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Why Black Men Tend To Be Fashion Kings

Posted: December 31, 2012

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The idea that African-American men have great fashion sense is not a stereotype, says Monica L. Miller, the author of Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity. NPR's Michel Martin speaks with Miller and NPR's resident style king, Victor Holliday.

Republican strategist Ron Christie wears a tailored three-piece suit from Lord Willy's in New York City. He says the style is bespoke British with irreverent flair. And when Christie isn't dressed for business, he turns to casual Lucky Brand jeans and a sweater.

Republican strategist Ron Christie wears a tailored three-piece suit from Lord Willy's in New York City. He says the style is bespoke British with irreverent flair. And when Christie isn't dressed for business, he turns to casual Lucky Brand jeans and a sweater.

NPR Senior Producer Walter Watson pairs his blue Banana Republic sweater with golden brown Lands' End slacks. He calls his style

NPR Senior Producer Walter Watson pairs his blue Banana Republic sweater with golden brown Lands' End slacks. He calls his style "nothing too fancy office casual wear." Amy Ta

Victor Holliday, associate producer of NPR's on-air fundraising, wears a light gray wool suit (DKNY Essentials) under a black vintage overcoat with fine English stitching (Regis Rex). He considers his style

Victor Holliday, associate producer of NPR's on-air fundraising, wears a light gray wool suit (DKNY Essentials) under a black vintage overcoat with fine English stitching (Regis Rex). He considers his style "easy elegance." Amy Ta

NPR Washington Desk Assistant Editor Brakkton Booker.

NPR Washington Desk Assistant Editor Brakkton Booker. Amy Ta

Tell Me More intern Azmi Abusam is dressed in designs by Guess, Aldo and H&M. He got his handmade leather bag from a street dealer in Khartoum, Sudan. Abusam says his style changes every six months, but it's usually based on comfort, quality and personal taste.

Tell Me More intern Azmi Abusam is dressed in designs by Guess, Aldo and H&M. He got his handmade leather bag from a street dealer in Khartoum, Sudan. Abusam says his style changes every six months, but it's usually based on comfort, quality and personal taste. Amy Ta

Tell Me More's Barbershop guy Jimi Izrael wears a Kenneth Cole shirt, Inc jacket and Ray Ban glasses. He says he mostly has his wife's taste in clothes, but also likes unconventional takes on conventional clothing items.

Tell Me More's Barbershop guy Jimi Izrael wears a Kenneth Cole shirt, Inc jacket and Ray Ban glasses. He says he mostly has his wife's taste in clothes, but also likes unconventional takes on conventional clothing items. Amy Ta

Kevin Langley, NPR's Deputy Director of Broadcast Engineering, dresses in a navy blue pin-striped Calvin Klein suit. Made of cashmere, wool and polyester, the suit has an athletic fit. Langley says his overall style is

Kevin Langley, NPR's Deputy Director of Broadcast Engineering, dresses in a navy blue pin-striped Calvin Klein suit. Made of cashmere, wool and polyester, the suit has an athletic fit. Langley says his overall style is "business attire," and he's drawn to ties that look expensive and professional, but are cheap and accentuate his shirt or suit. Amy Ta

NPR Digital Media's Matt Thompson shows off a plum-colored Express shirt with a lavender DKNY silk tie, charcoal wool vest by Indochino and wool pants by Calvin Klein. He says he keeps things simple for the most part, usually wearing muted colors with one bold accent.

NPR Digital Media's Matt Thompson shows off a plum-colored Express shirt with a lavender DKNY silk tie, charcoal wool vest by Indochino and wool pants by Calvin Klein. He says he keeps things simple for the most part, usually wearing muted colors with one bold accent. Amy Ta

Tell Me More's Barbershop and political chat contributor Corey Ealons is outfitted in a Joseph Abboud black velvet jacket with a ticket pocket and pink silk handkerchief. Ealons says real men can wear pink with confidence, and that his style is classic and clean with a little edge.

Tell Me More's Barbershop and political chat contributor Corey Ealons is outfitted in a Joseph Abboud black velvet jacket with a ticket pocket and pink silk handkerchief. Ealons says real men can wear pink with confidence, and that his style is classic and clean with a little edge.

Maxwell Ealons, 4, enjoys dressing like his father, Corey. His dressy clothes usually come from Children's Place, H&M, Target and Zara. He actually dresses himself for school with Spider-Man, Batman and Redskins shirts, plus jeans or sweat pants.

Maxwell Ealons, 4, enjoys dressing like his father, Corey. His dressy clothes usually come from Children's Place, H&M, Target and Zara. He actually dresses himself for school with Spider-Man, Batman and Redskins shirts, plus jeans or sweat pants.

Tell Me More intern Azmi Abusam

Tell Me More intern Azmi Abusam Amy Ta

For many, style is much deeper than articles of clothing; it's a statement of identity. Black men have a unique relationship with fashion, one that can be traced all the way back to the 17th and 18th centuries.

Monica L. Miller, the author of Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, spoke with Tell Me More's Michel Martin about the past, present and future of black men's fashion.

Miller, an associate professor of English at Barnard College, explains that African-American men have used style as a way to challenge stereotypes about who they are. "Sometimes the well-dressed black man coming down the street is asking you to look and think."

Victor Holliday, associate producer of on-air fundraising at NPR and one of the resident kings of style, tells Martin that he learned about the importance of fashion at an early age. "When I was 5 years old, I knew exactly how I was going to look," he says. "And that was the year I got my first trench coat and my top hat."

Holliday's style icon is his father, who taught him that the main object of dressing up is winning respect. "Because as you present yourself seriously, people tend to take you seriously."

Holliday is one of the men featured in Tell Me More's Kings of Style slideshow.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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