Southern plantations were cruel in ways our present-day minds can’t begin to fathom or fully comprehend. They were dark places ruled by a combination of fear, hate, pain, and pure, unadulterated evil, among other things.
For an enslaved person, destruction stood at each turn, which meant every step required precise calculations. Any miscalculation could result in a stern reprimand or in some cases, death. When the time came to dole out punishment for actual or perceived transgressions, owners and overseers were left to the whims of their sadistic imaginations. Those imaginations ran wild — especially when it came to enslaved black men.
Whips, clubs, knives, chains, and separation from loved ones were some of the most commonly used forms of penance. But herein lies the problem. Scars from whips, clubs, and knives healed, and the chains the enslaved black man wore were eventually unlocked. If you sold his family down south, he held fast to the prospect of escaping and one day reuniting with them.
Though gruesome, each act paled compared to the least discussed and, without question, the most destructive tool the slaver had at his disposal: clothes. Clothes usurped all other forms of punishment, producing scars and placing the Black man in chains that could last a lifetime.
Each day an enslaver rose, he did so with two priorities: to make as much money as he could off the backs of the slaves and, most importantly, to keep the enslaved Black man from recognizing the power residing within him and the weaponization of clothes was one of his go-to strategies. Some plantation owners forced Black men to walk around practically nude, even in the harsh winter months.
Others took matters to the furthest extreme, mandating that enslaved men wear long shirts that looked and fit like dresses. As he moved about the plantation, catcalls, strange looks, snickers, and insults abounded. It was the ultimate form of emasculation, practiced because owners knew if the Black man caught a glimpse of his regal nature, even in the tattered wardrobe of a slave, he ran the risk of awakening the king inside, and the life the enslaver had meticulously cultivated for himself would cease to exist. That’s the power of a Black man… in clothes.
When you meet NéAndré Broussard, you can’t help but realize you’re in the presence of a visionary who also happens to be the author of a simply extraordinary effort. Polished, well-mannered, composed, and hands down the best-dressed brother in town, his mission is quite simple: to use clothing as a vehicle to uplift Black men all over the world. “The media loves to paint the picture of Black men as downtrodden, crude thugs, and too often, we play up to that hurtful stereotype. It’s time to change the narrative of who we as Black men are and what we’re capable of being and how we dress is the perfect way to start that conversation and shift that mindset,” says Broussard, the Founder of Black Menswear, a content creation firm focusing on building an empowering community for Black men.
During a recent event hosted by Lubbock Smith at Dallas’s Black Dahlia to celebrate the launch of the Black Menswear Weekend, there stood Broussard, graciously greeting, and shaking hands with all who passed his way. The evening attracted some of the most forward-thinking and best dressed in town and while serving as the perfect appetizer for the Dallas flash mob that took place the following day.
While there, Broussard offered insights into why the Black Menswear brand is about much more than clothes. “This platform we’ve created allows me to speak directly to my Black brothers, inarguably the most misunderstood group of people in the world. My message to them is that there’s nothing wrong with looking your best because when you do, opportunities arrive. For example, another brother or sister might offer a compliment and that compliment, that simple compliment morphs into a powerful conversation about entrepreneurship, business, networking. Before you know it, you’re talking about how you can help one another grow and advance. All this happens because the hard exteriors, the stereotypical Black man that the media focuses upon and the image they so expertly craft, leaves the room. In his place walks in a determined brother with his head held high and his back straight, ready to conquer the world while looking good doing it!”
Flash mobs have become the signature event for Broussard and his Black Menswear brand. These experiences are awe-inspiring, must-see attractions, and the Dallas offering didn’t disappoint. The hot Texas Sun brought temperatures close to the century mark, but that Sun played a distant second to the unbridled heat produced by the mass of dapper Black men from all walks of life who gathered that day. Electricity, anticipation, and unhinged excitement filled the air as Black men, from as near as Fort Worth and as far away as the United Kingdom showed up in droves to show support for what can only be described as a movement. The galvanizing effect was evident in the aftermath as men who had never seen one another before that day left as brothers, committed to maintaining contact, building, and sharpening one another’s iron.
“Championing our Black men and revealing to them all they can be had to begin somewhere, and it just so happens we chose to build that foundation of change on clothing and looking your best. I firmly believe that when you look good and dress well, you become better. That means you’re now a better father, a better son, and a better husband, and so forth. If you’re an entrepreneur, your business will begin to flourish, and if you’re working a 9-to-5, you’ll be motivated to work harder than you’ve ever done before, all because you’ve now unlocked the door that shifts your way of thinking and lights a path to the next level.”Mister NéAndré Broussard, Founder of Blackmenswear
NéAndré Broussard is a loving husband, father, and a successful businessman who just so happens to be the best-dressed brother in town. He’s on a mission to show that clothes can change lives, and he’s out to prove it … one Black man at a time.