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Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem

A Memoir
Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
5 out of 5 stars (466 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

“Dapper Dan is a legend, an icon, a beacon of inspiration to many in the Black community. His story isn’t just about fashion. It’s about tenacity, curiosity, artistry, hustle, love, and a singular determination to live our dreams out loud.” (Ava DuVernay, director of Selma13th, and A Wrinkle in Time)

With his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs. But before he reinvented haute couture, he was a hungry boy with holes in his shoes, a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, and a young man in a prison cell who found nourishment in books. In this remarkable memoir, he tells his full story for the first time. 

Decade after decade, Dapper Dan discovered creative ways to flourish in a country designed to privilege certain Americans over others. He witnessed, profited from, and despised the rise of two drug epidemics. He invented stunningly bold credit card frauds that took him around the world. He paid neighborhood kids to jog with him in an effort to keep them out of the drug game. And when he turned his attention to fashion, he did so with the energy and curiosity with which he approaches all things: learning how to treat fur himself when no one would sell finished fur coats to a Black man; finding the best-dressed hustler in the neighborhood and converting him into  a customer; staying open 24 hours a day for nine years straight to meet demand; and, finally, emerging as a world-famous designer whose looks went on to define an era, dressing cultural icons including Eric B. and Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Mike Tyson, Alpo Martinez, LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, Diddy, Naomi Campbell, and Jay-Z. 

By turns playful, poignant, thrilling, and inspiring, Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem is a high-stakes coming-of-age story spanning more than 70 years and set against the backdrop of an America where, as in the life of its narrator, the only constant is change. 

Praise for Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem:

“Dapper Dan is a true one of a kind, self-made, self-liberated, and the sharpest man you will ever see. He is couture himself.” (Marcus Samuelsson, New York Times best-selling author of Yes, Chef)

“What James Baldwin is to American literature, Dapper Dan is to American fashion. He is the ultimate success saga, an iconic fashion hero to multiple generations, fusing street with high sartorial elegance. He is pure American style.” (André Leon Talley, Vogue contributing editor and author)

©2019 Daniel R. Day (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“It’s easy now to take for granted the trail [Dapper Dan] blazed. . . . Detailed descriptions of his family’s tragic journey through poverty, the changing nature of his beloved and cursed neighborhood, and his adventures as a hustler are riveting.” (The New York Times)

“Dapper Dan is a blazing example of how, time after time, African American people have taken what others considered ‘nothing’ and, through sheer creativity and strong sense of self, made masterpieces. This incredible book captures his journey, his community, and his determination to create. Immerse yourself in the pages, and enjoy the opportunity to travel through a rare mind.” (Taraji P. Henson, Emmy- and Oscar-nominated actress) 

“Dapper Dan is a dream maker from Harlem who carved out a piece of its royal cloth, sewed it up, and shared it with all of us, creating stars through his vision. Dap was there with the hood heroes and hood horrors, the joy, sunshine, and pain; he survived it all, and finally his book is hitting the streets, letting us all know how.” (Nas) 

Editorial Review

Tailor-made for greatness

Fashion and writing are my two great loves, but they rarely combine to produce something electric. Dapper Dan’s memoir is an exception. Back in the 80s, his influential Harlem boutique was a magnet for rappers, athletes, and gangsters eager to “outfly” each other in his custom designer-logo remixes. Now 75, he reflects on a life of relentless resilience, from growing up poor to dabbling in drugs and hustling dice before a trip to a Liberian tailor—he was in Africa for the Rumble in the Jungle—became his lightbulb moment. His story is stuffed with history: from being jailed with one of Malcolm X’s assassins to outfitting hip hop legends and having his shop raided by a young lawyer named Sonia Sotomayor, the context is significant. But what I also appreciate is his infectious love of the transformational power of clothes, his deep understanding of their symbolism, and his self-taught method of “sciencing out” the design process. I can’t wait to hear the narration from actor and poet Omari Hardwick (if you missed him wearing Dapper Dan at the Met Gala: you’re welcome—and I’ll be first in line for the biopic, which is already in the works. —Kat J., Audible Editor

What members say

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Thanks Breakfast Club !

I’d heard of Dapper Dan before in different Rap Artists lyrics Never known anything about him then after he appeared on The Breakfast club 97.1 Fm 2 weeks .I suddenly got intrigued to his story I just thought he was a boring seamstress that made clothes for Rap Artists but come to find out he lived a hell of a life .

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Incredible

This book was absolutely incredible. I kept pausing it to take notes. I’ve reached-out and personally recommended it to about half a dozen people so far.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Surpassed the Hype

this book exceeded my expectations. it was captivating, edifying, educational and in a very unintentional way, spiritual. So exceptionally done that it's hard to tell if it's 5star because of the story, the writing or the narration or all of the above; viola, the trifecta! likely all of the above. this is ready for the big screen. well done.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Textbook for the Ages

As a hip hop kid we loved Dapper Dan. He exemplifies style and savoir -faire. The book provides a guidance map into the ingenuity of entrepreneurship, the purpose of Spirituality and the importance of relationship building. Buy this book for your children to hear how you become a Master of your life.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Intrinsically addicting.

Mr. Day, bless your heart for coming out on the other side, and sharing your life journey with us and what it meant to you to pull through the inevitable phases of the everyday Harlem struggle. You have shed light and given new meaning to the intrinsic value of 5 stars. *I have NEVER replayed or reread any book in my entire life with the same enthusiasm and anticipation to start it all over again, as I reached the end of your remarkable autobiography.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great Great Book

This is a great book, a great in debt look into the life of Dapper Dan. As a fellow Harlemite who family moved to harlem in the 1930's and hearing stories from my great Aunts and grandparents, this book brought back a lot of great memories.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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wow

so moving and inspiring. if you like born a crime you will like this book

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vivid, inspirational, highly entertaining.

the history of Harlem personified by dapper dan, look up hustler you'll find his name next to it. highly reccomend

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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This story is the epitome of real

Real lingo will pash real struggle you get get from all levels of emotions listening to Dan's story. He feel anger you for you feel pain you feel joy you laugh all the time because some of the stories are just too crazy to be true not to mention the many notable names that Dan has encountered helped and actually been hurt by in one way or another. At the very least what you can say Dan has lived a full life and his story has many more chapters for both he and us to learn from. I highly recommend this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Memoir junkie

This is one of the best read and performed memoirs! I’ve learned so much and took notes-thanks for sharing your story, Dapper Dan!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful