Monica L. Miller


On her book Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity

Cover Interview of October 15, 2009


While I do not directly investigate contemporary “dress debates” such as Bill Cosby’s call for young black men to hitch up their pants, or what it means for P. Diddy to be nominated for “Designer of the Year” for his Sean Jean line while employing “butler” and stylist Farnsworth Bentley to carry his umbrella in St. Tropez, or even why Andre 3000 of Outkast frequently dons a straw boater in homage to the older black men in his Atlanta neighborhood, it is my hope that the history and case-studies that I do provide in the book give readers a sense of how and why dress matters for black people.

Whether practiced on the streets of metropolitan Europe or America, seen on the colonial or blackface minstrel stage, textually illustrated in novels hoping to define New Negroes and race men, or experienced visually in photographic exhibitions in the galleries of Chelsea and London today, black dandyism is a strategy of survival that has a long and multifaceted history.

Black dandyism is, above all, an investigation of the use and abuse of image.  As Iké Udé, an artist/aesthete whose self-portrait is my book’s cover, says, “In the end, a dandy’s style is not just about form and substance.  It is also about the luxurious deliberation of intelligence in the face of boundaries.” 

© 2009 Monica L. Miller