outfit and be confident beforehand.”

Practice paid off: While still in school, he had internships and summer jobs at places like the Ford Foundation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington.

Phipps described his style as “trendy with my own personal touch.” A wardrobe necessity for him is “a navy blue suit, because you can dress it up or dress it down. It’s a suit you can match with other pants or jackets.” He added, “You can use it for going out, a job interview, to go to dinner. It’s a good essential to start with.”

 

Detailing with colors and accessories is his personal touch. “I like to incorporate hints of gold, if possible.” When it comes to ties, Phipps said, “I mainly choose neckties, because when you’re dressing up, you have more options. A bow tie is more extravagant and you’re making a statement with one. And not a lot of bow ties go with certain shirt combinations.” A final item for him, the pocket square, which “adds a nice touch to your outfit. You can find a set on Amazon or eBay for $10.” When he’s dressed casually, however, Phipps prefers jeans, Adidas, and Nikes. “I also like classic T-shirts and bomber jackets,” he added….Read the rest here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wRHBLwpASw

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4 Comments

Posted by on November 2, 2016 in The New Jim Crow, The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “The Well Dressed Man Makes a Comeback

  1. Steve

    November 2, 2016 at 11:01 AM

    Very cool.

    I look at old photos of Malcolm and Martin and Ali, taken during the time when I was a child and especially before I was born. I can’t find a photo of a black man in any of those old pictures that wasn’t wearing a hat, a tie, or a suit jacket. At least one of those things was worn, if not most often two out of the three, every time.

    Like

     
    • btx3

      November 2, 2016 at 11:25 AM

      Back in the day I was friends with a brother who worked as a car hop in one of the downtown lots.

      Would run into him in the clubs on Friday or Saturday night. Guy could only afford one good suit on his salary, but he looked good.

      I am not really a fan of the casual office environment.

      I have started mixing in a nice Fedora or dress hat myself in those dress up occasions.

      Like

       
  2. lkeke35

    November 2, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    I do not believe in respectability politics but I do stan for this type of thing because I love a sharp-dressed man, and because of how it makes the dresser feel when they know they look their best.

    I did witness this before my promotion. I started dressing like I already had the position. People treated me very differently when I wore slacks and dress shoes, than when I wore jeans and hoodies.

    And I really did feel happier and more energetic when I dressed better.

    Like

     
    • btx3

      November 2, 2016 at 1:07 PM

      It does a lot for your personal confidence!

      Liked by 1 person

       

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