Boston, Lloyd 1970(?)–
Lloyd Boston 1970(?)–
Art director, author
In the liner notes for Miles Davis’s Greatest Hits, jazz writer George Frazier recalled a post-concert chat with Davis, the noted trumpeter and clothes horse. “He asked me how I thought he’d done. ‘You sounded superb. You—’ But he stopped me. ‘No, not that,’ he said. “I mean how did my suit look?’” Lloyd Boston takes the fashion of black men just as seriously, if not more so. The former Vice President of Art Direction for Tommy Hilfiger has become the preeminent authority on black men’s style, the result of researching and writing Men of Color: Fashion, History, Fundamentals, a 256-page visual documentary the Detroit News called, “one of the most powerful testimonies of African American male style.”
“In business, politics, sport and the arts, our influence is undeniable,” Boston writes in the book’s preface. “Our impact on style is no exception…. A lineage of strength and pride filters into fabrics we’ve sewn, standards we’ve twisted, traditions we’ve abandoned, and trends we’ve ignited. African American men have developed a science to dressing that has expanded the parameters for all men.”
Boston’s entry way into the world of fashion and the history of black male style began when he was a sophomore at Morehouse College and Tommy Hilfiger made a campus appearance. “I don’t see myself represented,” he told the designer, “therefore I would never buy your clothing.” Hilfiger, at once taken aback and impressed with his new friend’s youthful candor, offered Boston an internship and a scholarship to finish college, which he did at Rutgers University.
Boston went to work full-time for Hilfiger in 1990 rising to the position of Vice President of Art Direction. While having a hand in designing and maintaining the company’s look in everything from product graphics to visual imaging, his influence can be seen in all collections of the $800 million Tommy Hilfiger label. Additionally, Boston devoted a great deal of time helping to steer the company’s image through marketing, public relations, and special events while working on a variety of special projects involving the company’s identity.
In Boston’s spare time he began to work on Men of Color in an effort to legitimize the impact black men’s style has had on mainstream American culture. “What better tribute to Black men’s style strides over the last hundred years than a book that would bear witness for generations to come,” Boston told Deborah Gregory of Essence. With that, Boston took to combing his grandmother’s basement for old photos and visiting historically black colleges and black history museums for additional pictures and other research material.
Boston also wanted to blend his research with present-day photo shoots to accompany interviews and essays by prominent African American experts and celebrities, a tall order with his small, first-time author book advance. To raise money for the project he signed up Tommy
Born c. 1969. Education: Attended Morehouse College; B.A., Rutgers University.
Career: Began working at Tommy Hilfiger U.S.A., Inc., 1990; appeared on the View and…, 1990s; published Men of Color: Fashion, History, Fundamentals, 1998; creative consultant to Tommy Hilfiger, editor-at-largefor CODE magazine, 1999–.
Addresses: Agent’s office— Faith Chi Ids Literary Agency, Inc., 915 Broadway, Suite 1009, NY, NY 10010.
Hilfiger U.S.A., Johnny Walker Black, and Kodak as sponsors. This enabled the book to have a crisp, modern feel and features interviews with Ed Bradley, Wynton Marsalis, Samuel L. Jackson, Cornel West, Billy Dee Williams, Gregory Hines and others. The book also offers style advice.
And while at first glance, Men of Color may appear to be strictly about fashion, it actually says less about the clothes than the men who wear them, a point laid out by one of Boston’s contributors, musician Quincy Jones, who penned the foreward.
“Despite the centuries of suppression we suffered during slavery,” Jones writes, “when we weren’t allowed to practice our religions, speak our languages or create our art, we somehow managed to maintain our sense of self-expression…. Whenever possible, we put our own spin on style.”
“Fine vines alone have never been enough to achieve sartorial Black cool,” Boston told the New Pittsburgh Courier.” It’s always been about walking the walk, talking the talk. It’s the way we break our hats, situate our jackets, lace or not lace shoes and strut on down the street…. Whether the look is tough, affluent, Afrocentric or preppie, Black men have mastered the marriage between style and attitude.”
In his review for Booklist Vernon Ford said Men of Color,” reveals the substantial influence of black men on the fashion industry, if for no other reason than the rebel role that has so often been assigned to black men who couldn’t find acceptance in the culture, e.g., the contributions the hip-hop style on fashion as well as music.” Boston explained to Roy Campbell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune that finally there was “a historical document that dispels that myth that all we have influenced is street style or that black style is one style. It is more diverse. We’ve touched style in a unique way every day for the last two centuries.”
In his introduction to the book, Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley suggests Men of Color evokes an essay on spirituals and neo-spirituals by Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston asserted true spirituals are not just songs, but “unceasing variations around a theme.” Boston, Talley writes, “has achieved the literary equivalent of such soulful spirituals, simultaneously celebrating the subtle nuances and setting forth a sweeping overview of a single, central theme—the undeniable stylishness of the Black man.”
“For Black American men in particular,” wrote Boston, “who have emerged from a history of slavery and segregation, and who continue to be stereotyped and stigmatized, clothing has always served a symbolic purpose. What we wear signals where we are and, more important, where we want to be.” For his part, Boston has found his calling and is where he wants to be. Though he stepped down as Vice President at Tommy Hilfiger, he still works as a creative consultant to the designer and was named editor-at-Iarge for CODE magazine in 1999. His vision for his future is unmistakably clear. “I will continue to be a purveyor of Black style,” he declared to Deborah Gregory of Essence, “and redefine what is considered ’American.”
Boston, Lloyd, Men of Color: Fashion, History, Fundamentals, Artisan, 1998.
Booklist, January 15, 1999, p. 802.
Detroit News, November 27, 1998, p. B-3.
Essence, November 1, 1998, p. 84.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 10, 1999, p. 4-B.
New Pittsburgh Courier, February 2, 1999, p. A-10.
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