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Exclusive: Leon Bridges Explains His Ever-Evolving, Increasingly Streetwear-Influenced Style

Esquire

October 25, 2018

By Jonathan Evans

Featured Work

Gap — Holiday 2018

The singer is the star of Gap’s latest holiday campaign.

 

A lot of things are changing for Leon Bridges. The singer’s latest album, Good Thing, released earlier this year, takes the retro-soul sound of his debut, Coming Home, and pushes it into modern territory with a little more hip-hop and R&B. And to go along with this musical evolution, his look is shifting, too.

While the high-waisted trousers and classical sensibility he channeled in his early days haven’t disappeared, they’re being supplemented with stuff like perfectly cut jeans and a few splashes of color and pattern along the way. Leaning right into that vibe, Bridges is also the star of Gap’s latest holiday campaign, singing his own rendition of “Now That We’ve Found Love,” and dancing in everything from tailored topcoats to double denim.

We caught up with him to talk about music, style, and why Young Thug is his favorite artist in the game right now.

 

He’s focused on timeless style, not vintage.

I would say that my vibe has kind of evolved over time. When I first got into it, I was more concerned with staying more traditional to the era of ‘60s men’s fashion. And now, for me, it’s about putting together a timeless outfit. So I’ve been less focused on vintage, but more on finding stuff that’s classic cuts, whether it’s pants or jackets or shirts. That kind of vibe. In the past, I didn’t really dip into crazy patterns and colors. But yeah, that’s kind of the direction I’ve been going in recently.

He’s pushing the envelope on his music, too.

When I made my first album, it was reflective of what I was inspired by at that time. And of course, I’ve always been around modern music and I’ve always loved hip-hop and R&B, and so this album was about creating that vibe. But at the same time it was about me putting my stamp on modern production. It was a really fun experience to just create without any boundaries. I felt that making music within that whole ‘60s era felt a little restrictive moving forward, so that was the inspiration behind the change.

I think people’s perspective of me before was, “Oh, yeah. That’s the retro soul guy. He’s good at the bluesy Sam Cooke thing.” And it’s really expanded, on this project; I’ve expanded the way people view me. You gain a bigger fan base. I wanted to be in the same conversation with those guys [Bruno Mars and Usher], and I feel like it’s doing that.

He’s a longtime Gap fan.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved the commercials. I remember seeing the one where they incorporated [New Edition’s] “Cool It Now” and that was kind of my first time discovering that song. I’ve always loved the incorporation of dance and dope music. So it was, “Yep, I’m on board for this.”

I remember when I was bussing tables at this little spot called Rosa’s Café—a little Mexican spot—it was right by the mall. So on my break I’d always pop in Gap and see if they had anything new. They’re OGs of basic, but still stylish—and the whole denim thing. The stuff that they pulled for the shoot… it’s rad when brands have stuff that fits my aesthetic.

 

 

His style inspiration runs the gamut from old-school to modern.

I love Same Cooke’s music, but the cats that I was really drawn to stylistically were guys on the dance floor like Gene Kelly. Because before I started to pursue the whole music thing, I was in the dance world. A little bit of jazz dance, and modern dance, and Gene Kelly was definitely one of the guys I looked up to stylistically. There are so many people that I pull inspiration from, but I would say a modern inspiration is the Street Etiquette guys. I remember seeing a photo of them that somebody tagged me in, saying, “You look like one of these guys!” For me, it was really inspirational and empowering to see black men dressed that way. That’s what definitely made me embark on this path of vintage.

He’s a big Young Thug fan.

It’s definitely evident that my style continues to evolve. And currently I’ve been inspired by a lot of hip-hop and streetwear kind of stuff, and so I think that within the fashion and the music, it could reflect that, for sure, moving forward. I love trap music. Like, Young Thug is my favorite artist right now. I don’t think that people are going to hear me singing over trap beats for my next project, but I think it’d be cool to try to incorporate that in some way.

I think it’s dope to be able to pull inspiration from anything, any genre. And, yeah, I just soak up what’s around me, and I think, subconsciously, it makes its way into the music sometimes.