Pharrell Williams’ 2014 Grammys hat is a big deal. Really.
Unlike Anchorman’s super-braggart Ron “Kind of A Big Deal” Burgundy, Williams’ iconic “Happy Hat” has true celebrity status that’s generated tremendous buzz on social media, starred in digital memes, and even sparked its own Twitter account with over 20,000 followers. What about this hat gives it so much social currency?
1. Pharrell Williams has the kind of star power that would make any accessory cool
Pharrell earned his fame with years of producing credits in the background working with stars like Gwen Stefani, Madonna, and Snoop Dogg. He’s worked with other musicians for years in the background and continues to collaborate on projects that win recognition for their popular appeal. For example, Pharrell Williams won a shiny collection of Grammys January 26, 2014 on the night his hat made waves on national TV. His awards included “Record Of The Year” and “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” for his collaboration with Daft Punk. He also took home “Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical” for his work with Robin Thicke on the song “Blurred Lines.” Then, a few months later in March, Pharrell’s Oscar-nominated song “Happy” (featured in the film, Despicable Me 2), nearly won its own cinematic recognition, only to be overpowered by the Disney blockbuster mega-hit “Let it Go” by Disney’s Frozen. In June, he got his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in September, he and Gwen Stefani will join the cast of NBC’s The Voice.
2. He’s humble yet stylish (hence the hats)
Pharrell Williams’ impressive talent, combined with a kind of honest, sweet-hearted charm has won fans worldwide, especially among women. Listen to him talk candidly about his Grammys win and he’s truly surprised — even startled — and thankful that he won so many awards; he credits his fans and all “the people voting, requesting… listening, sharing… investing” in the music. In a world of hugely competitive music rivalries and public hip hop battles, Pharrell’s understated humility makes him stand out. As he told W Magazine,
Suddenly, all in one night, everything clicked: The global soundtrack he had been creating for 2013 was finally appreciated in its entirety, and the hat became a symbol of his uniqueness. “I was genuinely shocked by Grammy night,” Williams said. “I had been happy running this career marathon. I didn’t expect any medals. I was particularly amazed when I went backstage after winning the first Grammy and one of my managers told me that my hat now had its own Twitter account. During the show, a fan started tweeting as my hat.”
Williams is perfectly comfortable exploring the convergence of music, fashion, and pop culture. He’s partnered up with Adidas, designed accessories for Marc Jacobs, appeared in an ad for Louis Vitton, and has developed a signature style of bold colors and unusual textures (bright Chanel beads or strands of pearls), all usually set off with a memorable cap. He wears a hat most of the time in public appearances and music videos. In fact, Pharrell is such a headwear aficionado, he was named “Hat Person of the Year: 2014” by The Headwear Association. In case you were wondering, Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake tied for second, according to THA.
3. The hat itself has history at the crossroads of fashion and music
The hat is an homage to the early days of hip-hop culture of the 1980s. Malcolm McLaren, former Sex Pistols manager and originator of the band’s name, was also a London boutique owner and designer who created the hat for Vivenne Westwood‘s 1982-1983 Fall-Winter 1982-1983 collection called “Buffalo Girls (Nostalgia of Mud).” Pharrell bought his hat in London years before the 2014 Grammy appearance, but the hat that makes so many people happy first appeared in a 1982 music video hit “Buffalo Girls” by The World’s Famous Supreme Team.
Said Williams to The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s a Vivienne Westwood Buffalo hat from when she was with Malcolm McLaren. It’s not vintage—I would’ve been really stylin’ if I had one from the ’80s.”
4. Pharrell+Happy Hat raised $44,100 for charity
When fans starting comparing Pharrell’s hat to the Arby’s logo, the company jumped on the PR opportunity to purchase the hat on an eBay auction. Pharrell Williams founded From One Hand To AnOTHER in 2008 to “modernize the community center concept by empowering kids to learn through new technologies, arts, and media.”
Arby’s won the auction in March the night of the 2014 Oscar awards with a bid of $44,100, tweeting:
— Arby’s (@Arbys) March 3, 2014
We’re excited to be sharing our version of the “Happy Hat” with the world soon because we know it will connect with people. As Williams said on radio:
“I was just wearing a hat. Some people like it and some people are like ‘what is that?’ At the end of the day I feel good if I’m expressing myself.”