Pop culture phenom Pharrell Williams’ musical output has reflected his own maturity over the years, from the slick bombast of N.E.R.D. through to recent hits like “Happy” and “Freedom.” In a new interview with GQ, the multi-talented creative breaks down his personal growth and response to Western culture’s shifting gender norms, touching on subjects that include his relationship with gender fluidity in clothing.
20 years ago, Pharrell met NIGO, perhaps the first major shift in his personal countenance as an adult. “Up until meeting [NIGO], my greatest references … were the guys with the big Bentleys. … They were not quiet about being successful,” Pharrell explains. “But [NIGO] would not say one word. He just bowed all the time. … NIGO’s way of humility … was seeping into my soul. And then the more I humbled myself down, the less I bragged.” From there, Skateboard P expanded his fashion sense alongside his attitude, welcoming items from Chanel and Phoebe Philo’s Céline into his wardrobe.
“It started with the ‘I can pull that off’ thing,” notes Pharrell. “I wore a lot of Chanel, and I wore tons of Céline. … When you listen to yourself and you’re comfortable in who you are, you wear what you feel like fits and looks right on you. And that’s it.” He does draw the line at points — “I can’t wear no skirt. Nor am I interested in wearing a blouse.” — but that doesn’t mean that everyone should feel the same way.
In particular, Pharrell applauds iconoclasts like Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug, exclaiming, “What rule [is there in dressing]? And when people start using religion as the reason someone shouldn’t wear something, I’m like, What are you talking about? There was no such thing as a bra or blouse in any of the old sacred texts.”
Williams’ developing consciousness also expanded to self-reflection, particularly his contentious 2013 smash, “Blurred Lines.” ” I didn’t get [the controversy] at first,” he admits. “When there started to be an issue with it, lyrically, I was, like, ‘What are you talking about?’ There are women who really like the song … And then I realized that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behavior. … I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn’t realized that. … So that blew my mind.”
Read the entire interview on GQ’s site, wherein Pharrell ruminates on spirituality, political power and the word “minority.”
Most recently, Pharrell and NIGO launched a collaborative set of HUMAN MADE x adidas sneakers.