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Spike Lee, Fashion Icon? The Famed Director Talks About How He Reflects Pop Culture in His Films

Photo of Brandon Latham By Brandon Latham | Indiewire July 3, 2014 at 9:56AM

The "Do The Right Thing" director appeared at a panel for the release of his line of New Era red Yankee caps and discussed the way his characters' fashion are a product of their times.
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Spike Lee

In 1996, Spike Lee had a red New York Yankees jacket, and decided he wanted a hat to match. So, in typical Spike Lee style, he made a few phone calls; first to the CEO of New Era Caps, then to New York Yankees President George Steinbrenner. In time for the World Series, he had his hat, the first of its kind. Now, New Era is launching the iconic red Yankee cap as part of its heritage collection, giving Lee credit for launching a huge part of their business. New Era CEO Chris Koch, a pair of contemporary fashion experts, and Spike Lee himself took part in a panel in New York on Thursday to discuss fashion and culture as part of the red Yankee cap collection release. 

READ MORE: Spike Lee Discusses His New Film and Making Movies for 30 Years

While few have considered Lee's role in shifting the fashion industry, Koch says that today about half of New Era's business is developing stylistic hats in different colors, which was not even on anyone's mind before Spike made that call. Lee believes that film, sports (his other passion), and fashion are closely intertwined. He remarked during the panel that he thinks the trend of matching outfits has gone too far, and that the color green is no excuse to wear a Boston Celtics hat in New York. (Don't get him started on the Red Sox.)

While much of the question and answer session was dedicated to New Era's marketing or tracing apparel fads, Indiewire was able to ask the filmmaker about how, over his thirty year career, he feels his works respond to and create the culture surrounding them. His full answer is below.

Well, we just see what's happening. The first film "She's Gotta Have It," it's not a mistake that Mars Blackmon was wearing Jordans. That wasn't a mistake. It wasn't a mistake that Mars Blackmon was wearing Cazals. It wasn't a mistake that Mars Black was wearing that Brooklyn bicycle hat. It wasn't a mistake that Mars had the Mars medallion. Wasn't a mistake that Radio Raheem had the "love" and "hate" knuckle rings in "Do The Right Thing." You know, I know what's happenin'. I live here in New York. You just walk out the street and it's there. And I love sports. So, you look at "She's Gotta Have It." He’s wearing a Georgetown Hoyas shirt. "Do The Right Thing," Mookie's wearing a Jackie Robinson jersey. There's another scene in the film where he's counting money where he's wearing a Michael Jordan jersey, so I try to incorporate sports and my love of sports into my stuff. In "Mo Better Blues," there's the scene where Denzel Washington is playing catch and he's wearing Willie Mays 1954 New York Giants jersey. The hat is New Era. So, we've incorporated stuff. "He Got Game" got… What Jordan was that, anyone know? (Crowd, all together: "thirteen".) Thirteen. Denzel Washington was the first one to wear it. It hadn't even come out yet. Now they're referred to as the "He Got Game" Jordans. So I've always been able to incorporate sports into my films.

Unfortunately, no word on other iconic "Do The Right Thing" costuming like that Larry Bird jersey in Brooklyn or Buggin' Out's hair style. Lee is currently preparing to release his latest film, a modern horror film about human beings who are addicted to blood called "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus," starring Katt Williams and Jerrod Carmichael. The project was funded on Kickstarter, Lee's first use of the crowdfunding service, and he reported that fellow director Stephen Soderbergh contributed $10,000 to the budget. "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" played at the American Black Film Festival but does not have a theatrical release date.


This article is related to: Spike Lee, Costume Design, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Do The Right Thing





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