As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer over the weekend, to the shock of his many fans and even his co-workers and co-stars. In the brief time his star was on the rise, he gave us legendary portrayals of iconic Black cultural and historical figures such as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and James Brown. But it was his culture-shifting, game-changing performance as T’Challa, the king and protector of fictional African country Wakanda in 2018’s mega-hit Black Panther that will likely stand as his greatest cinematic achievement. He and director Ryan Coogler gave multiple generations of Black audience members the superhero and heroic king figure cinema had largely denied them. And Chadwick did it all while quietly and privately battling for his own existence, keeping it secret for his own reasons. We suspect it was partly because he understood the value of the symbol he’d become and the responsibility he felt to maintain an image of heroism and regal dignity. There is nothing we could write that would pay proper tribute to the man and what he has meant to countless people. We can only look back on our style coverage of him with gratitude that we were able to see and understand how game-changing his fashion was; to note how much of an influence he was having on other male stars.
In collaboration with his stylist Ashley Weston, he recreated the image of the Black male star and influenced so many other men – sports stars, movie stars, TV stars and an army of fans – by showing them that self-expression, high style and Blackness can all work together to produce moments of pure fashion beauty and envelope-pushing masculinity. Here is a selection of his greatest looks over the years, ranging from traditional men’s suiting to the bold African-inspired prints and paradigm-shattering shapes he enjoyed in the later years, when his image as a king and a symbol of Black Excellence influenced nearly everything he did in public and in promotional work. He used style to support his career, but also to contribute to the cultural understanding of Black men as avatars of style, culture, refinement and dignity. He knew exactly what he was doing with every one of these looks and the message left behind by them is both powerful and unforgettable.
Rest in Peace and in Power, King, Warrior, Artist. Your legend is secure, your battle is won, your art endures forever. We are so enriched by it all.
[Photo Credit: INSTARImages]