“He said to me ‘I’m a gentleman now, I have to look like one,’” said the Life magazine photographer Mr Gordon Parks, whose own dapper style Mr. Ali sought to emulate. “He always presented himself in this smart, clean way, both to distance himself from the heritage of boxing, which had been pretty sleazy up to then, with its links to organized crime, and also because he saw himself as an aspirational figure to young, disenfranchised black kids. He wanted to present himself as the opposite of a thug, and his well-cut suits and the attention to detail in his dress was a crucial element in that image.” - excerpt taken from Mr. Porter, an online style publication.
When we think of Muhammad Ali, we always associate him with being the greatest boxer of all time. We think of the trash talk. We think of the things he stood for whether it be the empowerment of black people, or his islamic faith, but we never really talk about how stylish he was, nor do we think of why it was important.
When I think about personal style the term “sense of self ” comes to mind. Ali had a great sense of self he knew exactly who was. "Cassius Clay is a slave name. I didn't choose it and I don't want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name - it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.” It was things like this that exemplified the fact that he knew who he was. He didn't conform to popular demand or what was “in” at the time. He was the people’s champ but he was the people’s champ on his own terms. He joined the Nation Of Islam and was very outspoken about his religious beliefs.He sacrificed his livelihood when he refused to join the army during the Vietnam War. He knew his purpose and knew what he stood for.
Being self aware is the most stylish thing one can do and Ali fully embraced that.