Remember when Pharrell Williams turned up at the 2014 Grammys wearing what one could only describe as a monumental hat?
The “Happy” singer and music producer was there to collect a handful of awards, but when he stepped onto the red carpet in undone Timberland boots, jeans, a red leather Adidas track jacket and a huge brown topper, it was the headgear that really stole the show. Close your eyes, chances are you can still picture it. Or variations of it: Pharrell made it his thing for the rest of that year.
That night, the hat defied the formal dress code of the event, standing out (and tall) in the midst of gowns and tuxedos. It proved to be the best, worst and most talked about fashion moment all at once.
Pharrell Williams accepts the Record of the Year award for ‘Get Lucky’ onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Within minutes of Pharrell’s first appearance, the handle @Pharrellhat surfaced on Twitter, amassing more than 16,000 followers overnight. The account tweeted both about and as the hat personified.
Fast food sandwich chain Arby’s humorously asked the musician for their hat back, on the basis it looked like their logo (it 100% did). By the next morning, headlines the world over were dedicated to the impossible-to-ignore accessory — thereon referred to as The Hat — revealing derision, confusion as to why he’d want to wear something so big (“ugly” was also often used), and, of course, praise for his bravado. Pharrell himself commented on it, tweeting that he was “def more fashionable than Madonna’s grill,” referring to the singer’s bizarre mouthwear for the ceremony.
More The Hat-related craze followed. Everyone, it seemed, was suddenly obsessed by the giant fedora-meets-blown-up bowler. Pharrell fans and the Twitterati quickly identified it as the Buffalo Hat from Vivienne Westwood and the late Malcolm McLaren’s Autumn/Winter 1983 show “Nostalgia of Mud.” Then, the Internet found a video for “Buffalo Gals,” a single McLaren had released in 1982 with hip hop crew The World’s Famous Supreme Team, which featured brown, black and grey versions of The Hat. Just like that, the accessory’s iconic status got a whole lot deeper: Pharrell hadn’t simply decided to wear silly headgear. He had paid homage to a chapter of fashion history. The Hat had real meaning.
Recording artists Pharrell Williams and Brad Paisley perform onstage during “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy salute to the Beatles” at the Los Angeles Convention Center on January 27, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for NARAS
It didn’t stop at the Grammys. Over the course of 2014, Pharrell wore The Hat, in different colors and iterations, at a slew of major events and public outings, including the BRIT Awards in London, the Academy Awards and Coachella. He sold the original brown version just two months after the Grammys to none other than Arby’s for $44,100 on eBay.
For each appearance, Pharrell styled the rest of his outfit to go with The Hat and, we like to think, further elevate it. His uniform consisted mainly of jeans, varsity jackets and boots. The Hat did all the talking — and remained the main conversation piece till the musician eventually retired the look.
Pharrell Williams (C) performs onstage during “A very Grammy Christmas,” at the Shrine Auditorium on November 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Today, The Hat might just be memory — its Twitter account hasn’t updated since 2017 — but its significance lingers. Love it or loathe it, the accessory helped to throw red carpet conventions out of the window, particularly for men.
It arguably helped pave the way for more male celebrities to have fun with their red carpet outfits. For example, Billy Porter’s tuxedo dress at this year’s Oscars, or Timothée Chamalet’s Louis Vuitton bedazzled harness at the Golden Globes. Call it The Mad Hatter effect.