In the wake of an Oscar performance that got Meryl Streep moving in her seat, plus a new surprise album that went #1 in just about every country, 2014 is in Pharrell's grasp, at least for the time being. GQ recently sat down with the man of the moment sometime after G I R L dropped, where he touched upon a number of the many projects and arenas he's involved in and even reflected on past phases of his career. And of course, the hat. Read excerpts below to see what Skateboard P had to say on the widespread reaction to the Arby's hat, as well as that time back in the day when he had everyone wearing truckers.
Below are selected excerpts from the interview that deal with past and current style choices, as well as his thoughts on Kanye West's forays into fashion and working with the big businesses in that industry. For the full interview, pick up a copy of GQ, on newstands now.
Pharrell on his current and past hats of choice:
Do you regret the trucker hat?
No. Uh-uh. I always did the same thing. I've dressed like I make my music. "No one's doing that: I'm gonna go do that." With the trucker hat, it was just a different time. And it was just N.E.R.D. time for me, you know? And that's what we represented—like, the anti-media image. We represented the real: black kids that skated.
The last time I saw you was the week before the Grammys, and you were wearing the original buffalo hat, and it didn't seem so outrageous. Then you wear it on the Grammy red carpet, and it becomes this enormous thing. Was that surprising to you?
Totally. It's not my doing. A, I didn't create the hat. B, I didn't produce the Grammys show, and C, I'm not the one purchasing the hat. None of it's my doing.
The Arby's jokes or the park ranger jokes or whatever—are they funny to you?
They said the same things to me fifteen years ago about trucker hats. Remember: trucker hats at a moment in time when people were wearing throwback jerseys. I was aware of it.
So not that funny?
I mean, it just goes with the territory. Anything different, people are going to look at and go, "Ha ha ha ha, what is that??" Then, after a while, they do a little bit of research; they realize it's Vivienne Westwood, an ode to her boyfriend at the time; they had a store together called World's End. The guy who went on to sign the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren.
Does that make you want to retire the hat?
No, I'm having too much fun.
Have people come to you and been like, "We need to do a hat collection now"?
And what do you say?
No! Why do that? I don't want to be like, you know, whored out. I want to jump into different things. I'm interested in that because I can do something uplifting.
Pharrell on Kanye's design frustrations:
Kanye West has spent so much time in the last two years talking about how frustrating it was to go into the corporate world, only to find all those doors were closed to him. What's been your experience with that?
I've been lucky enough to be received with open arms. And I think Kanye has too, to a certain extent, and he'll tell you that. I think he was just voicing his opinions of, like, the cons of his experiences. And he's since then tried and been making a very serious effort to show people his appreciation. So it's different.
But he's been like, "They want me to work for them. They don't want to work with me. They won't give me the keys."
Yeah, right. That might be true, to a certain degree. But, at the same time, I think that he's worked really hard to sort of speak of the pros of his experience as well.
Your whole career has taken place in the framework of corporations, basically. You've collaborated with everybody.
Right, yeah. Doesn't mean that I don't want everybody else to be able to pursue whatever they want to do, too, and make themselves happy. Listen, money is a necessary part of our society, so you gotta be on the right side of the dollar. If you're on the right side of the dollar, you're able to get it. If you're on the wrong side of the dollar, you just want to pinch it.
Have you ever been in these meetings and felt like, "You guys are slamming a door shut in my face"?
No. I've had a ball.