Black leather adds a note of punk insolence to the Grammys red carpet


It’s a lesson that’s been taught by Marlon Brando, by John Travolta, by Michael Jackson and more: Want to convey a chip on your shoulder? Wear a black leather jacket.

Black leather unmistakably communicates noncooperation with a formal or clean-cut dress code; it telegraphs insouciance, skepticism, jadedness. If you wore a black leather jacket to a wedding, one might assume you weren’t on board with the wedding. If you wore one to an awards show, one might get the same idea.

This year, precisely such a sentiment toward the Grammys was running high. Maybe — probably — because this year’s 65th annual Grammys offered a reprise of the infamous 2017 Adele v. Beyoncé Album of the Year showdown.

Back then, many called the Recording Academy’s decision to give the Grammy to Adele emblematic of the Grammys’ seeming reluctance to award music made by artists of color. Even Adele insisted she had won it unfairly. And ahead of Sunday’s awards, many anticipated another Adele win over an arguably deserving Beyoncé album — in other words, yet another confirmation of the Grammys’ seeming preference for White musicians.

So it’s notable that a number of attendees, especially nominees of color, chose to incorporate or invoke the rebellious, dissident energy of black leather.

Best New Artist nominees Omar Apollo and Anitta both spotlighted the material in their Grammy ensembles.

Apollo, 25, a child of Mexican immigrants who sings in both English and Spanish, arrived on the red carpet in baggy light-wash jeans and a double-breasted black leather jacket over an unbuttoned blue and white striped oxford and white tee. Anitta, a 29-year-old Brazilian singer and songwriter, wore a strapless 2003 Atelier Versace gown once worn by Nicole Kidman, made of black leather and embellished with ruffles and fishnet cutouts. Both emphasized their heritage in red-carpet interviews, with Anitta telling Laverne Cox that she was the first Brazilian artist to be nominated in a major Grammy category in a half-century.

Cox, meanwhile, conducted her interviews while wearing a black strapless leather gown of her own, made of what looked like crocodile leather and featuring gladiatorial golden appliqués across the bodice.

Doja Cat, the 27-year-old singer and rapper nominated in five categories, arrived on the red carpet in a figure-hugging, single-shoulder vinyl Versace gown that evoked black patent leather. Jack Harlow, the 24-year-old rapper nominated in three categories, wore black leather gloves with his oatmeal-colored, double-breasted suit. Pharrell Williams wore a black leather Human Made baseball cap; his wife, Helen Lasichanh, wore a studded black leather tracksuit identical to the red one Williams sported.

To be sure, the Grammys, lately lacking the formality of the Academy Awards or even the Emmys, have become a tricky occasion for which to dress. While some attendees to this year’s event dressed like they were going to the Oscars (Anitta, Adele, Steve Lacy), others were outfitted more appropriately for events like the Met Gala (Cardi B, Lizzo), the MTV VMAs (Bebe Rexha, Miguel) or a tea party at the Mad Hatter’s (Shania Twain).

Still, the infusion of black leather did what it always does: It reminded us what this particular material can always be counted on to suggest — insolence, light contempt, more than a little bit of attitude. It seemed to make the disgruntled feelings of many at-home viewers visible at the event. If you were looking for it, it seemed as though the public mood toward the Grammys suddenly had a visible presence at the Grammys.

Rock stars wearing black leather may not be a novel concept. But on Sunday night, the sight felt a little more meaningful.

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