Inspiration comes in many forms. At times we feel a lack of inspiration and an inevitable fashion slump ensues. Perhaps a shake up is in order. And taking old and new looks and mixing them up is a great way to reinvigorate a tired wardrobe. There are wardrobe staples that can spice up anything – a great hat, a statement belt or some divine outerwear (my personal favorite) or even something recycled and reinvented. A time past is always now…and being in the know means embracing it with a “let ’em stare” attitude. Which brings to mind some interesting examples of the bolder fashion choices I’ve observed as of late. I have a very laissez-faire stance on the fashion choices of others, and in spite of his shorts to the Oscars stunt, I think Pharrell Williams is embodying the “Always in Style” mantra of old is always new again. So the infamous “Arby’s” hat was naturally a piece I was obsessed with as I felt there was a nostalgia attached to it. And that’s what it’s all about!
The hat in question appeared in Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team music video for their 1982 hip-hop classic “Buffalo Gals.” The androgynous Buffalo hat was made by Malcolm’s then girlfriend, Vivienne Westwood and appeared in her F/W 82/83 collection, “Nostalgia of Mud” to be sold in her now infamous store at 430 Kings Road which was then and finally called World’s End. (The storefront changed its name several times: Sex; Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die; Seditionaries) While Vivienne and Malcolm had a seminal role in the shaping of punk rock; helping to introduce both punk music and the punk aesthetic to the mainstream, Westwood was left disenchanted.
But I digress. I could talk punk/fashion another day, for a very long time. This is a hip hop hat – is it not? In the 1984 BBC documentary Beat This! – A Hip Hop History, McLaren explains that he was in New York looking for a support act for Bow Wow Wow when he went to a “Block Party” thrown down by Afrika Bambaataa and Zulu Nation. This is where he was exposed to Hip-Hop for the first time and discovered the scratching technique he would use on the Buffalo Gals song. This technique, coupled with Zulu singers proclaiming “she’s looking like a hobo.” and Bam-baataa! – there is the look. This song was groundbreaking because it helped introduce England to Hip-Hop culture. Not only did it sound like Hip-Hop (but with a white, British MC), but the video showed breakdancing (courtesy of the Rock Steady Crew) as well as rapping, scratching and graffiti. Quite a far cry from the origins of the song as a traditional American song written and published as “Lubly Fan” in 1844 by the blackface minstrel John Hodges, who performed as “Cool White.” An interesting dichotomy to say the least as Malcolm McLaren was not the expected face to introduce the world to early hip hop.
Yet another rendition of this song came 7 years later, when Nenah Cherry sampled it for her hit “Buffalo Stance.” The song title refers to Buffalo, a group of photographers, models, musicians, hair and makeup artists, etc. formed by fashion stylist Ray Petri. Such a “stance” would be to stand like a person or group of people that are posing for a photo shoot in a London fashion magazine. And again we see the diverse and interpretive genres of music and fashion coming together in a circular motion.
To keep the “Sex; Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die” transgression alive, McLaren and Westwood’s son, Joseph Ferdinand Core, co-found lingerie brand Agent Provocateur. An agent provocateur is an undercover agent who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act. Sexy! and within the spirit of his father; an impresario, visual artist, performer, taste-maker, rebel and designer, notable for combining these activities in an inventive and provocative way. Sounds very familiar…Pharrell.
Here is another, more timeless side of Pharrell – who taps into of all of our aspirations, with the quintessential girl of our dreams:
Jason Goldwatch – Time Pieces