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Pharrell’s Grammys hat includes Buffalo tie - INTERVIEW

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

In terms of degrees of separation, the city of Buffalo can be connected to practically anything.

Take the stylish hat that hip-hop phenom Pharrell donned at the Grammy Awards, for example.

Twitter almost broke over the avalanche of fashion analysis and humor that surrounded Pharrell Williams’ wardrobe choice, mostly because of its shock value but also because few could actually describe it. (Obviously, the hat already has a tries-too-hard-to-be-funny Twitter account with 19,000 followers).

Here’s an interview that the artist did with Power 106 out of Los Angeles:

According to the above interview with Pharrell, the hip-hop artist—who collected four Grammys this year—explained that the hat was a purchase he made five years ago from Vivienne Westwood in London.

If you really want to back Pharrell’s trend, you can order a Mountain Hat or Buffalo Hat for a cool $180. While Pharrell’s choice was camel in color, you could choose bordeaux or fuschia pink and out-style the trend-setter. Or something.

But, for the purpose of this post, it’s the title of Buffalo Hat that intrigues us. You can boldly criticize that Buffalo.com will do anything to over-emphasize a distant local connection to a buzzy national topic, but this story actually has notable roots.

To begin, Pharrell’s interest in the hat was spawned by the late Malcolm McLaren’s video, “Buffalo Gals,” released as a single in 1982.

Watch it below and keep your eyes peeled for the Buffalo Hat, which bobs about frequently.


While McLaren’s musical scratch technique was novel for his time period, his lyrics connected with Buffalo’s legacy as a port-based city—the Erie Canal, shockingly, attracted prostitutes and resulted in travelers’ one-night stands for payment (hey, that’s the classiest way I could word it).

Anyhow, that’s the origin of the notorious “Buffalo gal” label you may have heard discussed by a local history aficionado.

Here’s a more detailed take from Forgotten Buffalo tour guide Eddy Dobosiewicz, who also runs Buffalo’s vibrant Dyngus Day festivities [see photos from 2013’s party]:

“Back in the mid-1800s, Buffalo’s canal district—a.k.a. Dante’s Place or the infected district—was home to more taverns, vaudevillian theaters and brothels than probably any place in that world at that time. In fact, that is where the minstrel show originated and became a national phenomenon. It was all because of the Erie Canal.

The sailors would come into town and, as their packet boats were being loaded or unloaded, they would pass the time drinking and carousing with the “Buffalo Gals” or the “ladies of the evening.” Listen to the lyrics and it will be perfectly clear. Come to think of it maybe that’s how we began our reputation as the ‘City of Good Neighbors.’”

How did the term find roots in music? Many websites point to the work of known minstrel John Hodges, who wrote the song called “Lubly Fan” in 1844, but we’ll take Dobosiewicz’s word for the phrase’s origin.

We’ll leave you with a few cool photos that stemmed from Pharrell’s accessory choice:

P. Diddy approved:

Pharrell re-tweeted this illustration by Mina Kwon (@MINAKWON):

(Header image is courtesy of Pharrell’s Facebook page, while first interior photo is via Vivienne Westwood’s website. The P. Diddy photo is from Pharrell’s Twitter account, while Pharrell retweeted Kwon’s image from his account as well).

TAGGED: buffalo gals, eddy dobosiewicz, erie canal, fashion, forgotten buffalo, grammy awards, pharrell, videos

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