The Boys of Empire – Style of the Black Aristocracy

The Boys of Empire - Style of the Black Aristocracy


Have you heard of Empire? It the breakout hit TV show that has been the toast of Fox network and a buzz on social media since the first day it aired. The show revolves around a Hip Hop music and entertainment company, Empire and the struggle between the members of the founding family for control of the company. As the black version of Dynasty, the show has been capturing audiences of an average of 13.10 million viewers each in each episode of for the sex, lies, scandal and music but fashion plays a key role in the story line just as it does in the industry of hip-hip the show revolves around so it only makes since.

Google “Empire” + “fashion” and you will see countless articles mostly about the matriarch and most talked about character, Cookie Lyon played by Taraji P. Henson. Cookies style is bold, stylish and reminiscent of the 1990’s golden age of fashion but the most overlooked and equally impressive is the styles of the men of Cookies family, her ex-husband and rival Lucious along with their sons Andre, Jamal and Hakeem. So I want to take you on a journey through the unique fashion mannerism of these Titans and how the costumer designer on set has created these looks to fit the personalities of these GQ worthy men.


Lucious “Lucifer” Lyon

Like the plot to a classic fairy-tale, every story needs some sort of antagonist, a villain that you have to admit we all love to hate and Empire’s Lucious Lyons is just that villain. As the co-founder and CEO of one the biggest entertainment company in the world, Lucious (played by Terrence Dashon Howard) sits on top of the throne of this billion dollar music empire coincidentally called Empire and his ego and style of dress reflects this high status state of being.

Money and power are huge themes in this epic soap opera that kick the ass of the ones you saw granny watch and the fashion of the men in this family are representation of this wealth and influence in their world of celebrity, parties and jet-set living where they reign as one of the ruling families.

In season one, Lucious’s style starts off as bold and opulent with rich colors playing a vital role in the overall makeup of his looks. A perfect example is the first look pieced together for the pilot episode of the hit show. Lucious was clad in a subdues navy blue suit that was paired with a white turtleneck and a purple scarf that featured a lighter purple pattern as you can see in the visual above. This look is an aristocratic take on casual wear as the look is relaxation on a regal scale which I think was really set in stone with the pair of Prince Albert slippers to complete the look. His style is more on the lines of what I would interpret as a modern day emperor which was obviously the intention of the costume designer as a way of dressing Lucious in the only way that would make since for a man such as himself.

Authority is the word that come to mind when looking at the ensembles pieced together for Dashon Howard’s character as rich colors merge with elegant patterns and luxurious fabrics to create  looks that represents today’s black aristocracy at its height. Howard’s character understands the importance of presentation and so his looks are always geared to make a striking first impression and a lasting one to follow.

According to the costume designer, Rita McGhee, Lucious’s style is inspired by famous music moguls such as  Russell Simmons and Clive Davis as well as famed gangster Tony Montana and P. Diddy or whatever the hell he is calling himself these days. These figures are perfect sources of inspiration as they represent the aspects of Lucious’s personality, ambitious, resourceful, villainous and power hungry.


Andre (Jekyll and Hyde) Lyons

As the eldest son and a Wharton alumnus, Andre Lyon (Trai Byers) appears to be the ideal and obvious choice to inherit the family business but his father makes the line of succession anything but easy. Like his father, Andre is ambitious and from the start, just as cutthroat as his father in getting what he wants, destroying anything and anyone that stands in his way.

This reserved, cold, and calculated personality is reflected in Andre’s look as Wall Street comes to mind with Andre’s polished and reserved presentation that’s precise in detail from the haircut down to the shoes.

Dark colored suits, tailored to perfection with a half-windsor knot tie makes up the whole of Empire’s Chief Financial Officers wardrobe. As the business savvy son, Andres look is the least imposing but the most complicated as it acts as an armor shielding Andres inner self from the self that he wants people to see.On the outside, Andre fits neatly into his role as the CFO of a billion dollar company but the elder son of the shows monster has a hidden demon of his own.

Cool, calm and collected with an Ivy League background and a thirst for power and success, Andre is the type of corporate leader that would climb the ladder to the top of any firm practically overnight even if he wasn’t related to the boss. But on the inside of this facade, he is a wounded soldier in the war that is his past thanks to a combination of a twisted family life and a mental battle with bipolar disorder, and you thought you had problem!

Now in season two of Empire, Andres style has not changed much as he still rocks his well tailored suits but we get to see him in more casual looks which seems symbolic of the once uptight and manipulative Andre transforming into more mellow and moral character as a result of a mental breakdown that lead him to religion. We see him relaxed but always classic in pieces esstential to a man’s wardrobe like a shawl collar cardigans, slim fit dress shirts paired with dark rinse jeans and v-neck sweaters for days when hes not being a big wig but just Andre

Jamal (Hidden Dragon) Lyons

Arguable the second most popular and talked about character with his on air mom being the first, Jamal is one of the most interesting characters on the show. As the middle child in the family, Jamal (Jussie Smollet) was destined by birth order to be the black sheep of the family but he offered more than what his father Lucious would tolerate in uniqueness. Jamal’s character is an openly gay man in a hip hop culture filled with homophobia with his dad being one of the biggest examples of this ignorance and hatred. This intolerance has put a strain on their relationship from Jamal’s childhood and has made his father think of him as the least likely candidate to inherit the empire.

In stereotypical middle child fashion, Jamal is the artsy one in the bunch. Unlike his big brother Andre, Jamal focuses more on the musical aspect of the family’s enterprise with little care of the business side of things. His style is very laid back and understated like himself, showing the self perception that he is just a regular guy but that position will change over time.

Jeans and a t-shirt make up the biggest part of this characters wardrobe but with a few simply keys pieces to upgrade the look. Jamal rocks the fitted tees like a pro and will often pair this signature look with accessories like a long, dramatic designer scarf or a well fitted jacket. Another cool accessory that Jamal sports like a pro from time to time is a fedora, perched over one side of his forehead like Ne-Yo circa right damn now.

Season two of empire offers a noticeable change in Jamal’s style that is influenced no doubt by the change in his position within the family business.

*Spoiler alert:* In an unexpected twist in the finale of the first season, Jamal proved his worth and was accepted as the heir to the empire where he would work alongside his estranged father to be molded for the role that he is expected to one day assume in entirety. This change in position has affected Jamal’s looks in two ways. For starters, Jamal is now the CEO in training of a billion dollar enterprise so he has to look board-room ready and he does so in only a way Jamal Lyon can.

Jamal dresses for success without looking like he is playing dress up in daddies closet as McGhee (the costume designer, remember?) managed to merge Jamal’s hipster look into a business appropriate ensemble that commands respect. An example of his business look is simple, rather than a blazer or a full on suit, Jamal is dressed in a sophisticated bordeaux colored vest that featured a contrasting beige check pattern on the back, paired with a grey dress shirt donning a whimsical pattern in a matching bordeaux color scheme. The look says I take this job seriously but I’m still that billionaire hipster living in Buswick

If you look closely enough, another subtle yet impacting change in Jamal’s style presents itself in his off duty looks. Jeans and t-shirt still reign supreme in this recording artist/CEO in training’s closet but as this season progresses you can see a subtle upgrade in the casual wear. Maybe I’m thinking too much into this or maybe it was intentional but it seems that his style upgrade was made to reflect the upgrade in his musical life as well now that the story line has made it where this young man is a top of the charts recording artist.

Each time we see him recording in the studio or preforming footwork for Empire, we are welcomed with a new look that is still Jamal but more on the lines of Jamal 2.0. These looks include edgier pieces like an acid wash denim shirt seen in one recording scene which I had to mention and classic pieces like a simple black turtleneck. Another look that stood out to me was in a scene where the cast was in a church for the baptism of the oldest brother, I mentioned earlier that he found Jesus, remember? This look was interesting as it looked to be influence by daddy dearest himself, comprised of a well-tailored black suit, with a charcoal scarf with white polka dots which reminds me of the first look presented on Luscious in the show but with a Jamal twist, being around daddy is having its affects.

Hakeem (Turn-up) Lyon

Hip hop has a fashion culture of its own that’s internationally renowned and none of the boys of Empire embodies this style more than Hakeem, the youngest of the Lyon brothers. Hakeem played by Bryshere Y. Grey, as a walking talking combination of several styles in hip-hop is an easy reminder of some of the artist of today’s hip-hop and R&B. Figures like, Trey Songs, Chris Brown and Future comes to mind when I look at some of the pieces worn by the youngest Lyon made up of bold prints, bright colors and flashy accessories to match.

This fictional rap stars most defining style feature is his infamous high-fade hairstyle. Critics and fans of the show alike have expressed a disdain for the 1980’s throwback with the general opinion of the hairstyle looking out of touch but I strongly think it’s quite the opposite. This haircut is technically the most popular haircut in the world of men’s style as it creates the silhouette that’s most desirable, a relatively medium length at the top that fades down to an increasingly short length towards the hair (longer on top, shorter on the sides and back).

On this Prince of Empire, it look a bit more retro due to several factors, one being that his texture of hair creates a curly afro and the second being the fact that his hair was cut into more of a square mold rater than a natural shape which creates a replica of the high fade that most popularly brings to mind Kid n Play for those you know of them. I think that this vintage cut actually gives an extra level of character to Hakeem’s look and without character we are all insignificant and all to predictable creatures.

Pieces that make up Hakeems wardrobe are bold print sport shirts, slim fit jean and joggers, and the lots of gold in the form of chains, sunglasses and even footwear settling in the theme of being part of an empire.

Just as with Jamal, Hakeem’s style has seen an evolution going into season 2. His style is still completely turned up but in the second season we see the flash get turned down a bit with a more refined but still young and edgy appeal. His style now looks more like that of a young man that has work to do whereas his previous fashion look more like a party playboy…… looks aren’t always deceiving. I think now in this season that the price is now forced to make his own path in creating a rival entertainment company with his mother, Hakeem’s style has come to reflect his change in position just as it has with his older and closest brother Jamal and I cant wait to see how the style of all four of these men progress as I’m pretty sure that this show will be around for quite a while longer.



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