The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 23: The Woods

“You don’t realize until you look back,” says Harlem’s Guy Wood. Guy and Sharene Barnett met over 20 years ago at a diner. “I saw her, I thought she was cute, and I hollered at her.” He had no idea that Sharene Barnett would be his soul mate, his life mate. “We became friends. We developed a strong friendship. Sharene is very determined. She saw something inside me that I couldn’t see in myself at the time.”

One common ground between the two is Harlem, a fact that they both honor. Their parents are from Harlem, and they credit them for the innate sense of fashion on which they’ve built careers. Guy is a designer/stylist/visionary. Sharene is president and CEO. Together they own 5001 Flavors and their retail establishment, Harlem Haberdashery.

“This wonderful village of Harlem really influenced my style. My mom and dad were sharp dressers,” Sharene says. “That’s also what attracted to me Guy. He doesn’t have limitations about what he can and can’t wear. I’m attracted to that.” Guy says, “I know I get my sense of style from my father and mother. My mother was a seamstress; my father was a sharp dresser. My mother used to make my outfits when I was younger. I hated it. But I remember going with her to pick out McCall’s patterns and fabrics.”

The 1990s—which afforded its own brand of renaissance for driven, ambitious Black New Yorkers—propelled the opportunity for them to make money operating within their passion. Guy is the designer who created the leather trend of the time. “Dudes didn’t want to wear leather because they didn’t want to look like Eddie Murphy Raw.” Elevating ideas around leather, he designed sweatshirts, pants, jackets, hoodies, shirts—all leather everything.

Even Heavy D and the Notorious B.I.G. rocked his skins. “I styled Heavy D and the Boyz for the Nothin’ But Love cover and it took off. They were cool with wearing the peacoats, but the leather pants took some convincing. I said, ‘If these pants don’t fit you like your jeans fit, then you don’t have to pay me.’ ” Led by his eye for style and Uptown will, they wore it. Guy recognizes flavor and who can pull it off. Guy and Sharene’s company has worked with LeBron James, Wiz Khalifa, Robin Thicke and numerous other luminaries.

Sharene calls it swag, Guy calls it flash. Although they live in northern New Jersey, the work and the inspiration are all about uptown NYC. “Harlem was a place [where] when you stepped out to a party or event, even if you didn’t have two nickels to rub together, you were clean,” Guy says. “You might not have any money but you had a hat on, you had a haircut. You were clean. It used to be fedoras, then Kangols. Now it’s snapbacks and bucket hats.  But the hat has to match the shoe that goes back to the T-shirt that reminds you to check the belt.

Coolest Black Family in America: The Woods

The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 23: The Woods

“So that sense of style and pride is still here,” Guy continues, “it’s just a different day. As I see it, you have to let each generation do what they do. We would wear glasses with no lenses. Use a whole half a can of starch on one pair of pants! Our parents thought we were crazy!”

Married seven years ago, the Wood family is five kids strong. “All my kids are unique, and everybody thinks they’re cooler than the next one. They don’t realize I’m the coolest. But they don’t give me no credit. They think they just came with this sense of style.” Their children range in age from 5 to 24: Guy Jr., Teyanna, Brtittny, Jordan and the youngest, Sydney.

“All the kids work with 5001 Flavors or Harlem Haberdashery in some capacity,” he says. (Except little Sydney… soon though.) “Each of my kids have strong personalities. But it’s hard to work with your family! All of my children have been fired by me. They come back to work the next day like, ‘Whatever, Dad. You’re like Lady Eloise, you’re just a figurehead. You have no power. I’m calling [Sharene].’ ”

Sharene, the biological mother of Sydney, has always been a mother to all Guy’s children. “I always felt like men and women should be partners,” she says. “What I saw in him was a really great heart, a sensitive guy, a present father, and someone willing to help others. Those traits were really endearing to me. But I think we each bring something to the relationship that helps the other person be the best they can be.”

Sharene comes from a big family, and she was clear on this: “I wanted to be married when I had a child.” But having her own child was a huge moment for her. “When I realized how important a mom is and