On a sunny 70-something day in October, we pulled up to Leon Bridges’ house on an unassuming street in Fort Worth, Texas. A little girl was riding her bike alongside her mother as neighbors rolled out their trash cans—”it’s trash day,” Bridges later informs us. We’re greeted by his sister and friends because the rock star is not ready yet—his mother has yet to finish his twists.
Sweater: Kapital; shirt: Vintage; pants: Vintage; loafers: Vintage; necklace: Oatsss
The singer songwriter’s Texas home is lovely, but it’s not the grandeur we’ve been groomed to expect from someone who has experienced success of his caliber. That said, the more human aspects of the house strike a startling contrast against the treasures within. While polaroids of his family and friends occupy some surfaces, others boast framed photos of sold out tour headlines. Army figurines observe you from their perches atop shelves in front of a life-size portrait by Jay Wilkinson of all of Bridges’ icons—from Willie Nelson to Ginuwine to cartoon Hank Hill—that took four years to complete. And if the glint of something shiny catches your eye, it’s probably the Grammy resting regally on its post within a glass cabinet.
When buying his first house, Bridges opted for the traditional, in lieu of a flashier new build. He likes things with some history, a notion evident in both his music, his home, and his renowned sense of style. “When I was pursuing dance in college, there were certain pieces where we had to kind of embody a certain era. We did this ’70s piece and I pretty much had to go to the costume shop to pull that outfit. I ended up taking it home which was technically stealing and started to incorporate that into my style.”
The Grammy-winning artist often uses the term “persona,” in reference to earlier parts of his career, as something he had to “keep up” with. “I was initially doing the ’60s thing. Sometimes it just doesn’t translate to certain people.” Though the aesthetics of the ‘70s allowed him to better hit his style groove, striking a balance between vintage treasures and the gimmick of costumes is a battle constantly on his mind.
As an artist, style is yet another skill in your arsenal that can work to your advantage, if wielded correctly.”
When you buy a piece of vintage clothing, there’s often some tiny aspect that feels a bit dated despite an overall cool factor, whether that’s a shoulder pad or the rise of a pant. Bridges admires designers like Alessandro Michele of Gucci and Emily Adams Bode of Bode who are able to cherry-pick historical references and weld them into a sartorial concoction that orbits outside a fashion time period. It’s the same with music. The magic came when the Fort Worth native stopped adhering too literally to one period or another and infused his initial old-school approach with more modern elements, pairing a silk head scarf with jeans and loafers or a blue fringed jacket with tailored trousers à la his 2021 Met Gala appearance.
Within the realm of fashion specifically, Bridges works with stylist Gabriela Tena to achieve the aforementioned effect. Leading up to his scheduled performance at the renowned Red Rocks theater in Colorado, Bridges sent Tena an image of a creamy Western ensemble he discovered on Pinterest—yes, Bridges is a Pinner—that they were able to recreate for his performance. “She’s totally elevated my whole thing and we’re so parallel in what we love.”
This hands-on approach is something Bridges continues to explore. In a similar social-media-fueled instance, a collaboration with Wrangler bloomed from a Japanese denim collector’s Instagram post. The back and forth on a custom suit eventually led to talks of a two-season partnership between brand and artist set to launch throughout the Spring and Fall of ’22, in which Bridges continues to flex his sartorial muscles as both ambassador and even creative director. Despite its flaws, Instagram actually nurtures the fashion component of the musician’s trajectory. There, he can make sure his ensembles find the platform they deserve.
As an artist, style is yet another skill in your arsenal that can work to your advantage, if wielded correctly. For instance, Bridges specifically admires the way in which Post Malone has embraced the nudie suit, made it his own. “It’s like damn, I can’t go that route anymore. And he kills it.” That creation of a signature style is something the musician also strives for.
“Is there a Leon uniform?”
“Absolutely. These days, I would define my whole thing as kind of a minimalistic western ’70s kind of thing. My go-to is the Canadian Tuxedo vibe. That’s it.”
I guess my fashion has been the thing that’s connected me to certain people.”
Nestled in all of this talk of uniforms and aesthetic signatures is an element of control that life in the public eye strips from you. For someone who can admittedly veer towards the shy end of the spectrum (note the song title), fashion serves as a less intimidating medium—behind music—to better connect with his audience.
“You know, it’s another form of self expression. A way of…”
“Yeah, speaking without saying anything.”
If you read about Bridges’ history, you’ll find that fashion has been the onus behind many creative relationships, perhaps when words were lacking. At one of his early open-mic gigs in Fort Worth, Bridges’ Wranglers caught the eye of girlfriend of White Denim’s Austin Jenkins (a collector of vintage Wranglers himself). When now publicist Sarah Cunningham first met Bridges after falling in love with his music, she recounts, “You did not say a whole lot, but I loved your outfit,” a quote from a Texas Monthly profile that encapsulates a lot about the musician.
Bridges says situations like these two have happened countless times. “I guess my fashion has been the thing that’s connected me to certain people. I think it’s rad that Austin Jenkins, who’s just a guy from Weatherford who pretty much wears denim”—Bridges is more of a flared trousers guy himself—“liked what I was doing,” he muses. “I’m finally in a place where I’ve figured out what works for me.”
We talked about style through the lens of fashion but the trajectory of our conversation often mirrored the evolution of his music. A sense of style can be siloed to the confines of what you wear but that is a reductive take. Style is everywhere. In writing. In music. In fashion. And at its best, a distinct sense of style is more akin to a sense of self than anything else—the possession of a definite distinction between what you like and what you don’t.
Jacket: DL Cerney; tank: CMMN; jeans: Vintage; slides: Gucci
“I feel like the music is parallel with the fashion. Evolution for us all is inevitable. I just got to a point where I was kind of over creating music that was so derivative of an era. It was just hard for me to express myself within the confines of one thing.” Bridges also cites collaboration with other artists as a way to broaden his own perspective. His retrospective of joint ventures features artists like Terrace Martin, Khruangbin, and John Mayer, who all rubbed off on Bridges’ mind in some way. “I feel like I finally have found my voice. I mean it’s a constant journey you know but I finally developed a sound that I dig, even fashion wise.”
His most recent album, Gold Diggers Sound is a sonic representation of the mood he created while recording at the Gold Diggers studio and bar in Los Angeles—an idea that spawned off a Grammy party he hosted there in 2018. In a similar fashion to The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road’ or Jimi Hendrix’ ‘Electric Ladyland,’ the place inspired the music.
“It’s almost like this place of refuge in the midst of this gritty area. You’re coming back from whatever club and you’re pulling up to the hotel and it’s like…it’s spooky. Like watch your back. But that was one of the rad things about it and then the rooms—everything about it matched my style. [It had] this nostalgic, kind of warm feel to it.”
“The whole idea was to pretty much create this immersive experience,” he continues, “and like live, create, party in one place.” A testament to the power of aesthetics, the mood-setting design of the space allowed him to figuratively and literally flip the switch and channel his energy from daytime Leon to his nighttime counterpart. With the help of producer Ricky Reed, he infused his signature mild twang with a deep R&B influence. The result is a little grittier, a little sexier, a little more grown up.
Top and pants: Wales Bonner; loafers: Gucci; watch: Vintage Rouen
Bridges is drawn to places that trigger something within. Perhaps that’s the creative charge evident at Gold Diggers or a sense of safety, of belonging. In his Fort Worth home, it’s both. “Man, I think for me, if I were to move anywhere else, it’d be easy to kind of get lost in the sauce, for lack of better words,” he muses. “Fort Worth is where I grew up. My family’s here, my friends are here. Man it’s just something to come back to and be disconnected from the industry.”
There’s something rich about Texas, specifically, that blends with everything Bridges has going on. Whether you’re talking about the state’s leather boots or its history, vibes run deep. In Bridges’ Texas home you’ll find a settee upholstered in a deep dandelion-hued velvet, collections of old cigars, and lest we forget, the 1969 Pontiac GTO out back. That same richness is as evident in the friends and family that cycled in and out or the family that stood and chatted with us as it is in Bridges crooning, “Let yourself in / You got the key.”