Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1972 American pimp
Subject: pimp
Culture: Black American
Setting: "The Game," urban America 1970s

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Dunn 2008 p41-42
"Cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson has unpacked ... urban versions of black identity that developed after the Great Migration of blacks to northern cities, explaining how they served as masks and modes of resisting dominant definitions of blackness and counteracted the particular powerlessness nad demeaning aspects of poor urban life.  According to him, 'subersive exaggeration' characterized the mack, pimp, hustler, and player, archetypes that evolved out of urban mythologies of blackness.  The elevation of sexuality as a site for black males to demonstrate their masculine manhood further hints at its role in counteracting the historic devaluation of black men and their sexuality, which was problematic thinking in the sexual and racial discourse of the time.  The cool persona and masculine power associated with these figures were tied to their exaggerated sexuality and sexual power over women, whom they were able to exploit commercially.  The urban hipster or hustler depended on his ability to 'hustle' whites as well as women."

* Funches/Marriott 2002 p5-6
"Self-proclaimed high-class pimp Alfred 'Bilbo' Gholson suggests there are fifty-two varieties in all and at least as many different approaches to the game.  Simply put, pimps in this country come from all walks of life, both sexes, and all races and classes.  Some are highly individualistic style messiahs, while others are master criminals raised in a centuries-old tradition of violence and misogyny.  These are the street-corner Machiavellis who've learned all the deviant ways of what Bilbo calls 'the sweet science of sin.'  All aiming to realize the real American dream: to live a life of wealth, power, and sex by working as little as humanly possible.
    "Most pimps believe they were 'born pimpin'' -- claiming the life was their calling and they are simply doing what comes natural.  But pimping is far from natural.  Trafficking in flesh requires a complex of skills not easily cultivated and information not easily acquired.  To truly pimp one must be a jack-of-all-trades with some command of accounting, psychology, and poetry.  In other words, one must be a confidence man par excellence. One also must have a sense of timing and an eye for detail and be a master of the intangible techniques of persuasion and self-promotion.  Even beyond that, pimping demands that you maintain a desolate heart, an interior cold and cruel enough to 'let a ho be a ho' no matter what the cost.  One must choose money over love, money over sex, money over all that is holy.  Emotions, soft feelings, have no place in such a cut-throat game."

* Boyd 2007 p39
"The Mack and its emphasis on pimpin' represents an overall fascination with the life of pimps and hoes that started in the late '60s and continues to this day in hip hop culture.  Following the release of Robert Beck's -- aka Iceberg Slim -- famous novel Pimp in 1969, there was an increasing interest in the sphere of the pimps who populated urban America in an era before dope dealers assumed the top spot in the Black underworld.  Many academics, for instance, began doing extensive research into 'the life,' as it was often called, writing such books as Bob Adelman's Gentleman of Leisure (1972) and Christina and Richard Milner's Black Players (1973).  Most films of the blaxploitation era and many of the popular Black television shows of the day featured pimp characters in prominent roles or for comic relief."

* Funches/Marriott 2002 p11
"[T]his life, the darkest and most extreme example of that dynamic [pimping], is now its rarest form.  It's the end of pimping as we've known it.  No, there's no shortage of men willing to help women sell their bodies and take money for the favor; there's also no shortage of women willing to have sex for money and then give that money to men who act as their agents.  These folk who wholly commit themselves to the complex creed and netherworld etiquette of the pimp life are fewer in number.  The current spotlight on this world may play to the vanity of some, but for the most hardcore flesh peddlers such attention is bad for business.  The fantabulous hats and shiny cars, the video cameos and movie roles, can serve as targets for indictments in the war against illegal prostitution."


* Wild 2005 p53 (Andrew Bolton, "The lion's share" p42-79)
"The fur coat as a symbol not only of wealth and status but also of virility, machismo, and, ultimately, male dominance is perhaps most clearly revealed in its espousal and acquisition by pimps.  These sexual entrepreneurs who live off the proceeds of a prostitute's activities embody, albeit satirically, several of the stereotypes of the fur-clad male, such as the mogul, the sportsman, and even the aristocrat.  [...]  A mink coat, however, along with a Cadillac or Rolls Royce, is a pimp's most palpable display of economic and sexual supremacy.  The fur's brilliant whiteness, like a pimp's perfect coiffure and impeccably manicured nails, reveals his commitment to neatness and cleanliness, locating his suavity firmly within the tradition of dandyism."

* Emberly 1997 p158 (analyzing a scene in Paris is Burning 1990 film)
"Being a man in fur is clearly risky business.  Did the style war ensue from the man's incorrect use of a woman's fur coat or was it the very wearing of a fur coat by a man, and not a man looking like a woman, that was the problem?  Did the naturalness of his representation produce an odd sort of backlash in that 'naturalness' is 'real' only when the fiction of creating the natural is clearly delineated[?]   In other words, a black man in a fur coat cuts too close to the bone, conjuring up the stereotypical racist image of the black pimp in popular TV cop shows.  If you are going to be natural, you had better create the necessary boundary between the parody and the stereotype, you had better engage a denaturalizing figure rather than one that reinscribes the ideological function of making natural, canonic, fixed and binding."

Accessories (Cane, Cup, Jewelry, Shoes)

* Wild 2005 p53 (Andrew Bolton, "The lion's share" p42-79)
"The lexicon of pimp fashion includes such blatant symbols of wealth and status as bespoke suits, custom-made hats and alligator or 'gator' shoes, heavy gold jewelry encrusted with diamonds, and often, a walking stick or 'pimp stick.' "

* Nasheed 2005 p116
"Top Five Accessories Macks Like to Sport  
1. Pinky ring  2. Diamond-studded earrings  3. Rolex watch  4. Cuff links  5. Pimp cups"