Fashion fans might come to this memoir expecting a primer on the journey from street style to couture, and there is certainly a bit of that in the book ... Detailed descriptions of his family’s tragic journey through poverty, the changing nature of his beloved and cursed neighborhood, and his adventures as a hustler are riveting. His recollections of his early career as a master gambler and the characters he met along the way, as well as his examination of the psychology of the profession, are perhaps even more compelling.
Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem tells the captivating, inspiring and at times raw and emotional story of Daniel R. Day ... It is part fashion story; part personal memoir; but also part business book extolling the virtues of creativity and hard work; part metaphysical and spiritual exploration; part history of Harlem, its Black community and diverse cultural mix, and fashion and hip-hop's intersection; part meditation on identity and more. If that sounds like too much, it's not. All of these elements add up to tell Day's wholly original story ... Pick it up to spend some time in the mind of a truly creative and clever innovator.
Day is a natural storyteller with a distinct point of view that clearly comes through in this enjoyable memoir. He incorporates the social history of Harlem, a fascinating backdrop, and writes as compellingly about his city and its people as he does about his life.
You can always trust an autobiographer who discloses a childhood memory in which he and his siblings 'had to smack a cereal box twice on its side . . . to make sure we got the roaches out before we started pouring it into our bowls' ... minor anecdotes like the one about the cereal box attest to a fine-tuned sense of detail that one would expect from a legendary clothes designer and culture hero ... Vividly, but without sentimentality, he evokes both the pleasures and hazards of living and dreaming in what was once considered the citadel of black America ... Day conveys both his streetwise philosophy and the details of his life with a sang froid that forgoes self-pity or simplistic bromides.
[A] moving memoir ... In describing his life, Day also provides a fascinating portrait of the Harlem in his youth ... Day wonderfully captures the style of Harlem and its evolution throughout the decades.