"Paris Blues" (1961) is a beautiful and romantic film starring Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carrol. Two African Americans (then Black) meet in the racially tolerant City Of Light and fall in love. The backdrop is the Seine, Left Bank and Eiffel Tower. The soundtrack is soothing, smokey and sexy jazz. The wardrobe is ’60s chic. The cast includes Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Louis Armstrong. The result is a stunning black and white film filled with l’amour, l’amour.
When I think of my Grandfather, I always remember him wearing a dark suit, starched white shirt, and a black tie — it was so elegant, powerful and very chic. He was a tall man with a large presence and when he wore a suit his persona was amplified. He was a man’s man, very confident, and respected in the community. My Grandfather was the epitome of a gentleman. Growing up this sartorial statement left an indelible mark on me. The other man in a dark suit that made a great impression on me growing up was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s photograph on the fans at church. Those square pieces of cardboard stapled to the curvy sticks that waved and swayed during service gave his image even more importance as people testified and received the good word. Dr. King dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie symbolized greatness, leadership and respect in the House of the Lord and the community. I day dreamed about dressing this way when I would grow-up. A dark suit, white shirt, and tie is no nonsense and always looks incredibly stylish and modern. This uniform dressing has become one of my favorite looks for men, because it reminds me of the successful men of purpose who have inspired and empowered me to be my best self, to move culture, and to do my best. During the Civil Rights Movement, these men’s black suits were like their armor, their protection. Today, on #TBT, I salute the cultural and political forefathers like Dr. King, Quincy Jones, Malcolm X, James Baldwin and many others, who have paved the way for me (and the world) in style.
Sidney Poitier is the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in “Lilies Of The Field.” He is also directed films, played on Broadway, served as Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan, has written three books, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.