The Real Steve Harvey

The Real Steve Harvey

Interview by Michael B. Jordan / Fashion direction by Elly Karamoh / Photography by Braylen Dion / Intro by Shannon Stokes

Have you ever worn a “Steve Harvey Suit?”

What makes a suit modern? Is it the cut of the garment? The line it strikes? The age of the person wearing it? The time period in which someone wears said look?

In many ways, Steve Harvey has defied all the possible answers for decades. His down-to-earth brand of comedy has earned him millions of fans, but what etched him into our minds continually was how he dressed.

The look was often custom-made by innovative Black suit makers and other tailors that collaborated with their inventive Black clientele. But, for most, the look is achieved by shopping in privately owned men's clothing stores where a “Made In Italy” label is king above all, and coordinating each and every item of an outfit is serious art.

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a man painstakingly make sure that the lavender pinstripe of his suit (note that suit is beige, steel gray or chocolate brown, as to not be ordinary) is picked up in the print of his tie, as well as trim on the dress shirt collar (curved cutaway type, look it up), as well as a matching hat, socks, belt and a pair of Stacy Adams or Mauri brand shoes in the exact same shade, depending on his budget.

For a long time, a “Steve Harvey Suit” was something that would immediately conjure up a familiar silhouette for a lot of Black Americans. It's a familiar look because we have grown up with so many fathers, uncles, pastors and even basketball players that have dressed in the exact same way, and have made a name for themselves as a local fashion plate. But it was Steve’s hilarious appearances as a weekly TV host in the ’90s and early aughts that helped him own that look singularly.

My memories of Steve start at his sitcom, Me and the Boys, that aired after Full House and eventually was reworked into the Steve Harvey Show two years later. But in those shows he was just playing a character, so we couldn't yet see Steve’s style at its fullest expression. Rather it was his stint as the host of Black culture staples such as the talent show It's Showtime at the Apollo and comedian showcase BET's Comicview that allowed his love for haberdashery to shine through.

Shawl: Custom Balenciaga couture, Suit: Custom Christian Dior, Shoes: Custom Alta Moda, Sunglasses: Yves Saint Laurent

What exactly is the iconic look known as a “Steve Harvey Suit?” It's a suit jacket with an oversized shoulder, often shapeless through the waist, a continuous boxy line down from the massive shoulders. It characteristically has a long jacket, longer than most traditional suit jackets, with some being nearly knee-length. The matching pants sit high on the waist and are often pleated for more volume. The wide leg voluminous pant is key because it adds elegance, as its drapey cuffed hem swishes back and forth over a statement shoe.

All that's missing are the finishing touches: in order to make a suit unique, there were no limitations placed on how many buttons the suit could have or where they could be placed. Seven buttons down the front of the jacket? Sure. Additional pockets? Vents? Unusual collar shapes? Sure, Sure, Sure.

Over time, though, as men slimmed everything down and embraced skinny suits, the term "Steve Harvey Suit" took on a negative connotation of being behind the times. So it was a shock to everyone when Steve began — per the advice of his wife Marjorie — to revamp his signature look. He hired stylist Elly Karamoh to clear out all the old suits and bring in new, updated options. While the cuts we knew were gone, the Steve we always watched on TV was still in there through his fearless embrace of color.

From then on, his viral looks made it clear that a “Steve Harvey Suit” could be anything as long as it was sleek and the person wearing it felt good. As Harvey himself has said about those who may disagree with his new style: "If your ass ain’t feeling this, I really dont give a damn.”

A “Steve Harvey Suit” is really a suit of confidence, then.

So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why haven't you ever worn a Steve Harvey Suit?”

I think maybe we should all try it out, even if only for a day.

While Michael B. Jordan is in the midst of production for Creed 3 in Atlanta, Steve Harvey called up the actor and director (who’s currently dating his daughter, Lori) to talk about transforming his personal style, staying relevant for decades of TV and achieving the "unthinkable."

Overcoat: Bottega Veneta, Chemise: AMI Alexandre Mattiussi, Shirt: Tom Ford, Pants: Louis Vuitton, Necktie: H by Steve Harvey, Sunglasses: Yves Saint Laurent

Michael B. Jordan: I’m in the trenches, man, but it’s good.

Steve Harvey: They’ve got your motherfucking ass bent back.

Michael: Bro, there’s no relief. Even the weekends, all you doing is get ready for the next week. But we halfway through, it's crazy, we're already halfway done.

Steve: How much you think you got left?

Michael: I got another six weeks to go. Another five here and then we finish everything up in Los Angeles.

Steve: How long has it been total? How much you done put into this?

Michael: Officially, maybe a year and a half. But I've been daydreaming and getting everything together for it for maybe the past three years, ever since Creed 2.

Steve: And then what happens is, people see a 90-minute feature film. They look at where you at, and they don't even realize, man, the shit it takes to get where you at.

Michael: The end result, that’s what everybody wants. They want that meal after we spent hours in the kitchen, cooking and chopping and preparing. Or if it’s a look, fashion-wise, all the steps and fittings you have to go through, the tailoring, the fabric, the different patterns. They want that finished product, how you look on the carpet, how you look in the photograph. But all the time we put into this process, with the movies and stuff, it ain't for the faint of heart.

Steve: It's the grinding part people don't get.

Michael: So hindsight is always a luxury to have, but what would 30-year-old Steve think of 65-year-old Steve's style, right now?

Steve: If I was 20-30 looking at what I am now, I would be surprised. Fashion is sort of funny because it keeps repeating itself. These thin-cut suits, if you look back at all the Temptations’ videos, that's all they had back then, so that's not new. When I see the fashion houses coming out with these bell bottom slacks and wide-legged pants, that's not new. We've had that before. So I would be surprised, man, about the way fashion has turned, but I would not be surprised at the fact that I would like to keep up with it. Especially now, there was a period in my life, during the Kings of Comedy era, like from '85 to 2003, I was the king of the urban look. I was the big wide pants, the full, long jackets. All my jackets had to be down to my fingertips. I had to have at minimum four buttons on the coat.

If you look back at '85 in the draft all the way up through the '90s, all the NBA players you saw walk up there, that's what they wore. I was talking with Magic and Michael Jordan, one time. Jordan came to see me in concert in Chicago in the '90s and Magic used to come see me, man, and they would all say, “Hey man, we used to sit up after the game waiting to see what you came on Showtime at the Apollo with, and we go, ‘Man, I'm wearing that right there.’” That urban look I had, it was purely urban, but the basketball players were attracted to that. You look at Michael's suits, Magic's suits, Jalen Rose's suits, all them cats, that's what they wore, man, and I thought that was hot. The problem was, I hung onto it a little bit too long [laughs].

Jacket, shirt, bowtie, pants and gloves: Tom Ford, Boots and sunglasses: Yves Saint Laurent

Michael: I never thought about it like that, man, and that's a fact. You look at the drafts and you see these ball players when they were rockin' those suits. I remember in my era watching The Steve Harvey Show and the suits were such a thing. That's his iconic look, that's what you expect to see. Something's wrong in the universe, right now, if Steve ain't walking out with a fly ass suit and tailored to a tee. So are you surprised by how your style has transformed and taken on a life of its own? Everybody has a lot of positivity and admiration for the look you going for.

Steve: I'm surprised by it. I can't say it was a plan of mine at all because it wasn't, honestly speaking. It happened for me accidentally. The problem I had was the woman I live with. I live with a fashion icon. My wife, Marjorie, is her own stylist. Nobody brings stuff for her to look at. She shops for herself, she dresses herself. Her styling, her clothes, is uniquely her. She got me out of the big suits to begin with. She just came home one day and said, “I'm tired of being married to a pimp.” And I said, “What the fuck do you mean?” And she said, “The big suits and all of that.” I'm sitting up here thinking, “Hold on, you ain't say nothing when you married me, I had on them big suits.” She said, “Yeah I married you, but I was going to change you.” [Laughs] And she did, man. She got me to narrow my suits down because she said, “Steve, you're going to go mainstream.” Next thing I know, the book comes out, I have a talk show, I’m a game show host. I did one year as a game show host with them big suits, and she says, “Steve, you can't walk out there like that, this is mainstream American now.”

The biggest change was almost three years ago. I was in Africa shooting Family Feud and she had been telling me about this kid, Elly Karamoh. She kept saying to me, “Steve, you should hire a stylist because you don't have time to shop. You love to dress up and you got your suits cut down, but you don't have to always wear suits. When we go out to dinner or vacation, that's not how you dress. You could get more out of your wardrobe if you have somebody do it.” So she flew Elly to Africa, I didn't ask her. He started dressing me in Africa and then he dressed me for NFL Honors, the first year I did it, then that got a lot of pull.

Then the guy that runs Celebrity Family Feud went back and told them, “Why don't you let Steve on Celebrity Family Feud wear what he wore to the NFL Honors? ‘Cause he looks really good in colors.” That was a big pushback, because I shot Family Feud all in the same suit. I had four suits made that same color, same tie, same shirt, and I just switched it every show because they could put it in any order they wanted to. Well, they started asking me to do that.

Then I got another show on Facebook Watch and they said, “We don't want you to wear anything you've ever worn on TV before,” so I went to Elly and he said, “Ok, got it.” That was the first time they saw me without a shirt and tie, which I wear all the time, but my image was: Suit, tie, pocket square, collar bar, tie bar, cufflinks — that's it. Elly came along, and started introducing me to a lot of different designers and he really brought some stuff to my attention.

Now, not everything I like, ‘cause skinny jeans to me is for skinny people. If I put on a pair of skinny jeans, I'ma look like a fucking waffle cone. Stomach hanging all over the top of the jeans. So we had a couple of battles about what to wear, but he got to know me better and better. It's been a surprise, Mike, to be honest with you, this evolution, because it wasn't intentional. But as Elly was snapping photos and putting it on his Instagram, all of a sudden it was taking off. I think the biggest launch was last year in Paris, right after Fashion Week was over. I went over there with my wife for a birthday on October 10 and we just were taking pictures of us going out. Next thing I know—

Michael: Every night, it was another hit, another headline, another article being written up about how transformative the style's been. Having personally known Elly and how he's been evolving and growing in his ambition for you, it's been awesome to see. Has there been one thing that you originally said “nah” to that he pushed back on? There's always that one moment where your stylist is like, “Look trust me,” and you're like, “I don't know about this,” and it turned out to be an amazing look or feel.

Steve: The word he taught me that I never understood was range. “Range, Mr. Harvey, range. You don’t get stuck on this look right here. We have to show range.” And that was because on TV, man, it was hard to get me out of my comfort zone. Shirt, tie, pocket square, suit, three piece, button-up. That's how I make my money, that's what works.

Michael: It's tried and true, right?

Steve: Yeah, it was unnerving for me to step outside of that. I didn’t have no problem with it as long as I wasn't on camera. But if you put me on camera, I thought that I had to uphold this brand. So I think the biggest thing he brought to the table for me was range. He introduced me to a lot more stuff, because this guy takes an incredible amount of pride in what he does. He knows what's coming out before it comes out, he knows what's on the runway. So he keeps me on the forefront of what's happening. I have to give him credit for that because he does practically all of my shopping. The only thing I have major pushback on that I will not do is wear high-top sneakers with a suit. Ain't happening.

Overcoat: Bottega Veneta, Suit, shirt and tie: Custom, Gloves: Custom Alta Moda, Boots: Yves Saint Laurent

Michael: [Laughs] Ok, gotchu.

Steve: I see all of y'all rocking it. I see everybody rocking them high-top sneakers with a suit, I just can't.

Michael: Ain't no budging on that one.

Steve: It'd be taking the pimp out of me and I can't do that.

Michael: [Laughs] That's great to know. I, like so many others, got to know you through TV at home. Watching you over the years, I had a certain image of who you are in my head. Now having the chance to know you personally, that's part of it, but there's so many other layers and things that as artists and entertainers and public figures, we gotta keep to ourselves that we cherish and keep personal. So is there a big difference between the man we see on TV versus the guy sitting at home chilling in his cigar lounge?

Steve: There's a huge difference, man. Look, I'm the biggest game show host. Family Feud is the biggest game show in the world. I'm on TV seven days a week, sometimes multiple times a day in a city. And I'm an entertainer, I'm happy. My job is to put a smile on people's faces, young or old. I take that responsibility seriously, but that image is only a part of the day. What I'm doing moving forward, I'm tired of showing that side of me. ‘Cause you see it everywhere. What I want them to see is: Who is the dude that built this life? Who is the hustler and the grinder that makes this life for his family? That creates this lifestyle for his wife, children and grandchildren? Who is that dude, because that dude is different than the finished product you get to see on TV, ‘cause it ain't all champagne pops and giggles, man. It ain't.

It's what you do in the movie, where everybody's waiting on Creed to come out, right? But don't nobody know it's been three years in the making. Don't nobody know how many trips into the gym you really had to do to get here. Don't nobody know that you got to grapple with your personal life, your family life, your business life and then you got to get in front of that camera and be this dude that's gonna show up for 90 minutes.

The person that built this lifestyle, that’s in charge of maintaining this empire, that dude is different. He's a lot more serious. I'm really a cool person. I ain't never not been cool, dog, in all this bullshit where people just see this happy “ha ha ha.” I'm laidback, cool, I smoke my cigars. I don't drink much, but every now and then I sit down and have me a cognac or a Godfather. Smoking a cigar for me is more of a yoga experience, it's a breathing thing. People go, “That's not healthy,” but having four girlfriends ain't healthy either. I can show you a lot of shit that ain't healthy [laughs]. So I want people to know the other side of me. The man that built this, the man that prays, the man that has faith, the man that sits around and is a lot like yourself: in a lot of deep thought about the future and how you plot the next move. How do I stay relevant? That's been a big part of what I want people to start seeing, so they can stop thinking it's all bubbles and giggles.

Michael: It takes time for a man in his life and professional career to be able to be that vulnerable and open. To be able to show what's behind the curtain. Our industry that we're in, we've been such minorities from the beginning, and you've survived the test of time, which cats can't say. There's been people who've been wildly popular and now you don't know where they at. Did you face any real adversity over the years? What challenges would you like to share that you've had to overcome to get to where you are today?

Steve: Getting successful is one thing, staying successful is a whole other thing. It's two different processes, man. And, for me, it was easier to get here than it is to stay here. The average person can't do 100 pushups. They out there, but I win the most money betting they can't. Let's say you somehow get to 75 and your eyes is bulging out your head and your brain is about to bust. Then you get to 90 and your teeth is cracked cause you're just gritting it out, man, and you get to 95 and all the veins in your chest is pulsing and you don't know how, but somehow by the grace of God, you get to 100 pushups. And you did what is almost the unthinkable. That's how hard becoming successful is. It's like trying to do 100 pushups, it's really hard.

When you get to the 100th pushup, you've won, you're successful. Now to stay there, you have to lock your elbows, stay in the hold position and hold your body erect. While you're doing that, your family climbs on your back, a couple of your homies climb on your back, some employees climb on your back, the responsibility of what you built climbs on your back, all the bills climb on your back. You've done 100, it took everything to get there, but now you've got to lock your elbows and hold. That's difficult, my brother. The average person, when they get to 100 pushups, they need a break, but then you ain't got time for that. Because now that you've made it to success, you've got to hold.

And along the way to 100, man, you lose some loved ones, you lose some friendships, some business deals go bad, somebody steals money from you. Somebody you was counting on, one of your inner circle friends, betrays you. I'm talking about stab you in your back, which those things normally happen to people and it causes them to not even get to the 100 pushups. How you gonna finish the 100 when you got stabbed in your ribcage? But somehow I was able to force through no matter what happened and I kept going.

Sweater: AMI Alexandre Mattiussi, Pants: Custom, Hat: Berlutti, Shoes: Duane & Johnson MTM

In the process of getting divorced twice, in the process of losing everything I ever owned twice, in the process of living in a car for three years, in the process of becoming under attack from the internet, in the process of hearing so many lies about yourself, you still have to put that smile on your face and go to work. They thought they would break me, but they didn't know who they were up against. Because you're not just attacking me, I ain't over here by myself. I'm a child of the most high, so when you come for me, you're coming for him too. What amazes me along the way is how many people feel as though they can break me, when clearly they didn't make me. So having understood that in my life has allowed me to maintain, even after the 100 pushups, you can ask me right now, “Do 200 more,” and I just have to find a way to get it done.

Michael: You say your job is to put smiles on people's faces, but you've also been motivating people for a long time. You take time in your professional life to give advice, knowledge and experiences that you've been through and how to help other people from avoiding some of those things. So that's always been part of your brand, too, not to be overlooked and underappreciated. You've helped a lot of people get out of tough spots.

Steve: You hear people say, “I'm not a role model.” Yes, you are. If you reach a certain level of fame and some kid is emulating you and wanting to be like you, you have an obligation. I made a decision a long time ago on my shows that when people pay money to come see me, I didn't want them to just sit in the audience and laugh. So instead of going in the back and sitting down, getting makeup on and drinking water, I stay out there on commercial breaks and take questions from audience members. Or sometimes I go, “Can I share something with y'all?” And then I tell them a lesson I learned. Little did I know the cameras were running because people started going, “Wow, don't cut the camera off on this guy.” I know everybody out there struggling with something, I don't care who you are. Look man, I'm older than most cats, so if I know the answer to something and I can solve some of your problems, I don't have no problem doing that. It's been one of the great offset benefits of my life.

Michael: I know you're very ambitious. How have some of your goals changed from the beginning to where you are today?

Steve: What people do is, they have this very ambitious goal, and they don't realize that you still have to take incremental steps to get there. So it causes confusion and disappointment, and they oftentimes turn back. We take these incremental steps, and we go a step higher and a step higher. Every time you get a little bit higher, you get a different view. The higher you go, it causes you to see more things, more opportunities, more chances, but you can only get these views the higher up you go. It’s a blessing and a curse, too. The blessing is you get these incredible views from being up this high, but then you realize you see too much.

It reminds me of my favorite Michael Jackson song, “Man in the Mirror.” He’s got a line that says, “I see the children in the streets without enough to eat/ Who am I to be blind pretending not to see their needs?” Now that you’re up here and seeing all of this, you don’t just see the people hungry in your house. You see the people hungry in Africa, you see situations in Botswana, you see situations in the Middle East and now you’ve evolved on a level you weren’t counting on. It's hard to know what’s possible until you get a certain view.

And a guy like yourself that’s starting to get up to the top of this mountain as a director and as an actor, as one of the top Black artists in the world today, it’s giving you a different view. Now it comes with a whole other set of responsibilties. The one thing I've learned is: after I’ve hustled and grinded and gotten to where it is I want to go, what’s it for? If you ain’t got nobody to share it with, that’s a lonely trip back to your house with your award and nobody to show it to. The way I live, Mike, I’ve told a lot of jokes to get here, I’ve turned a lot of corners, I’ve put on a lot of suits, I've been on a lot of shows, but if Marjorie don't do what she do, I have nothing, man. And her seat at the table across from me is a big seat to sit in, man. I had to learn this as I was taking those incremental steps. It took me three marriages to learn this along the way.

Jacket, shirt, bowtie, pants and gloves: Tom Ford, Boots and sunglasses: Yves Saint Laurent

As you go up those incremental steps, you get a different view and you start to find out all this ain’t nothing for me except family. I got all the cars I want, I don't need another car. I got the house I want to live in, I don't need to live no where else. So what else is there now? It’s what I'm able to do and secure for my family and children and grandchildren.

Michael: And you got a beautiful family, man, you’ve definitely been doing that. The fruits of your labor are seen and it’s forever present. It’s been awesome to get an inside perspective, and I know a lot of people that end up reading this are going to be inspired and brought up to speed on who Steve Harvey really is. Hey man, I appreciate you taking the time and chopping it up with me and being able to be open about some of this stuff.

Steve: You call me OG, I call you young soldier. We text all the time. I’m proud of you as a young brother, man, what you’ve done. So it’d only be fitting to close out this interview with me asking you one question.

Michael: What’s up?

Steve: Do you love Lori Harvey?

Michael: Oh, man. I do. For sure.

Steve: Interview over. You’ve got my respect. Thank you, brother. You’ve got my respect. [Laughs] Hey Mike, at the end of the day, I’m a father.

Michael: 1,000% And I got nothing but respect for you and the family. That goes without saying.

Steve: Do well, man.

Photography: Braylen Dion
Fashion direction: Elly Karamoh
Grooming: Stephanie Dawn
Videography: Shawn Craig
Video direction: Charlotte Spritz
Photo assistant: Chris Phero
Lighting technician: Dion Rolle
Video editing: Chaz Smedley
Retouching: Matty So
Cover typography: Callum Abbott
Interview: Michael B. Jordan
Intro: Shannon Stokes