By Philippe SHOCK Matthews
What is style? Webster defines it as distinction, excellence, originality and character in any form of artistic or literary expression.
In this exclusive men’s fashion profile, I spoke with legendary music producers, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis about their impeccable dress and immaculate style.
Most fans know the story about Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis meeting in high school where they formed the band Flyte Tyme and thereafter in 1981 met Morris Day and formally launched, The Time (now The Original 7ven) while touring with Prince as his opening act. As premier producers, song writers and musicians that have spanned over 30 years, Jam and Lewis have instilled a visual motif of stately fedora brims, finely tailored suits and sunglasses—a modern day slap of Blues Brothers.
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I asked Jimmy where did they get their style of dress. “It started when we were young,” offered Jimmy. “We wanted to dress nicely, but we couldn’t afford to buy suits. So we would go to vintage stores and buy suits from the forties and have them altered. You could pick up a suit for like five, ten bucks—take it to the tailor and have them do it and have you a nice clean twenty dollar suit. Also those stores always had hats, so we would always get hats to go with the suit. We just thought it looked really cool and I don’t know where the sunglasses thing came in, but we’ve always worn hats and I guess it became a combination, but we really didn’t plan it.” Forced into an image due to economic lack the now world famous, multimillionaires can afford the finest tailor made suits and the richest fabrics available. Stevie (a woman) is their personal designer and Jam offered the duos fabric of choice when choosing their wardrobe. “We’re into silks, we love silk! We probably sit down with Stevie maybe once every month and we’ll pick out a couple of fabrics—generally there silks, but we get a couple of different colors and then we have Stevie make us a suit, like a jacket and pants. Then we have her make shorts and have her make a shirt all out of the same material. Stevie’s in Minneapolis and she’s done all our clothes. We both go outside sometimes and use other people, but when we really want the stuff then we go to her, she’s really great.” Comfort and mobility is the number one factor in Jimmy and Terry’s fashion forecast. While working in the studio they want to look good as well as feel good. “We have all of these shorts and baseball caps because its so comfortable,” Jimmy says, “So when you see us around the studio you won’t even recognize us. We’re just into comfort. Recently we’ve had Stevie start doing baseball jackets out of silk so we can do a different look. We can interchange them, and it makes it look like we have a lot more clothes that we really do.” Style is the very essence of the entertainment industry, everything we see in music, mode and the media has an individuality defined as a style, and Jam and Lewis greatly contribute to the industry, both as talented individuals as well as through the artists they have produced most notably, Janet Jackson, SOS Band, Alexander O’Neal, Sounds of Blackness, Michael Jackson, Yolonda Admas, Mint Condition and countless more. It’s evident that Jimmy and Terry’s influence in the music business can be seen as well as heard from many of the artists they have influenced. “We try to leave it up to the artist,” Jimmy explained. “The artist have a clear vision of what they want. In the case of a Mint Condition, Mint had absolutely no concern for image because they’re like a throw back of musicians from another era. We were like ‘we need to take pictures,’ and they were like ‘hey man we don’t care man, we’re musicians.’ That’s where they’re at. So in that case we will have a stylist and say here is the record we have coming out, listen to the record and see what you think.” As a man who prides himself on good grooming, Jimmy also maintains a steady skin care regimen as a model for all men to follow. He says, “I’m a Shiseido man. I’ve been using Shiseido for probably twenty years. I use their Foaming Cleanser and moisturizer. I’ve always had really good skin. Whenever I get my makeup done, the makeup person always says you have great skin. So that’s what I’ve been using.” To complete his grooming Jimmy subjects himself to occasional manicures, however his line of work doesn’t always allow him to remain well manned. He explained, “You know what happens every time I get them? When I’m playing so much in the studio. Sometimes we’re doing nothing but vocals and mixing and I’m not touching the keyboards for like two or three weeks, then its cool. But when it’s time to really cut tracks and I’m playing the keyboards—especially acoustic piano, because they’re a lot harder to press the keys—my fingernails get shot immediately! So a lot of times I’ll get them and they’ll get messed up and I’ll go, ‘now why did I waste all of this money on a manicure?’”
The Original 7ven Mall of America 11/4/11 autograph signing