Leon Bridges has a voice you can't forget, and a look you want to remember.
What this means, really, is that his silky, soulful tunes are quick to become earworms, melding the '60s crooning of Sam Cooke with the Texan swagger of Willie Nelson. But his style is something that's altogether his own, a simple cocktail in which the recipe is, in his own words, equal parts retrofuturism, minimalism and unabashed luxury — with a splash of that devil-may-care Southwestern attitude tossed in for good measure.
Indeed, Bridges grew up in Texas, and in Fort Worth, specifically, a mid-sized metropolis built on its Frontier Western heritage and a strong creative community. Bridges is a product of both qualities: He's just as well acquainted with wide-brimmed Texan flair as he is with the arts, having trained in dance and picking up singing and guitar as a hobby along the way.
Eventually, Bridges began playing at open mics and small shows around town, and in 2014, signed a blue-chip recording contract with Columbia Records. "Coming Home," his debut album, came out a year later, earning him a nomination for Best R&B Album at the 2016 Grammy Awards. The Grammy bug bit again the following year, with a Best Music Video nomination for "River," and two-fold again in 2019, this time winning the Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand."
By 2019, Bridges was dazzling the music industry with every step, but the fashion biz was just starting to catch on. At that year's Grammys, Bridges arrived on the red carpet wearing a mustard-colored corduroy suit — courtesy of Bode — adorned with delicate, sentimental illustrations referencing the Lone Star State.
"Shout-out to my homie Mac [Huelster, Bridges' longtime wardrobe stylist] who's styled me for a lot of events in the past," Bridges says over the phone from Fort Worth. "He basically facilitated that whole thing, and I actually discovered Bode through him. He brought the corduroy suit to my attention, and initially, I was a little reluctant to wear it because I felt it was a little bit too flashy. I had an idea for a more traditional black tux. But ultimately, I was like, 'Fuck it, let me try this.' And it ended up being sort of a hit."
Now, don't get him wrong: Bridges still loves Bode. But with the release of his third album, "Gold-Diggers Sound," due out on Friday, Bridges is set to enter a whole new wardrobe era, slick with vibey '70s staples and updated Texan attitude. Ahead, Bridges teases what's next and shares his formula for what he considers to be a successful thrifting trip.
"I think I've always been innately creative. Even as a kid, I wanted to dress differently than what was popular. I just didn't have the financial means to do that, so it wasn't until I got older, until I started going to college, that I started getting into fashion. That came through dance. Some of the dance and choreography pieces I did, we had to dress a certain era. And there was this one that was '70s-themed, and the costumes ultimately became the style I started to adorn.
"Initially, I was doing more of a traditional '50s and '60s thing. Then I transitioned into '40s style, but ultimately, I felt like it just wasn't translating as fashionable. I wanted to find a way to still keep that silhouette, but do something that had a more modern, timeless feel. My style has definitely evolved over the years, and currently, I'd define it as minimalistic-retrofuturistic-luxe.
"During the pandemic, everything was minimized to online shopping, and it's definitely tricky because you might get some pieces that may not fit like you want them to. I definitely mix it up. Two of my favorite modern brands, currently, are Gucci and Bode. I like getting those pieces, but also incorporating more vintage.
"I haven't really gotten to travel to too many places outside of LA recently, so most of my vintage hunting has been in Fort Worth and in LA. And in Fort Worth, there's a huge shortage of vintage shops, but there's a good one called Doc's Records, which is this dual vinyl and vintage spot.
"Fort Worth vintage is reflective of Western, Texan culture. So you'll find a lot of vintage cowboy boots and belt buckles and old cowboy hats; LA has that, as well, but it's different. But Fort Worth's vintage is more so focused on the '70s era, which is my wheelhouse.
"I had this mustard-yellow vintage Notre Dame sweatshirt, and I ended up giving it to one of my friends. I regret that I did that because now I want it back. I mean at this point, when I owned it, I was maybe 10 pounds lighter, so it probably wouldn't even fit me. I'm just going to let him have that one. [Laughs]
"I can be an impulse shopper from time to time, it depends on what it is. This has nothing to do with wardrobe, but I recently did an impulse buy on a '69 Pontiac GTO. I've always wanted a classic car and I've always loved the muscle-car silhouette, so I was like, 'Okay, fuck it. Let me just go ahead and do it.'
"But normally, when I vintage shop, I know exactly what I want. And I think for me, I'm always looking for a good pair of pants. They've got to be flared — whether it's denim or some slacks, that's the first priority for me. And then I always look for collared shirts, embroidered collared shirts. And a dope jacket is always on my radar.
"Damn, I've bought so much shit recently. The last thing was this '70s straw Stetson hat. It's perfect for summer, and it has a really dope, feather-ish band that wraps around it.
"I love that fashion is another form of artistic expression, and with clothes, you can speak without speaking. I'm one who likes to stand out in a room, and I like to stand out within the music landscape, too. My style is constantly evolving, but I'm going to stick with this for now, this whole soulful, Western, Texan funk. It's an awesome juxtaposition to the music. I want people to, essentially, be able to smell my cologne in a metaphorical sense. When you see me, I want you to totally identify my style."
This interview has been edited for clarity.