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Revisiting the Archives: Real Men of Style Have Always Turned to D Magazine

Just take a look back at our March 1977 issue on "The Beautification of the Dallas Male."
The writers of this 1977 D Magazine guide both went on to be fashion trailblazers. Anita Moti

“These are the days when a man can parade like a peacock, strut his stuff, flaunt his body, and still be considered a man.” Thus read the introduction to a men’s grooming and fashion guide in D Magazine’s March 1977 issue, written by Wanda McDaniel and Dwight Byrd. “The Beautification of the Dallas Male” covered it all, from head (“Hair picks are a must for keeping your perm in shape”) to underthings (“Most well-dressed men are backing off from those leopard-skin prints or star spangled-banner models”). The advice was confident and unequivocal, belying the backgrounds of the two twentysomething transplants who offered it.

Coming from small-town Missouri with a journalism degree, Wanda McDaniel scored a gig as a society editor at the Dallas Times-Herald. After a few years reporting on brunches and art auctions benefiting, say, the Dallas Society for Crippled Children, McDaniel was lured to a Los Angeles paper and ended up in the Dallas gossip columns she once wrote. “Here’s a hot item that former Dallas society editor Wanda McDaniel isn’t keeping under wraps: she’s pregnant,” read a 1982 Dallas Morning News story. She dated an ever-dashing 74-year-old Cary Grant, then wed Albert Ruddy, producer of The Godfather. Even after becoming a Hollywood wife, McDaniel continued her column and added on-air personality to her résumé, interviewing stars on a new program called Entertainment Tonight. In 1988, on the recommendation of her friend Maria Shriver, McDaniel was hired by Giorgio Armani as he opened a Rodeo Drive boutique. McDaniel served as a liaison between the label and Hollywood, and thus began the “Who are you wearing?” red carpet era. By 1990, Women’s Wear Daily was referring to the Oscars as the “Armani Awards.” Last year, McDaniel celebrated 35 years with the fashion house with the title Executive Vice President of Entertainment Industry Communications Worldwide. 

In Dallas and beyond, Dwight Byrd shows were capital-E events. You might see models fighting a faux blaze in full fireman garb.

“I guess my destiny really was the fashion biz. Who knew???” McDaniel wrote us in a Facebook message when reminded of the 1977 D Magazine feature. 

McDaniel’s co-author on the men’s style guide, Dwight Byrd, was Delaware-born and educated at FIT and Pratt. Neiman Marcus drew him to Dallas, but he swiftly fell into fashion show production. “He was gay, fabulous, Black,” says modeling legend Jan Strimple. “He had a beautiful, dramatic, romancing movement attitude towards dealing with fashion models. This was a time when the shows were fully choreographed. So it was triples on stage and quadruples and you go into a one-and-a-half turn. Very specific. Every show required choreography and rehearsals. He really elevated a lot of the shows at the Dallas Market Center.”

The Dallas Apparel Mart, as it was then called, had become the world’s largest wholesale fashion market under one roof by the early ’80s, and fashion shows were standing-room-only affairs. Kim Dawson was both the Apparel Mart’s fashion director and agent to the models, creating a dynamic that Strimple lovingly calls the “Dallas fashion mafia.” And if you didn’t make nice with the mafia, you didn’t work in this town. Byrd’s departure to the East Coast was covered by the Dallas Morning News in an article suggesting his perfectionism led to “whispers that he was difficult to work with.” 

“I’ve never understood why you have to use a model who’s been around for five years just because she’s nice,” Byrd told the paper. “If she can’t make the moves, I don’t think she’s right.” Another zinger of a quote: “I can’t ever remember feeling young and fresh. I’ve always looked older, too. I had a moustache when I was 13.”

In Dallas and beyond, Byrd shows were capital-E events. You might see a remote-controlled blimp, mechanical birds flying over the audience, or models fighting a faux blaze in full fireman garb. A year after stunning the crowd at the Congressional Black Caucus fashion show in D.C.—he attempted to send a cougar down the runway with fur-coat clad models, but the big cat wouldn’t budge—Byrd returned to Dallas unwell and died at the age of 33. His 1984 Washington Post obituary listed the cause as acute kidney failure. 

“He had a natural authority about him. A beautiful vision,” Strimple says. “He loved the girls; the girls felt loved by him.”

That natural authority was no more apparent than in “The Beautification of the Dallas Male.” And you can be confident that if you saw a gent donning puka shells after March 1977, he surely was not a D Magazine reader. 

This story originally ran in the March issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Threads Bare Story Write to [email protected]


S. Holland Murphy

S. Holland Murphy

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