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Taken from Vogue (Oct 23, 2018)

George Clinton on Jumping Out of Spaceships in 9-Inch Heels and That Time He Called Out Prince

by Brooke Bobb



Photo: Shaniqwa Jarvis


George Clinton is color-blind. This biographical detail is especially ironic for Clinton, the prolific maestro who got the world dancing to the Parliament Funkadelic, a psychedelic musical collective that's indistinguishable from rainbow dreads and Technicolor Afrofuturist garb. "I can feel bright and electric colors," the 77-year-old said over the phone.


Clinton is on the road for his last and final tour before he retires next year. Not being able to distinguish red from green has never fazed Clinton. In fact, things seem to be getting brighter for the bandleader, who tells me he's "getting back into the P-Funk style," bringing back his signature bold-patterned three-piece suits.


Clinton has been a style icon since the 1960s, but this month, his look has gone a little more mainstream: He joined forces with Adidas Originals and Sneakersnstuff to promote two "Atomic Dog"-inspired Yung-1 sneakers. The suede and leather kicks, one gray and the other bright purple, were released on October 13, and Clinton stars in the campaign.


"Working with Mr. Clinton seemed like an obvious choice for the Yung-1 campaign, being that Clinton's influence on young artists is as relevant and impactful as it's ever been," Sneakersnstuff founders Peter Jansson and Erik Fagerlind recently told the press. Looking at stars like Andre 3000, Future, Migos, and Childish Gambino, all of whom Clinton name-checked as his musical style icons, it's easy to see the connection between hip-hop fashion now and the Funkadelic era of the late '60s. For Clinton and his P-Funk band members, their stage presence was transmitted through wild, often feminine, prints (à la Gucci circa 2018), metallics, and tech fabrics. "I learned a long time ago that characters live longer than artists," Clinton said. "If you make up a character both on and off stage, you don't have to worry about being too old or too young or going out of style." That last bit is a sticking point for Clinton, promising to "keep it fresh" no matter the decade. "This is always on my mind," he said. "When I did the sneaker campaign, I knew I had to really re-up my style. I had to get new haberdashery or, as I call it, 'habertrashery.'" This often results in a fabulously weird headpiece-a sculptural crown made of sticks or a feathered fascinator-something only a character like Mr. Funk could pull off.


Currently, he likes "slick" trousers and his old "Atomic Dog" T-shirt. Clinton credits his fashionable eye with the styles cultivated inside the barber shop he owned in Plainfield, New Jersey, for a decade beginning in 1960. Clinton also takes a lot of his inspiration from the New York theater scene. "I know the theater well," he said. "I watched a lot of these plays, and when we first did the Mothership Connection album in 1975, I knew that I had to get the costuming from Larry LeGaspi, who was a famous costume designer for Broadway and bands like Kiss and Labelle." Many of those garments they worked on together included bedazzled tailcoats and furry or bright yellow top hats with star-shaped glasses. There was also a pair of studded 9-inch platform boots, which he wore on the poster for his P-Funk Earth Tour. "That was one of my favorite looks of all time," Clinton says. "It was hard to wear on stage but great to take pictures in. You could pose real good, but you couldn't do much jumping out of spaceships."


Today, Clinton is all about comfort: "At my age, it just has to feel good, you know what I'm sayin'?" Wearable fashion is, in fact, what sealed the deal for his sneaker collaboration. "When they heard about the partnership with Adidas and Sneakersnstuff, my grandkids thought I was the coolest grandfather. Then they saw them, and, well, it didn't take much for all of us to fall in love with them." He is very close with his grandchildren, several of whom are currently his traveling band members. Clinton may be from a different era (and planet, some might argue), but he keeps up with "what's cool" by observing the younger generation. "When Cardi B first started rapping, I knew she was it," Clinton said. "You can feel when somebody is not just a lucky hit record but a personality. Even the way she talks, when she talks, it sounds like a song, and she has a lot of hustle in her voice and in her style. She can play the game and be funny, and that's what it takes in this business, a lot of humor and also to be serious about your beat."


While he'll admire and praise a newbie's vibe, he also isn't afraid to offer his sound sartorial advice. In fact, it was Clinton who turned Prince on to a funkier wardrobe. "When he first started out, he was wearing what looked like waiter costumes," Clinton remembered. "I told him, 'Your whole thing is cool, except for the waiter suits. Looks like you work in a nightclub or restaurant.' From that day forward, Prince started having all of his garments custom-made. We used to crack on each other's clothes," he said with a laugh. But the wardrobe criticism cut both ways; Clinton recalled when Prince gave him a hard time about those infamous diaper performances. "He said, 'Man, you gotta get rid of that diaper.'"


Diaper included, there are a few precious early P-Funk items that Clinton has yet to give to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or the Smithsonian, which are where many of his old costumes are on display. Maybe he'll donate them one day, but, for now, going through his past looks keeps the funk flame alive, so to speak. "My family and band members find things in my closet, and they think I was pretty cool back then," he said. "But then I look at some of the stuff, and I think, How in the hell did I wear that? Then I remember, I was probably high."



 
 

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