Photography Exhibition Analyzes Black Male Identity and Fashion

Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity explores urban swagger.

Posted: 01/31/2012 11:38 AM EST

(Photo: Hanif Abdur-Rahim, A Revolution in Etiquette - Connoisseurs of SWAG, 2010)

For decades, Black men have known the importance of appearing sophisticated, smooth and full of what we've called "swagger." Be it in the way a man dresses, speaks or explores cultural interests, having swagger is a pretty sexy thing. Now the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture is hosting a photography exhibition titled Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity that explores these perspectives on Black male identity and urban fashion.


Twenty photographers and filmmakers present a collection of images of men who push the typical notions of what constitutes masculinity. When it comes to fashion, the contemporary "Black Dandy" often mixes African styles with classical European influences that go beyond the clothes they wear and seeps into their lifestyle and behavior. Dandyism, which developed in London during the 18th century, is characterized by lace ruffles, embroidery, wigs, top hats, and fancy footwear, but Black men have interpreted it in different forms around the world including the Harlem renaissance's styles, Central African's elegant society and now today's new swag where Victorian-era details have merged with hip hop culture.


"A Dandy Lion is a gentleman of exceptional manners who consciously postulates what it means to be Black, masculine and of quintessential style,” says Shantrelle P. Lewis, the exhibition's curator. “Juxtaposed against an urban backdrop where the clothing of choice for many Black men consists of a pair of sagging pants, exposed boxers and white tees, the ‘hip hop’ generation has produced another phenomenon of style — the New Age dandy.”


Dandy Lion: Articulating a Re(de)fined Black Masculine Identity has been traveling around the world debuting in Harlem before going on to Amsterdam, Brooklyn, and Newark, NJ. It is currently on view at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture in Baltimore, Maryland, through May 13.


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