Monday, April 30, 2012

Style Maven: Andre 3000

"To me, that's real style, anything that feels comfortable and expresses
your personality and makes you stand a little taller." ~ Andre 3000
The below commercial is just one tip off the ice burg in regards to what Andre 3000 has to offer soon in the entertainment industry. Yes, the vintage yet new age hip-hop legend, Andre 3K, Dre, Benjamin Andre, 3000, Three Stacks, Ice Cold, Possum Aloisious Jenkins, Dookie Blossum Gain the 3rd, Johnny Vulture, or whatever name you knowhim by, is slated to be returning to the spotlight sometime this year, and not just with music. On top of preparing his first solo album to hopefully be released this year, as far as fashion goes, his line Benjamin Bixby will make a return this year since his first collection came out in 2008. I, personally, am immensely excited considering Andre 3000's comeback for he has served as one of MY personal style icons considering his futuristically-nostalgic, suave, and culturally eccentric style-vibe. There are so many creative reasons for why he does what he does, and his  explanations  for his actions expose his wildy intellectual mindset, what he is interested in, and what he has been influenced by and, in my fashion, considering his past garb, he is most likely thinking on a plane none of us have dared to explore, which is what I enjoy so much about this revolutionary artist.

Andre 3000 is helmed as a rap legend to music fanatics having recorded five studio albums as one half of the rap duo, Outkast. They were the first hip hop act to a Grammy for Best Album of the Year for the album, “Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below”, in 2004, and as of 2006 that same album was certified to have sold over 11 million copies [source]. They have been helmed mostly for their creativity and originality in the rap game.  In my fashion, the sound of their music was comparable to a new sort of 60's funk, but executed in the cool, suave, new millennium style of the 90's. Outkast was always known for their offbeat style and presence, and the two complimented each other in that we could see the extroverted mentality of the flashy and smooth, Big Boi, coupled with more introverted, reserved, and artistic Three Stacks.

Childhood friends, Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Grammy
Award winning hip-hop duo, OutKast.

I have always enjoyed Andre 3000's fashion choices because of the variety he displays in his clothing selections, while still exuding a dapper gentleman. Reading interviews he has conducted, one can tell from his interviews that he has developed a sound style point of view where he has quoted, “Cool is not just one type of cool. Cool is confidence and knowing, I guess, what you are and being fine with it. Some people can be what people call 'nerds' and they're cool because they know they're nerds. They know what they are and they're so confident in knowing what they are that that makes them cool, and somebody aspires to be like them, because they're fine with it. It's confidence, you know [source].” This mentality is the type of vibe I would get from him when we would see him on stage wearing large, colorful, fur trousers with suspenders, or an oversized mexican ponco at a public outting. In my fashion, as a kid who wasn't interested in doing what everyone else was deeming popular, I saw Andre 3000 as my inspiration because he represented an African American male who wasn't afraid to outwardly be different and show that he gains inspiration elsewhere, and not just within the confines of what defined a hip-hop artist at the time. I, in particular, was not interested in wearing clothes that utterly drowned me and made me look like a gangster scarecrow with my tall, skinny frame. When I had seen Andre 3000 dawning fitted pants, cardigans, turbans, and other pieces that were more culturally influenced which he wore with a taste of urban swagger, I figured, I can look this way too! Andre 3000 aided in adding that needed diversity, creativity, open-mindedness, and out-of-the-box thinking to the hip-hop industry, showing us that we do not all have to look like “gangsters”, especially considering the fact that he has made many a "Best Dressed" lists internationally, especially in 2004 when he was dubbed best dressed man of 2004 by Esquire Magazine, and in 2005 when he made the International Best-Dressed List in Vanity Fair.     

Vogue, January 2005 photographed by Arthur Elgort

I feel the reason I took such reverence in the way Andre 3000 dressed was because I could vibe his personality through his clothing, and his general demeanor in the public-eye. In a New York Times interview he describes his real personality as reserved, with his outlandish style being more of an effect to create the character he wanted to portray. He even went on to say that in regards to entertainment he more so enjoys the possibilities of becoming someone else, stating, "If I want to play this person, I can become this person [source]." I agree with him on this notion in that it makes life more interesting to challenge yourself to look at life from another point of view. In my fashion, it helps to expose aspects of life that we might not realize if we concerned ourselves with just one notion of living.

Benjamin Bixby Clothing Line released in 2008 is to be
continued in 2012 and 2013 [source]
 I enjoyed the connections he makes with the old world and our new world. For me, his personal fashion philosophies are what make his style so effervescent. He reminds me of a cool cat from the 1920's. He has a respectable, polished, and intelligent aura, while still exuding soul, charisma, and individual ingenuity. In 2008 he launched a successful clothing line sold exclusively in Barney's and Neiman Marcus, which he named, Benjamin Bixby, describing it as, "a little bit of Benjamin Button, a tinge of Willy Wonka, with a touch of collegiate footballer thrown in for good measure." When asked what his philosophy was for the line, he stated that during the time the album "Stankonia" was out, Outkast's music was otherworldly sounding (as if from Mars), so he wanted his look to match the sound, and so, with this in mind, he wanted to bring the same spirit of otherworldliness to classic clothes that people could actually wear in public on a daily basis [source]. He also says, "“For an African-American guy to be prep, that’s a dichotomy. Prep style comes from mostly affluent families who just wear these cool clothes. But when you come from a background that has more struggle, your take on it will be different. There’s a certain kind of rebel to it.” Coming from humble beginnings myself and being an African American, I can appreciate this point of view because given the struggle most African Americans have to go through, to be able to pull off a look that is indicative of affluence says something about that individual, especially if they do it correctly. I appreciate his aesthetic because he goes on to say, “I can’t pretend I’m from New England or I’m at school at Harvard or Oxford, but when you think of men’s dress, you have to give a nod to England,” he said. “They created it all and brought it to America. We calmed it and made it cool.” Andre's conceptions on style are very creative and far-flung, but once you understand what idea he was going for it all comes together in a marvelously conceivable way. His line was even nominated for GQ's Best New Menswear Designer in America Award in 2009 [source]. Although the award went to Robert Gellar, I am ecstatic to see what other plans he has in the making as this year progresses [source].

Andre 3000 in some of his more
outlandish performance garb.
Even though Andre's look is very nostalgic of a dapper dandy from the early 1990's, he doesn't particularly care for the idea of nostalgia. From his point of view, he does not want to be associated with what he "used" to be known for, but what he "is" in the now, spoken like a true fashion maven; never looking to the past, it’s always about the now. He doesn't want to be the "uncle" or "grandfather" kind of guy in the rap game posing as a young artist, but more of a contributing mentor. He has said previously before in an interview, "I am not 17 anymore. I have put in my time, and if you want to hear hard-core hip hop or rhyming, go back to the earlier albums. I can't pretend that I am in the same place I was when I was 17, 18 years old.”[source] Take his recent features in other artists songs just in this past year starting with Atlanta sister, Ciara, in her remix to the widely popular song, "Ride" in 2010 and this past year in such songs as Beyonce's "Party", Young Jeezy's "I Do", Ke$ha's "Sleazy" remix, as well as B.o.B's song, "Play the Guitar". He is said to be releasing a solo album later this year, but Andre seems to enjoy the fact that he can provide inspiration for the younger generation for he is a fan of raw rap! At the end of the day, he just wants for the rap conversation to continue on in the way he helped it continue after the generation of Grand Puba, Talib Kweli, and Pharoahe Monch. "None of us old guys have new flows. None of us. The young guys have the new flows. The only thing that we have is years of experience." [source]

In my fashion, Andre 3000 has become an awesome representation of a modern renaissance man in entertainment. The distinguished polymath from 13th century Renaissance Italy, Leon Battista Alberti, expressed that, "a man can do all things if he will," and Andre 3000 has left a mark in entertainment and fashion by becoming who he wanted to be. Above all, he is a shining example of the fact that as an individual, you do not have to conform to what is popular in order to be cool in your own right. On the front of editing your style for success, an important factor to take away from Mr. 3000 is to always know when it is your turn to shine and don't overdo it!

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