It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Janelle Monae. I think her message of being who you are, regardless of if others think its “weird,” is so empowering, especially to young girls of color who are afflicted by Eurocentric ideals of beauty and conventionality. Thankfully, Monae knows how to pick her proteges, since all of them express that motto of being yourself in order to lead others. Jidenna seems to embody this in spades, from his bespoke suits to his coiffed hair.
Jidenna is known for his song “Classic Man,” but it’s much more than just a catchy tune. Just like how Monae’s song “Electric Lady” tells women to be the unique individuals they were born to be, Jidenna conveys that same message to the men, saying that you can be a boss without being a BO$$, if you get what I’m saying. To me, the song says that young men, especially young black and brown men, don’t have to be what society expects them (and sometimes tells them) to be. The “Chieftain Academy” segment of Jidenna’s music video for “Classic Man” shows that Jidenna truly embodies the original ideals of historically black fraternities; finding power and self-worth in education, community leadership, training, reflection, and world savvy. The Classic Man is just the 21st century version of Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance Man.
Also, like how Monae wears suits and specific colors as a homage to her mother and other working class folks who have to wear uniforms for work, Jidenna’s reason for wearing suits is also steeped in layered thought. He has said that he wears suits as a callback to the black experience after the Civil War. As he said to Fader:
And what about shirting? That’s a very specific collar that you’re sporting.
Yeah, all the collars that I wear are in the style of the 1800s.
Why that era?
I was studying the Jim Crow era and 1865, beyond that Antebellum south. I wanted to know what the freeden that fought in the Civil War looked like right after the war was over. The freed slaves that went to Nova Scotia or went up north and started settlements – what did those men and women look like? I was fascinated by that. I wanted to have a collar that was very specific to the old Jim Crow, and this was one of them. Some people call it a club collar, or a double round collar.
It seems that in all the aspects of your style, the influence of history is present. Each piece is clearly referencing a specific time. Is a suit a history lesson for you?
That’s a great question. For me, I wear a suit because I need to remember what’s happened before me. I wear what I want every day. Our generation is super individualistic and that’s cool, but it only gets you so far – you need people. We’re social beings and I need to know and remember where I came from.
The suit is actually easy to wear every day. I just gotta switch out my shirt, switch the colors, switch the tie, and then it’s a brand new fit. To me, it is the fashion of the times. I just have to remember that every day so I know what I’m fighting for. To me, that’s what my style represents.
In short, I love Jidenna. He’s an amazing artist and I can’t wait to hear more from him. What do you love about Jidenna? Give your opinions in the comments section below!