Pharrell’s Grammy Hat Has Hip-Hop History

Pharrell and Malcolm McLaren in their matching hats.
Photos: Getty Images/YouTube

Last night at the Grammys, Pharrell’s hat was all the rage, so to speak, making rare note of forestry on the red carpet, and even garnering its own Twitter account. But while his pairing of the Smokey hat (or, to him, “military inspired“) with an Adidas jacket may have seemed random, there was a very specific method to his madness: His ensemble paid homage to the video for Malcolm McLaren’s 1982 single “Buffalo Gals,” written after the legendary punk svengali/visioneer first attended a Zulu Nation park jam in the Bronx. In essence, Pharrell was bigging up that very creative moment when punk and hip-hop were cross-pollinating and speaking to one another, both musically and sartorially.

McLaren opens the “Buffalo Gals” video in the very same park ranger hat and khaki safari jacket, bopping around between shots of a very formal square dance in a basketball court, and slightly less formal B-boys clad in Pharrell’s exact Adidas gear. “Buffalo gals go around the outside,” McLaren raps, with background vocals and scratches by members of the Zulu Nation and the World’s Famous Supreme Team. As style collisions go, Skateboard P.’s ensemble makes sense in this context, even if it didn’t on the carpet.

A still from Malcolm McLaren’s ’Buffalo Gals’ video.
Photos: YouTube

Incidentally, “Buffalo Gals” has a long style history. Its scratches were sampled by Neneh Cherry for her classic “Buffalo Stance,” which in itself was named after Ray Petri’s iconic mid-’80s fashion movement “Buffalo.” While Petri’s looks were a bit more streamlined—short shorts under trench coats, flight jackets over baggy jeans, impeccable suits with bombastic gold jewelry, Petri had a penchant for hats, himself. He toyed with Kangols, bowlers, headdresses, sailor caps, even church-lady Sunday best hats on men, which looked fantastic next to his occasional lace veils on the same models.

Felix Howard on the cover of ’The Face’ in 1985, styled by Ray Petri.
Photo: Felix Howard’s Website

The epitome of Buffalo fashion in the mainstream, however, is Felix Howard, the 13-year-old Petri muse Madonna tapped for her “Open Your Heart” video—the song she sang last night at the Grammys. Style cycles are real!


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