John Legend is looking forward to wearing shoes again
"I feel like it's a good time for men's fashion," John Legend says. "I think there's a lot of adventurous designers out there. We talk about this era being more gender fluid, but the '80s were like that, too. If you think about Prince and Rick James and David Bowie—all of this stuff isn't new, but it's kind of coming back."
Legend is offering up this bit of optimism and historical record-correction in March, just on the eve of lockdown. He's on the phone from L.A., I'm in New York, and we're both getting jazzed about the future of style for guys everywhere. "When you be yourself as a designer—be fluid and borrow pieces that you would have normally made maybe in womenswear, and imagine them on a man—there's just a lot more range that designers have now that they weren't accessing maybe 10 years ago," he says. "And so it's really interesting and fun to watch and to participate."
This vein of conversation flows from the Alexander McQueen suit that Legend wore to the Grammys this year, a traditional gray two-button—save for the dramatically pleated skirt extending from the quarters of the jacket on the righthand side. "I thought it was the perfect expression of what I like to do with fashion," he says, "which is lean toward things that are more classic, but also throw in little twists that distinguish me from the average guy."
That was before everything about how we approach the day-to-day went out the window. Now Legend, like the rest of us, is hunkered down at home. He and the family—Chrissy Teigen, his wife and the mayor of Twitter, plus daughter Luna and son Miles—are holding up okay. "The kids are having a blast," Legend writes in a recent email. "They don't really know what's going on in the world and they love the extra time they get to spend with Mommy and Daddy." But now, he's dressing for the world as it is, not as it was.
"Sometimes, I've played up the fact that I'm at home and worn a robe or some other stay-at-home clothes," he writes. "But other times, I've dressed up more fully to get into performance mode." That's the case when he's, say, filming episodes of The Voice. But when the camera is off, he's in T-shirts or the aforementioned robe. It's a split.
As it happens, a partnership that precedes the current state of affairs gave Legend the opportunity to curate a selection of his favorite offerings from a brand well versed in spanning both the leisurely and the not-so: Sperry. The Sperry x Legend Edit encompasses the musician's chosen styles from the iconic footwear label. There are boat shoes, of course, but also sneakers and loafers and even a pair of absolutely wild multicolor corduroy chukkas with a chunky sole.
"I love the whole resort vibe, the leisure vibe," Legend says of the partnership. Resorts may be out of the question for a while. Leisure may have taken on a different meaning of late. But there's something to be said for leaning on the kind of classics Sperry makes right now (even if they get a Legend-approved twist). And, let's not forget, boat shoes are actually pretty damn cool again.
"I won't take credit, but I do think things go in cycles, and sometimes it's nice to have these classic, timeless pieces that evoke a certain feeling," Legend says in our pre-lockdown chat. "Nostalgia is not always the best, because you kind of gloss over the bad parts of certain eras. But you can associate it with some really fun memories, and I feel like these shoes just feel like they belong in a certain moment that feels good."
Feeling good is something we can probably all use a little more of, both in the Before Times and now. And fashion can play a significant role in that pursuit. "As a performer," says Legend, "I feel more confident and excited when I elevate my clothes to meet the moment." Maybe slipping on some left-of-center loafers (or a salmon-colored suit) can be considered self-care. Either way, Legend is going to keep on twisting the classics. And when we can finally venture back out into the world again?
"I don't think this will significantly change the way I dress in the future," he writes in our post-quar catchup. But! "I'll be excited to get out of the house and safely go to a restaurant, perform in a crowded venue, etc. I'm looking forward to that, and I'm looking forward to wearing shoes."
Aren't we all.