The Almost Icon: Pharrell Williams
Our style icons usually benefit from seeing their sartorial triumphs through a tightly curated, impossibly cool, rose-tinted lens—especially if they lived in a generally more stylish era.
Which makes it tough for guys of our generation, like Pharrell Williams.
We’ve watched Mr. Williams grow into a pretty stylish fellow over the years, while being good for producing at least one “song of summer” each summer for the past decade—which is surely the sort of thing that will be looked back upon as iconic. But at this point in his sartorial career, we can still only speculate whether he’ll be a first-ballot style icon or not. There have been good signs so far: designing clothing with the likes of Mark McNairy. And glimmers of brilliance: making tailoring choices that might even have Thom Browne blushing. But he’s not there yet. (Partially due to the fact that he’s only 40.) He’s close, though, and we think we can help.
So let us take a look back at the style evolution and then look forward to a brighter future of the Almost Icon, Pharrell Williams…
Around 2000, he made a splash in the rap game and became the vanguard of a new, nerdier, less braggadocious style of rap: trucker hats, backpacks, riding skateboards and looking a bit less baggy on all fronts.
In the early 2000s, he began wearing Japanese label A Bathing Ape that awoke a new awareness for Japanese brands in streetwear and Internet circles (which the selvage denim craze would benefit from in later years).
In the mid 2000s, he began designing his own label, Billionaire Boys Club, which was more of the same upcycled streetwear. Which took a more decidedly skateboard-y turn with his Ice Cream label.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, this evolved into a more street-collegiate look. (Notice the varsity jacket, a few years ahead of its time.)
Then, he showed up to the CFDA awards in a Thom Browne–esque shorts-tuxedo. It’s out-there for sure—that bow tie looks like it visited the Biogenesis lab one too many times—but the man had arrived.
A bit later, he hooked up with Mark McNairy and started getting a bit more workwear-y (flannel) and military-y (camo jacket) with his looks—but still on a level that was ahead of its time (dad jeans, sneakers).
Then, last year he showed up in what might be the single most defining look of his entire life—like his sartorial Slumdog Millionaire—in one snapshot.
And that’s where we’ve left off. He’s wearing clothing that’s been informed by the past decade-and-change of his style evolution. Now it’s time to take all of that and turn it into bona fide style icon material in the next decade-and-change. Here’s what we’re thinking: Stick with the tailoring. That’s doing wonders. We’d like to see more chunky knits make it into the rotation. More cardigans. We wouldn’t mind seeing a “Skateboard Mr. Rogers” phase. And it wouldn’t hurt to wear a suit that goes beyond the knees every so often…
- — Najib Benouar