Envisioning The Fresh Prince’s side-character-turned-icon, Jazz, through a modern lens.
By Marissa Lee.
There’s one character archetype integral to every production: that of the witty and eccentric side character that regularly appears in the work, yet is rarely featured in the title sequence. While there is no official name for this type of character, they often have a quality that, if missing from the show, would impact the show’s entertainment value.
I’ve always taken a particular liking to these characters, perhaps out of admiration for them, my ability to relate to them, or even just their non-committal yet integral role in the production. Think of the Harry Potter series’s Luna Lovegood or Stanford Blatch from Sex and The City. Or, for the purposes of this writing, Jazz from the 1990’s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Jazz, played by DJ Jazzy Jeff, the real-life DJ and friend of main character Will Smith, is the embodiment of the dear side character, upon whom little responsibility is placed, allowing the character to be as malleable and non-committal as the writers’ desire. Jazz is originally introduced as Will’s streetwise drummer friend whom he enlists to help his younger cousin Ashley learn to play the drums, much to the dismay of Ashley’s conservative parents. From the first moments that Jazz steps on scene as shrewd and eccentric streetwear savant, it was the beginning of his residence as local style renegade (and thorn in Will’s uncle’s side).
Jazz is a near ‘90s streetwear deity, with his ensembles influenced by the just-passed ‘80s zeitgeist combined with up and coming ‘90s grunge fever. In contrast to Will’s sporty and laid-back fashion moments, Jazz’s outfits are impeccably styled, looking done-up and relaxed in the same breath. The common viewer of Fresh Prince knows Jazz for his Coogi sweaters and psychedelic-printed button downs, which contrast his streetwise and lackadaisical attitude. What is to be most appreciated about Jazz, however, is his illustrious collection of dark sunglasses. Rarely seen without a pair, even when inside the Banks household, Jazz’s eyewear ranges from oversized square wrap-arounds to Club Master-style semi-rimless shades to the most frequent Jazz article, tiny round-lensed specs.
It’s the effectiveness of Jazz’s stylings that make his ensembles so cool. Yes, there’s always an opportunity to layer and don the coolest new sneaker and go the extra mile – but Jazz’s styling is to the point. While he often sports a more eccentric shirt or sweater, it’s always with a paired-down trouser or jeans, a nondescript sneaker, and his signature glasses.
At the end of the day, it wouldn’t be Jazz without the show-stopping sweater. Although it may not emulate the typical late ‘80s neon-Aztec print occasionally sported by the drummer, there’s something about this Dries Van Noten wool sweater that tells me Jazz might take a liking to it. Chunky enough that it emulates a typical ‘80s fair, the loud sweater would pair nicely with a streamlined pair of light wash blue jeans, such as this pair from Milan-based menswear brand Sunnei. It’s all about the paired-down coolness for Jazz, so a benign pair of loafers such as these Off-White derbys might do the trick. Lastly, the sunglasses of choice are undoubtedly the black 2903H sunglasses from Japanese optics master Matsuda.