Photo courtesy of Dapper Dan of Harlem
Floyd Mayweather Jr. has a reputation for being boxing’s pretty boy—just like his fights, his ring wear is always an extravagant spectacle. For the $32 million match he had against Marcos Maidana on Saturday, Mayweather once again called on the skills of hip-hop’s fashion godfather, Dapper Dan, to design him some stunning new gear. Dapper Dan is known for creating iconic and luxurious bespoke leather garments out of his Harlem boutique in the 80s for legends like Run DMC and Mike Tyson. So Dan was the perfect designer to craft an attention-grabbing look for “Money” Mayweather, who ultimately took home the win.
I called up Dapper Dan to find out more about Mayweather’s outfit, Sugar Ray Robinson's influence on fashion, and how a man's balls can survive a 12-round fight inside a pair of leather shorts.
Photo by Conor Lamb
VICE: Why did Floyd Mayweather want you to design a custom ring-wear outfit?
Dapper Dan: Floyd is like the Sugar Ray Robinson of his time. He is very flamboyant. He likes to incorporate the street look into the ring.
How did you incorporate his Pretty Boy persona into your designs?
He is known as "Pretty Boy" Floyd, but he is also "Money" Mayweather, so the ring wear has to be very rich and not accessible to the average guy. Floyd reminds me so much of Sugar Ray Robinson because Robinson had that street and ring appeal. There is a picture of Robinson with a pink Cadillac, blazer, trousers, and alligator shoes on in Harlem on 125th Street. He was surrounded by men his age, but they were dressed conservatively, like on Wall Street. It all goes back to what I try to do, which is the Africanizing of Western dress. When you see Robinson around all of the other black men of his time, it’s the same cuts, but it’s Africanized. Wall Street would never do that. [Robinson and Mayweather] have that thing that we brought to America. That is like our flag, so to speak.
Can you tell me more about Saturday’s outfit?
Every element that he really likes is present: the motorcycle jacket, the skins, and the colors. Floyd likes to incorporate the colors of his opponent. He wanted the Mexican colors this time because I think he was under the impression that since Maidana was fighting in Mexico, he is Mexican. But Maidana is actually Argentine. Floyd brags a lot and attacks his opponents, but that’s just show business.
Leather seems to be an interesting choice for athletic wear.
Mayweather likes ostrich, alligator, crocodile, and python. It looks amazing, but movement and overheating are a serious matter. I tried to keep it very lightweight. You will see the alligator, python, and the ostrich coming down the sides as opposed to in the crotch area. The rest of the shorts are made of very lightweight lamb leather.
You previously designed for Mike Tyson. How is Mayweather different?
Floyd has a pretty-boy, you-can’t–touch-me style. Tyson might just cut a hole in a towel and come in the ring. Tyson looked bestial to intimidate his opponents. Tyson came along during the birth of hip-hop, so I used to make him all of these elaborate outfits, the same things I was making for LL Cool J and all of the early rappers. Also, Mike Tyson would sweat enormously. He used to tell me that his shorts started feeling like lead. So Tyson would not be a good candidate for wearing Mayweather's stuff. Floyd can wear leather, alligator, even mink shorts in the ring.
Were you always a boxing fan?
Yeah, I grew up during the boxing era. Boxing was very significant because we could run up to the TV and watch our champions, like Joe Louis. There was a lot of prejudice early on in my era, so we were denied opportunities in sports. Boxing was one of the early color barriers that we broke. To see black guys get in the ring and knock people out, it was like we were winning, just for that moment. For those rounds, we were on top of the world.
Why do you think the popularity of boxing has declined?
It’s not as big as it was back in the day because, with the exception of Floyd, the talent is no longer there. Where as in basketball or baseball, there is so much more room for that talent. With boxing there is just one guy here and one guy there. I am inclined to believe that boxing is the greatest challenge of all of the sports. Somebody could be very talented in boxing, but never get the right fight. I think that hurts the industry a lot.
Do you hope to work with more boxers?
To be honest with you, a lot of up-and-coming guys have been calling. Floyd set a format that could help boxing a lot. The kind of excitement he creates with the way he dresses is starting to attract other fighters for personal and financial reasons. Brana is trying to follow in Floyd’s footsteps. He needs a few more pointers from Floyd in and out of the ring. I think it would help out the industry, so I am working with a few guys. You will be seeing something soon. I have been trying to feel out what the major design companies are doing. I wonder who is going to be wearing Dolce & Gabbana or Louis Vuitton shorts in the ring. I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Remember, back in the day, nobody would have dreamed up the way that design companies eventually embraced hip-hop.
Follow Erica on Twitter.