Leon Bridges owes it all to Texas. He'll be the first to tell you. It's where he was born, where he played his first shows, where he was "discovered" and now, three albums later, where he draws most of his influence, both musically and stylistically.
"As an artist," he says, "my identity is really wrapped up in Texas." And he's always stayed true to it. He still calls Fort Worth, Texas, where he was born, home, and he returns to it from headlining tours that take him around the world. When away, he's setting stages on fire in faraway places like Oslo and Edinburgh wearing exactly what he would back home: cowboy hats and boots, bootcut pants and a pointed collar shirt. If they're jeans, not trousers, they're probably Wrangler, he adds. After all, they were his point of entry into the music industry. Now, nearly a decade later, they're a keen collaborator.
"Everyone in Texas wears Wrangler. [And] I was actually wearing high-waisted Wrangler jeans at a bar in Fort Worth when my now longtime collaborator Austin Jenkins (producer, guitarist in White Denim) [first] approached me," he says. "He wore Wrangler too and we just started talking, and he offered to see me perform and after that we went into the studio together. That was three albums and a Grammy Award ago."
Their 29-piece collaborative collection recalls Bridges' roots: wearing Wranglers while touring around Texas. But there are elevated pieces, too, that nod to Bridges' persona now, which is largely the same but with a new, larger-than-life energy.
"I feel very grateful," he says of the collab. This is obviously a paid partnership, but Bridges does have a connection to the North Carolina brand. "Growing up, we didn’t have lots of extra funds and I had to comb through thrift stores and save in order to create my looks and make my personal style come to life."
The bulk of the collection is standard fare Wrangler stuff, albeit with an air of Western flair and even a little glam. Patches and printed liners covered in a pattern rendered from his initials make appearances on some pieces. A few pants, for example, have his signature chain-stitched into their waistband. Most of the standout pieces, however, barely make it known he was involved. Instead, they're more like the vintage pieces he pulled together in his earlier days — like something he'd truly wear.
That's because he gave them "some of that Texas swag," he says. It's all "a nod to all the great R&B artists who came before me," he adds. "It’s a fashionable genre and all the greats always looked so natural and put together – I wanted to honor that."