day, heroes walk amongst us. In Columbia, they include
power may not be obvious to some — they’re not
faster than speeding locomotives and can’t leap over
tall buildings. But they can help change lives for the
power wasn’t awakened by a red cape, but by a red
blazer. And the power has taken him from middle school
teacher and coach to acclaimed author, popular blogger,
in-demand model and fierce advocate for all men to
develop positive self images.
grew up in Irmo and graduated from Irmo High School and
the University of South Carolina.
a young age, his father taught him lessons on being a
man and the importance of "paying it forward,"
helping out those in need.
artful child, Davis says that when he was 7, his mother
taught him to do his own laundry because he wasn’t
happy with the way she folded it or divided it into
color coordinating piles. Being responsible for his own
clothing at an early age, he learned an appreciation of
the colors and textures of different fabrics, and about
style and putting outfits together.
high school, Davis says, is where he started to realize
that style and fashion were ways that someone could say
something about themselves without having to speak out
loud. He took advantage of that, showing aspects of his
personality through his evolving personal style — his
choices of color, selection of hats, shoes and
is proud to note that he was the first male, that he
knows of, to wear a pink Polo shirt (collar popped, of
course) in high school. But this first personal high
note of self expression also came with Davis’ first
encounter with negativity — and his first identity
crisis involving fashion and the idea of masculinity.
parents, especially his dad, were quick to remind him
that being a man and being masculine was not about the
clothes that he wore but what was inside him. A man can
be fashionable and stylish while maintaining his
masculinity — even if he’s wearing pink or purple.
at USC, Davis and a friend, Adam, went on a shopping
trip to an area mall.
Express, Davis spied a red Nantucket blazer that he
decided he just HAD to have. He’d purchased items at
Express before so he was somewhat confident when he went
to try on the jacket in his size (a 44 at the time).
time, however, the jacket didn’t fit him. When he
asked the clerk if it came in a larger size, Davis was
told that 44 was the largest size available and that,
basically, he was "too big" to shop there.
exchange may be familiar to female shoppers of a certain
size, but it was something new to Davis.
was his first body shaming experience. He couldn’t
shake it off — and he didn’t realize at the time how
it would impact his future.
2012, Davis was getting older, he’d become a father,
gotten married, and developed a "dad bod" with
stretch marks and a little roundness around the middle.
While he was confident in his fashion sense and style,
he was uncomfortable in his body. He’d wear pulled
together outfits in his day-to-day world as a middle
school art teacher, but would wear jeans to the beach
— and he never took off his shirt.
red blazer incident became a flash point. He decided he
needed an outlet to express his feelings about body
image and overall kindness, and space to project a
positive image of black masculinity.
blog Notoriously Dapper, at notoriouslydapper.com, was
born in that moment.
credits his wife for coming up with the name —
"dapper" being a word used to describe a man
who is neat and trim in appearance or bearing.
the blog, Davis writes about "how to be a modern
gentleman with manners, style and body confidence."
He features photos of him in his coordinated outfits
along with positive messages about style and image. It’s
Davis’ way of "giving some guys confidence in who
they are, no matter their body type or race or religion
or sexual orientation. Embracing who they are — not
the fact of what it is to be a man, but what it is to be
positive vibes have been noticed by the likes of The New
York Times, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and Glamour
magazine. The outspoken plus-sized female model Tess
Holiday invited him to join her Instagram platform, @effyourbeautystandards
August 2017, Lush Cosmetics, coordinators for the Love
Thyself conference in London, asked him to speak about
the American black millennial perspective on body image.
kept it real," Davis says.
hard to tell a teenage black kid to be comfortable in
their own skin and to love themselves when they’re not
loved for who they are — the media doesn’t like you
because of who you are … you’re pretty much getting
gunned down because of who you are.
hard to tell them to be comfortable in their skin when
you’re being judged for your skin."
says he realized that things were coming together when
he was offered a book deal.
in 2017, The Notoriously Dapper book is part
autobiography, part rules to live by. Davis was
surprised later that year when the book was nominated
for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary
The Awakened Woman by Tereai Trent — with an
introduction by Oprah Winfrey — won the award, the
recognition was great. It showed his work advocating as
a positive role model for African American men was
starting to pay off. Davis was shooting commercials for
the men’s plus sized clothing line Destination XL,
alongside record producer DJ Khaled, retired baseball
slugger David Ortiz, musician Sundance Head and retired
ice hockey defenseman Hal Gil, and he appeared in
national campaigns for Target and (more recently) Gap.
he was in London last year, a representative from Bridge
Models approached him about signing a modeling contract.
told me that (the company) was called ‘Bridge’
because they wanted to bridge the gap between what
people deem as beautiful and what your own version of
beauty is," Davis says. "There are too many
people in the world deciding what beauty is when beauty
really is everything that you intend it to be — and
who’s to say you’re not beautiful just the way that
messages behind Notoriously Dapper and Bridge are very
similar, and for Davis, a natural fit.
spotlight that brings out the best can also illuminate
areas of life that are a day-to-day struggle.
Davis, it was his "normal" teaching job at a
Richland District 1 middle school where he was an art
teacher and helped coach the football team. That was his
full time job.
blog, the book, and the modeling gigs were part time. He’d
go off and shoot a commercial, rub elbows with
celebrities at conferences and awards ceremonies over
the weekend and be in front of his class on Monday
never told his students about his side gig. Once or
twice, a student would say that they’d seen him in a
commercial on TV or in an ad in print. Davis hoped that
the kids saw the bigger picture — yes, he was
modeling, but he wasn’t bragging about it. He was back
doing his job in Columbia. He was teaching.
was the week after the NAACP Image Awards that Davis
decided to leave the education profession and pursue
modeling full time.
was difficult. It was weird," he said. "I
literally went from talking to Morgan Freeman one night,
to having a 13-year-old kid telling me I’m a ‘bald
headed m-f-er.’ And, I have to send the kid to the
main office to be written up … or not, depending on
how discipline was meted out because someone else may
have brought a gun to school that day."
the decision made, Davis said the last three months of
teaching were the best in his career. It wasn’t easy
for him to leave, but his passion for teaching had been
supplanted by his desire to get his message of
positivity and kindness out on a larger stage.
based in Columbia, Davis has modeling assignments
scheduled through the end of the year, and he’s
started writing his second book.
titled "The Strength of Being Strong," Davis
puts the emphasis on being mentally strong rather than
physically strong. He asks the question: which is more
important or valuable in your life — to be able to
cope mentally with the problems that life hands you and
to be able to bounce back, to be a good husband, father,
friend and brother; or is it more important to be able
to bench press 400 pounds?
the future, Davis would like to collaborate with a
designer on a line of plus-sized men’s clothing. (He’s
a fan of what Chrisitan Siriano has done including plus
sized women in his designer collections.)
of the last acts Davis did as a teacher was to get the
artwork produced by his students hung in a public place.
He did this at the end of each school year to give the
young artists a chance to be seen. Check out the gallery
wall at Scoopy Doo Gelato Shop in Five Points for
examples of his students’ work.