Sean “Diddy” Combs’ may have changed his stage name several times over the past 18 years, but one thing remains the same: his loyalty to velour tracksuits. Long before leisurewear was a staple on high-end runways like Chloe and Loewe, the mogul not only wore them on tour and in magazines, but inspired entire communities via his menswear line Sean John. In 2004, Combs was named Menswear Designer of the Year, beating Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. (Earlier that year, Combs and designer Zac Posen announced a “joint venture in which Sean John will become an equal partner in Posen’s three-year-old business,” according to WWD). In Black communities, Combs has always been a major fashion icon, so it comes as no surprise that the attire most prominent in the promos for Queen and Slim, Melina Matsoukas’ feature directorial debut, is a red tracksuit—and it’s no accident, either.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the film’s costume designer Shiona Turini said that she brought Black style and culture to the big screen, by working with Dapper Dan, Pyer Moss, Brother Vellies, and TyLynn Nguyen — all Black designers. “We definitely wanted a Sean John moment,” Turini said. “Puff, [Sean “Puffy” Combs], he’s a legend. What was a tracksuit before Sean John? He revolutionized what a tracksuit means in our community.”
Turini describes her work as “finding the beauty in the day-to-day and everyday people.” She has found the beauty in day-to-day working with Matsoukas before on both Issa Rae’s HBO comedy Insecure and Beyoncé’s “Formation” music video. “Clothes send a very strong message,” Turini told WSJ. “For me, and I feel like for Queen, it is a part of our personality. It speaks volumes when you walk into a room, when you go out on a date. It says so much without you having to say anything.”
Slim’s character (Daniel Kaluuya) throws on the tracksuit after a first date with Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) that ends in a run from the law. And while there are obvious parallels to “Bonnie & Clyde,” Matsoukas says that’s where the similarities stop. “A lot of my references and influences come from Black culture, just because that’s who I am," she said during a press preview with Refinery29’s film critic Anne Cohen, pointing to hip-hop music director Hank Williams, Spike Lee, Mira Nair, and Julie Dash among the filmmakers who informed her style. As it turns out, Matsoukas loves a throwback, and as illustrated by the tracksuit, Turini does, too.