The aquamarine undertones of the Black Dandy’s suit and clean-cut vintage jacket attract your eyes immediately. The straw fedora that adorns his head perfectly complements the suede boots, tying his outfit together. In everyday life, he is far from unnoticed. While his look seems effortless, it is entirely deliberate.
This spring, the Lowe Art Museum is igniting a conversation about Black Dandies, an African-American subculture, in an exhibition titled “Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculinity.”
The origin of the Black Dandy is multifaceted.
“The roots of Black Dandyism can be traced back to attempts by 15th century African rulers to mix African attire with European fashions, and [it can also be traced back] to the ‘dressing up’ of enslaved Africans in Europe and the Americas during the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” said Shantrelle Lewis, the exhibition’s curator, in her curatorial statement for the exhibition. “Black Dandyism is thus an assimilation of European menswear intertwined with an African aesthetic of performance and ritual of dress.”
While fashion and style change over time, the intent of the Black Dandy movement remains the same: empowerment. Fashion serves as a tool to subtly rebel while expressing personal elements of masculinity and individuality.
“Much like other movements for empowerment, Black Dandyism serves to highlight an identity and own a position in society that is not imposed, but created,” said Jill Deupi, chief curator and beaux arts director of the Lowe Art Museum, in an email interview with The Miami Hurricane.
“Dandy Lion” features artists, photographers and filmmakers from the United States, Europe and Africa. The artists highlight stylishly dressed black men in city landscapes, shattering misconceptions and stereotypes that many still hold today.
In a location so racially and ethnically diverse as Miami, this discussion is particularly relevant.
“The exhibition reflects Miami’s urbane heterogeneity, while also celebrating fashion and style,” Deupi said.
The Lowe Art Museum proudly displays exhibitions like “Dandy Lion” to facilitate discussion through art.
“This dynamic and engaging show is an apt manifestation of the Lowe’s commitment to exploring contemporary culture through 5,000 years of art and serving as an invaluable – and relevant – tool for education, engagement and enrichment through the arts,” Deupi said.
The exhibition opened Feb. 23 and will run through May 21. The Lowe Art Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12-4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free to University of Miami students.