Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Story Behind The Style – Harlem

I had been in Harlem for a few hours and just hadn’t found anything to shoot. I finally gave up and decided to head back to Soho. After walking a few blocks down Madison Ave ,around 120th street, I see this gentleman – I literally stop in my tracks. I introduce myself and ask to photograph him. He says yes in a voice that sounds exactly like Ray Charles speaking voice. As I’m shooting he is telling me proudly about his community work and an upcoming Harlem bike race he is helping to organize. As I finish shooting I ask him about the suit he is wearing. I guess I was expecting to hear something about how he bought the suit back in the 70′s and has been wearing it every Sunday since then. That is definitely not the story I got.

“I got this suit in 1990, I was dealing drugs then and one of the girls I sold drugs to threw this suit at me as payment. She would usually steal $20 or $30 bucks and give me that but this time she just threw this suit at me”

I can’t make this stuff up, I can only hope to remember it until I can write it down. His story was not hard to remember.


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  1. argos

    May 31, 2006 at 8:15 am

    proof that clothing is a form of currency.

    Those shoes…

  2. gary

    May 31, 2006 at 8:42 am

    He looked dandy! One of the most well-dressed seniors I’ve seen… The shoes are really unique. I’m really digging the straw hat.

  3. Mike Paget

    May 31, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Those shoes are unreal – is that white out, or polish?

  4. Francois

    May 31, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Amazing story, before long they’ll make a film out of your blog!

  5. positive_negative

    May 31, 2006 at 10:18 am

    Wow, I don’t know what to say about that other than it caught me off guard that someone as polished as he with the face of everyone’s beloved grandfather sold drugs of all things more than a decade ago.

  6. Gina

    May 31, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Great story. Great photos!

  7. The G Manifesto

    May 31, 2006 at 11:44 am

    smooth style….thats really all there is to say.

  8. Anonymous

    May 31, 2006 at 11:53 am

    not only does he look like a gent , but the truth of his life makes the suit that much better… and he’s more legit than many other “frauds” in suits

  9. you've got everything now

    May 31, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    carpe diem shoes? gotta keep the pimp hand strong!

  10. Anonymous

    May 31, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    He’s absolutely dashing. The story and photo prove that proper dressing is less about pricey labels and such, and more about self-esteem. I was struck not by the suit, which is nonetheless lovely on him, but by that amazing face and the inherent dignity in his posture. Simply amazing.

    And bravo to The Sartorialist for his excellent eye and robust skills as a photographer. Not enough has been said about the routinely excellent and sumptuous photographs on display here.

  11. you've got everything now

    May 31, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    ps could the hem of those pants be any more perfect????

  12. ngozi

    May 31, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    wow…people never fail to surprise you.

  13. Anonymous

    May 31, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    The hem on the pants are insane.

    And it looks like white shoe polish on the shoes.

    Now I am wondering how the drug addict girl who used it as payment got the suit to begin with!


  14. Anonymous

    May 31, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    please, i just wanna know what you mean by “carpe diem shoes”. English is my third language, that’s why, even though i know the carpe diem “style” in poems, is it just to say that its old yet nice style of shows, just wondering

  15. Gigi

    May 31, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    Very dapper. Love the story!

  16. JA Firebrand

    May 31, 2006 at 8:19 pm

    shocking that there were no other gems in harlem but this makes up for it – 10 folk. ah, if only I could decide which is more memorable, the story or the shoes. the suit and the hat are smooth for days on end…

  17. honeychild / the mixtress

    May 31, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    WOW!! i wasn’t expecting that, either.

  18. AnastasiaC

    May 31, 2006 at 9:50 pm

    what a cool man – great suit, it sits so well on him! he looks proud in it!
    that white polish is caked on isnt it??!!

  19. Anonymous

    May 31, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    this is the best post i’ve read so far on this blog.

    love the shoes…

  20. Fnarf

    May 31, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    It definitely looks like a pair of brown shoes that have been turned into two-tones at home with white-out. I don’t think regular white polish cakes on that thick. Great look, though. That hat is a freak.

  21. mingster

    June 1, 2006 at 1:14 am

    i love his glasses, i wonder if there’s a story behind them as well

  22. don't quote me on this

    June 1, 2006 at 2:56 am

    Look at that, it fit too!

  23. petra

    June 1, 2006 at 7:35 am


    like him a lot!

  24. verdiales

    June 1, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Pharm techs in Walgreens don’t dress this well, so I’m guessing this guy is a rep for Pfizer. What a marvellous story. I didn’t know Medicaid allowed a barter option.

    The things you learn on the net these days, and on a fashion blog, no less.

    I dig the do-it-yourself shoes.

  25. LBellatrix

    June 1, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    WOW! Another great pic. I completely agree with anonymous_1:12: It’s all about the carriage of the man.

  26. Anonymous

    June 2, 2006 at 3:56 am

    He looks pretty sharp, but I still can’t enjoy that knowing that he is wearing a stolen suit which he got by wrecking people’s lives. What a shame.

  27. Jammie

    June 6, 2006 at 3:14 am


  28. Maria

    July 16, 2006 at 8:18 pm

    Elegant outfit, funky story; very Harlem.

  29. Anonymous

    October 29, 2006 at 5:54 am

    this is by far your best story. i miss your trips to harlem and brooklyn.

  30. Anonymous

    January 7, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Harlem man dressing to kill, cleaner then the board of health; Harlem man with his James Brown kind of taylored look a dream lover kind of looking guy. He dressed his ass off and made style a fashion, Harlem man isn’t he fly as sharp as a razor blade’s edge.
    Harlem is a setting of, and for many delights sure enough clothing is a plus in the sight of the beholder of styles and grace and in that man of Harlem dressed up look you captured it the Bird, The Cat, the Flash at one of its best.

  31. yoko

    October 1, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    i really hope his story about the suit is true.

  32. Jazzbuff630

    August 18, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Is this the only guy in Harlem you could find on that day? This is the kind of character that “amuses” the people from foreign lands that come to visit us uptown. What about the Harlem natives who are the investment bankers, lawyers,executives, etc. who are “clean” as a mofo every day? I sit on the bus every day
    on my way to work, and see the look of shock on the people who get on the bus further downtown. Yeah, baby, that’s Purple Label.
    And it didn’t fall off a truck.

  33. leticia

    October 30, 2008 at 12:00 am


  34. bowiesly

    May 18, 2009 at 5:37 am

    this story just made my day!
    it is amazing!
    during wonderful days i go to my office (the brewery) out of city through wonderful chestnuts streets, and for next 8-9h. sit here at the promo zone.
    your shots are my sunny window into the world!
    with love from kiev,

  35. Mike Carreiro

    June 23, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Super stylish. I wonder if the whiteout is covering up a miss spelled word.

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