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A Seasoned

RADICAL garnished with a

BOW TIE

by Jo de ci R ichards Photo g r aphe d by A lexis C a l houn C re ative Dire c tion: E mi ly Maria Wri g ht Sty list: C harle s D av is S e t Assistants: C harlie L e u, Fernando Jar amuz che tt , D e an Arciero & Tay lor Br umfield


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’m Not G o o d at Smi ling . A smatter ing of chuck les er upts w hi le C harles H. F. D av is III re ar ranges his watch, re aching for t he next p os e. The DWF men’s te am out ward ly mus es at t he s ent iment—how c an you not b e go o d at smi ling? But, t hat’s just him. He is a s elf-des cr ib e d stoic af ter a l l. Thoug h, to b e fair, ot hers wou ld s ay t he s ame of him. Yet, despite his stolidit y, you c an he ar t he p assion for his work in his voice. At 29, D av is has accomplishe d more t han s ome wou ld e ver d are. Work ing in a b e v y of channels w it h a sle w of organizat ions and p e ople to champion student ac t iv ism, his do c tora l diss er t at ion for The Universit y of Ar izona and The Ac t iv ist Mi l lenni a ls Proj e c t—of w hich he is t he founder and dire c tor—are his big gest fo c us es: “AMP is an out g rowt h of my diss er t at ion res e arch on student ac t iv ism in col lege. A lot of w hat t hat work do es is t r y to prov ide ac ademic res ources for mi l lenni a ls t hat are engage d in ac t iv ism and s o ci a l just ice.” Much of AMP is inf luence d by and is inter t w ine d w it h his diss er t at ion, w hich examines “ne w me di a and communic at ion channels as a f und ament a l res ource in contemp orar y s o ci a l movements, p ar t ic u l arly for mi l lenni a ls engage d in student ac t iv ism.” For example, a lot of D av is’s work w it h Dre am D efenders, a movement organizat ion of Bl ack and Brow n yout h emerg ing af ter t he t rag ic murder of Tray von Mar t in (c ur rent ly w it h chapters at TC C, FSU, and FAMU) is supp or te d by AMP. But, e ven t houg h D av is’s j our ne y to ac t iv ism wasn’t a st raig ht shot—as he to ok t ime to work in adver t ising and t he pr ivate s e c tor—it’s no wonder t hat he’s ende d up t here. His p at h was fostere d by b ot h his involvement in t he s o ci a l and p olit ic a l c ampus communit y prov ide d by Flor id a St ate and his fami ly env ironment. D av is’s fat her g re w up in Tuskege e, A l ab ama, dur ing t he heig ht of t he Civ i l R ig hts Movement. And his g randp arents g re w up in t he r ura l s out h, imp ar t ing less ons der ive d f rom t heir ow n st r ug g les. His fami ly’s exp er iences and less ons are, he fe els, a p ar t of t he ac t iv ist t radit ion. And, he s ays, his work w i l l a lways have a p ers ona l dimension att ache d to t hat t radit ion. Wit hout his p ers ona l exp er iences as a memb er of Kapp a A lpha Psi Frater nit y Inc., w ho was complicit in t he disresp e c t f u l and unfair t re at ment of women and ef feminate men, he wou ldn’t have found his pl ace—or his obligat ions to and role in “a l arger convers at ion ab out just ice”—as an ac t iv ist and a l ly. For D av is, t hat “l arger convers at ion” simply isn’t ab out t he outside forces t hat af fe c t him, but how he af fe c ts t he sp aces w it hin w hich he exists. And his le vel of s elf-awareness is pres ent in b ot h his ac t iv ism and e ven in his st y le. In fac t, t he t wo mir ror e ach ot her. Just as his engagement in ac t iv ism b egan w it h his fami ly, s o did his st y le: “My g randfat her was a t ai lor. He made a l l of his ow n clot hes, my mot her’s clot hes, and his fami ly’s clot hes. My fat her a ls o was a ver y st y lish dress er.” And, as w it h ac t iv ism, b eing a Kapp a has a ls o af fe c te d his p ers ona l lo ok. What he c a l ls t he “fa ls e pretens es” of w hat it me ans to b e a Kapp a—to b e st y lish—was s omet hing he wante d to b e. But, u lt imately, f rom t radit ion stems a ne e d to st and out. “For me, fashion s ays, ‘me, to o,’ and st y le s ays, ‘on ly me.” D av is is a l l ab out b ending t he r u les—t hat much is obv ious f rom his involvement in hig h-r isk ac t iv ism. In his st y le, it’s ab out t he f iner det ai ls t hat s et him ap ar t. He des cr ib es his lo ok as t imeless in t he s ens e of f inding pie ces t hat t rans cend t he ye ars. Of p ar t ic u l ar note were a p air of C huck Tay lors he’s had for s e ven ye ars—sho es he ne ver wou ld’ve guess e d wou ld l ast him for s o long at f irst purchas e. And e ven more s o, it’s a sho e t hat his p arents and g randp arents a ls o ro ck to t his d ay. To him, hav ing t hos e ke y cl assic pie ces is an imp or t ant element of st y le: “I don’t t hin k I ne e d to acc umu l ate more stuf f. I t hin k we a l l have enoug h stuf f. We just gott a f igure out how to mix, match, and t w ist it up … t here are just cer t ain st aples t hat e ver y b o dy shou ld have in t heir

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* A l l out f its st y le d and ow ne d by C harles H.F. D av is III Divers e World Fashion | The C l assic Issue


wardrob e t hat t he y c an just go to.” And as s ome one w ho’s b e en t raveling his ent ire life, D av is fe els t hat t hos e st aples—li ke t he nav y bl azer he usu a l ly p acks for t r ips—are e ver imp or t ant. But he a ls o t a kes s omet hing away f rom t he pl aces to w hich he’s venture d, drag g ing and dropping dif ferent pie ces of c u lture into his life and his sp ace. Things t hat b end t he st y le r u les and t hat s et him ap ar t. What he c a l ls “st y list ic inconsistencies,” t he idiosy ncrasies of st y le across pl aces he’s t ravele d and w hat t he y br ing to his ow n s ens e of f l air and dist inc t ion, pl ay a role in D av is’s p ers ona l lo ok. By drag g ing s omet hing s e en as c ustomar y in one pl ace and dropping it into anot her, it b e comes “novel and innovat ive in a sp ace w here e ver y b o dy isn’t doing it.” It b e comes t hat “on ly me” moment. Of t he t hings he’s picke d up, he s e ems most proud of his t atto os and t heir c u ltura l sig nif ic ance to his life and t he pl aces he’s b e en. He rol ls b ack his lef t c uf f and p oints at t he t atto os ador ning his w r ist, emphat ic a l ly expl aining w hat t he y are. L ining his lef t w r ist are adin k ra sy mb ols f rom West Af r ic a in t he Univers a l Neg ro Improvement Ass o ci at ion’s t rademark re d, bl ack, and g re en. He p oints sp e cif ic a l ly to t he s an kofa t hat me ans, “to get b ack to t he p ast for t hat w hich was once forgotten,” t hen r ubs his r ig ht ar m w here he wants to get s out hwester n c u ltura l t atto os, no doubt t he f r uits of his t ime in Ar izona. But w hi le his t atto os are emblemat ic of his t ravels, t he y a ls o s er ve as his ow n p ers ona l f l air. Thes e minute det ai ls, li ke his e ver-imp or t ant access or ies and w r ist c andy, st and as cont rasts to t he cl assics. He li kens his col le c t ion of b e ads, chains, le at her st raps, and watches to Of f ice Sp ace’s “pie ces of f l air”—convers at ion st ar ters t hat s er ve as p oig nant punc tu at ions to his lo ok. “I t hin k it’s co ol, t he juxt ap osit ion of b eing able to we ar a business shir t and rol l up your sle e ves and you’ve got s ome dir t iness under ne at h t here. Just to exp os e t hat we’re not monolit hic, we’re not a l l one-dimensiona l, we have dif ferent l ayers and you just ne e d to p e el b ack t hos e l ayers to underst and w ho it is t hat we are.” Ult imately, t hos e punc tu at ions, he s ays, are dif ferent for e ver yone: “Find your voice. Find out w hat’s dist inc t ive ab out you. B e t r ue to t hat voice as much as p ossible… If you’re uncomfor t able in your clot hes, p e ople not ice, s o t he comfor t in your clot hes shou ld b e a ref le c t ion of how comfor t able you are in your sk in.” And C harles H. F. D av is III is ver y comfor t able. The less ons his elders have t aug ht have le d him here—less ons imp ar te d by his fat her and g randfat her ab out w hat’s appropr i ate to we ar and w hen to we ar it—less ons ab out b eing dist inc t ive. The less ons, to o, ab out how histor y shap es fashion and how may b e his ac t iv ist legac y w i l l shap e ot hers; how t hos e men af fe c te d t heir ow n sp ace. His sp ace. It s ounds e asier t han it may b e: e ver yone has a t hing , and you must appropr i ate t hat t hing for your sur roundings, but remain yours elf. Find w hat f its you, b ot h in shap e and in st y le, and ma ke it your ow n. It may b e hard, but no one s aid st y le was e asy. It’s s omet hing b or n f rom exp er iences. It is a mutu a l rel at ionship and an iterat ive pro cess b et we en you and fashion—you shap e it and it shap es you. And you ne ver stop shaping e ach ot her b e c aus e your life, your exp er iences, and fashion ne ver stop chang ing . B e c aus e to dress wel l isn’t ab out simply underst anding and succ umbing to t he p olit ics of t he world in w hich you exist. “It’s k now ing how to nav igate t hat sp ace and using it in a way t hat ma kes s ens e to you.” Divers e World Fashion | The C l assic Issue

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