Ready or Not: Pimp Style is Back!
The first pictures from Tom Ford's 2019 fall collection made me swoon, not just in response to the jeweled brights and rich pastels. It was the flagrant homage to 1970s pimp fashion, a style that will live forever and may be making a new "comeback."
Thanks to “Dolemite is My Name,” a big new movie vehicle for Eddie Murphy (another comeback) 1970s urban glamour will be all the rage, according to pundits at the New York Times. The film's costume designer is Ruth Carter, who won an Academy award for Black Panther. She's a woman who knows her way around Afro-urban style and culture, and boned up with old catalogues from Eleganza, a company that touted its form-fitting bell-bottom jumpsuits as "luxurious 100% Orlon acrylic!"
Looking at the Tom Ford collection, with its big fur hats and slouchy, sweeping overcoats, I wondered whether anyone would complain about cultural appropriation. But I didn't hear a whisper! Maybe this means that people have accepted the influence black culture has had on everything we love, everything we think of as "American." Scrolling through Instagram, it's a given that girls of all ethnicities want to look and dress like Rihanna and Cardi B. Nameplate necklaces and long embellished nails are standard accessories. Drippin is for everyone who aims to impress.
Now that Western-wear has crept into urban fashion, cross-pollination may appease cries of cultural appropriation from those who insist on divisions and tribes. Let’s hope so.
Pimp style is so joyous! Inspired by the nineteenth century dandy, it expands on the ruffles, the fitted waistcoats and tall hats, in over-the-top size and color. Slick Rick and Prince honed their own versions of pimp style. Migos has brought back the huge diamond studded chains and pendants. It doesn't take a genius to predict a full-on 70s Afro-urban revival.
One of my own favorite holy grails of vintage style is the documentary "Pimps Up, Ho's Down," which follows the exploits of actual pimps like The Bishop Don "Magic" Juan, among others. It's a wildly misogynist world that no one should applaud, but the outfits are just flabbergasting. Full-length snakeskin overcoats and rings the size of ashtrays are just a fraction of the looks on display.
“The Mack” is another film that takes pimp style to the limit with costume design that can't be beat. The sheer mileage of white fur alone is mind-blowing. Whether fake or real, the ostentatious fur coat remains a symbol of tongue-in-cheek glamour, adopted by rock stars and rappers and fashion influencers from Kate Moss to Bryanboy and beyond.
Looking at images in those Eleganza catalogues, you realize how truly revolutionary and creative men's fashion was in the 70s. The styles look outlandish and almost futuristic today. Everything is exaggerated: collars, flares, skintight fit, heel height, all created to help men feel like sexy peacocks. I would call the look Modified Pimp, but throw in the fur coat and a fancy cane with some bling, and the aspirational pimp could nail it.
Over the years, I've lost interest in Eddie Murphy but I can’t wait to see Dolemite just for the clothes. Ruth Carter made some of Murphy's costumes from scratch, and she described the milieu she's depicting like this:
“They went to juke joints and back-alley clubs, sat with their legs crossed wearing sequined bright yellow hats, bright pink suits, white shoes — we called them marshmallows — and white fur hats. They enjoyed their community that was a little rude and crude.”
She had me at "sequined"! I can't wait to see her designs, and I'll cross my fingers that they spawn a fashion movement I am more than ready for. Maybe my husband will break down this year and let me get that Halloween pimp costume for our dog. It has a huge purple hat and a dollar sign necklace! I can dream, anyway.