Originally Posted by Rome
LK would you mind elucidating? Thank you.
I believe it's mostly due to the traditional socio-economic status of blacks, an emphasis on the slavery, and their desire to subvert that status of poverty, which led many black men to dress in very flamboyant styles. That could be seen during the Harlem Renaissance and it was seen on the classic image of the pimp as well as the boxing promoters. One may also note when Fitzgerald, in The Great Gatsby
, writes about the black couple driving a large convertible and the woman with the most insouciant expression. Harlem also had the rather noted "Harlem Balls," which were like the American equivalent of the Deco period French drag balls with WASP socialites, European royalty, intellectuals, the gay community, and film stars coming down to partake in the fun. Most were hosted by Madam CJ Walker's daughter, A'Lelia Walker who lived at Villa Lewaro, a palace-like structure, on the Hudson. Here's a quote from the 1981 text, The Language of Clothes
: 'It takes money as well as taste to be a successful dandy, and in the past Blacks above the poverty line have spent much of their disposable income on clothes; according to one study, in 1950 their average expenditure was twenty percent greater that that of whites. Many writers have noted the Black enthusiasm for expensive and elegant clothes, and also for expensive and elegant automobiles. It has been suggested that these tastes, and the associated spending patterns, are related to the problems Blacks have traditionally had in acquiring other kinds of status symbols, such as membership in country clubs and houses in middle-class suburbs. If this is so, as equality of opportunity increases the relative elegance of Blacks may decline.'
Note this outfit worn by a spectator at the 1970 Muhammad Ali-Oscar Bonavena boxing match:
Couple wearing raccoon skin coats in their Cadillac in Harlem by James Van Der Zee: