Snoop Through the Ages
The Clothes Made the Dogg, and Now Make the Lion
Photos by Terry Richardson
Stylist: Annette Lamothe-Ramos
Photo Assistants: Rafael Rios and David Swanson
Special thanks to Milk Studios
The 2000s saw fashion and style surreptitiously removed from the overmoisturised hands of high-end designers and busybody critics. It was snatched from them in the dead of night by forward-thinking bloggers, affordable boutique brands and most importantly, rappers.
There is one man who, since the early 90s, has been a harbinger of the sort of unapologetically authentic style that is worn by anyone under 40 today. That man is Snoop Dogg – or rather, more specifically, was Snoop Dogg. Last year he renamed himself Snoop Lion following a trip to Jamaica where he recorded Reincarnated, a reggae and Rastafarianism-influenced album that features very little rapping. It will be released in mid-April alongside a corresponding documentary about his journey to find Jah.
One of the first rappers to truly shock the public based on his lifestyle alone, Snoop was thrust into the cultural consciousness in the early 90s with the one-two punch of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Doggystyle. These albums served as a blueprint for more than a decade of hardcore, explicit hip-hop made by artists who lived the lives they were rapping about – gangbangers and miscreants from the hood who had no problem dealing, shooting, fucking, smoking, drinking and all sorts of other activities that freaked out parents everywhere.
Snoop’s various looks followed suit, running along a larger continuum of style that has evolved into a glorious mishmash of skinny jeans, flat-billed baseball hats, oversize sweaters, preppy layering, limited-edition sneakers, flannels, vintage curiosities, weird screenprints and whatever else makes its wearer look good without pretense. There are no rules anymore, and thank fucking God that’s the case because everything was getting predictable and boring.
With this in mind, we thought it only proper to revisit Snoop’s looks from years past for this American-themed Fashion Issue and interview him about them. He was even gracious enough to allow us to pull the real artifacts from his wardrobe archive. Suffice it to say that watching him slip on his purple pimp coat for the first time in years and adjust it while he glared into the mirror would definitely be something I’d check off my bucket list if I thought keeping one of those things wasn’t utterly gross and depressing.
A busy man without much time to spare, Snoop is a supreme multitasker, so, appropriately, we conducted this interview while a manicurist touched up his French tips.
VICE: I was worried you might not be into this idea – a fashion shoot revolving around your looks from the past – because you have reinvented yourself as Snoop Lion. But you seemed totally at ease with fully immersing yourself in the concept; even your demeanor seemed to change according to each style.
Snoop Lion: I mean, they never left, you understand? I always incorporate a little bit of anything and everything. I always go back to yesterday, and it’s good to be able to find yourself completely in that moment, in that era, with that mind state and be able to capture that.
You’ve defined a lot of fashion just by being who you are, by wearing clothing you like and feel comfortable in. But we pulled some pretty specific clothing for the shoot, like the Crip suit. Where did that come from? Was it your idea?
The first time I saw that suit was on Coolio and a bunch of guys called the 40 Thevz – they were a rap group that were backing him up. He had the suit on and I liked it, so he turned me onto the guy who was making them – Perry White – and I started wearing them. Before you knew it, they became a part of my look because it was so symbolic of who I was and what I represented. It was the first statement of me being in the fashion world, to show that I did have style and understood what style was along with being gangster and West Coast.
Were you following any particular designers back then?
I was, like, more about what made me look fresh, you understand? If certain designers, like for example if Tommy Hilfiger had a tight shirt, I would get a Tommy Hilfiger shirt with some Capezio shoes or maybe some Girbaud pants or some Guess overalls. Whatever fashion I was on was whatever my money could afford, and at the same time whatever made me look good. It wasn’t dictated by a fashion designer or maker, it was more about the style, and certain makers had different styles that fit me that I would take and make mine.
But you have remained loyal to certain brands over the years. Specifically, Polo and Adidas come to mind. What is it about these companies that has kept you coming back for more over the years?
They stay true to what they do, and they appeal to me because they won’t change. They make it the way that they make it; they stick to the script, and that’s who I am. I like to wear clothes and things that represent the same things that I represent, and those two brands, Polo and Adidas, stay true to the streets. They stay true to their look, and they make gear that fits a real player.
People have been wearing football jerseys forever, but I think you may have been the first rapper, and really the first musician or notable person, to consistently wear hockey jerseys in a fashionable way. Where’d this look come from? Are you a big NHL fan?
You know what it was? I had a stylist at the time called Toi Crawford. She brought the hockey jerseys because I liked the African-American hoodies people were wearing back then – the ones from black colleges. Then she said, “You should try this hockey jersey.” It had an Indian on it or something. And another had, like, a leaf, a chronic leaf. I liked that one. Then there was the black-and-yellow one for the Pittsburgh Penguins. There were so many things about them that were fly to me. I liked the way they looked, and they were big, and I was like, “Ain’t nobody wearing these. This is me, this is my look.” It was just something that felt good to me.
Around the same time, you were wearing a lot of flannels, and now everyone wears them all the time. I don’t think that was the case in the early and mid-90s. For instance, Terry Richardson and flannels are like peanut butter and jelly at this point. Do you feel partially responsible for that trend?
We called them Pendletons. They made it like it was a fashion statement, but that was the only thing we could afford back then in the West. We would go down to the surfer’s store and get like ten, maybe 15 of them at a nice little price, you understand? It was warm and representative of who we were and what we craved. It was like our dress code.
They were utilitarian and functional while also fashionable, which is why I think people were so surprised when you started dressing like a pimp. But again, it was what you were living at the time so people shouldn’t have been so shocked. In contrast to your previous style, it was very flamboyant.
It was flamboyant and outlandish. One thing about that look is that it represented you, your girls, the car that you drove, and this is in the pimp world. It represented the pimp. If his colour scheme was green and yellow, he had on green and yellow, his car was green and yellow, his apartment was green and yellow, the girls wore green and yellow, and everything was about that particular colour scheme. They matched all the way from the top to the bottom. It was about flair, glamour, glitz and all of that comes out of the era I grew up in. I was infatuated after seeing it from afar. Most of my uncles dibbled and dabbled in pimping, and my wife’s father was one of the biggest pimps around. It was fascinating for me to see that look and say that I was in that world and to wear that fashion for the eyes of the world. It was a beautiful feeling because I know what that fashion means; it’s a real fashion statement. Even when I’m getting my nails done, that’s real player. The average guy can’t see himself getting a French-tip manicure, but I’m not the average guy.
How long have you been getting French tips?
It’s about being spooned and groomed, dipped and whipped, suited and booted, gooted and looted, scuttered and buttered.
Where did you get the purple fur coat that you were wearing in the shoot? Was it custom-made? I’ve never seen anything like it.
[laughs] That’s out of the pimp files. I’ve got so many different animal furs: beavers, chinchillas, lambs, horses…
Yeah, I got horses, too. I got everything, man. Everything. You understand? When I was in the pimp world, I’d be shopping all over the world and we would always try to find things nobody had, because when you go to a player’s ball you get some of the flyest pimps in the world, and they show up with some of the grandest outfits you can imagine. So you try to upstage. One year I remember I had a big black-and-gold sombrero with diamonds and rhinestones on it, and I had it tied around my head. All my girls dressed like they were Mexican girls, and it was just awesome. When I was there I was the real el jefe.
So did you have stylists and other people sourcing all of this clothing? How did you find these off-the-wall items?
I had different stylers, and I’d seen different things. I liked that sombrero because I’d seen a lot of the players wear the nice hats. But no one wore one like that. I’d seen Bishop Don “Magic” Juan wear one before, and his was like Louis Vuitton. That’s a fly style right there: When you’ve got a nice suit on and you wearing that sombrero, you gotta understand me, that’s some real fashion.
I take it that you were buying more jewelry around that time than you do now?
Yeah. I still have some of that, but most of them are a thing of the past. They went with the times.
Your next evolution in style was, for lack of a better term, your “business look”. It was around this time that you were appointed creative chairman of EMI’s Priority Records. I imagine this was the impetus for the new duds?
It was about transforming myself from an artist to a boss, and then trying to be more effective on the business side and not just creating but understanding that, creatively, I am the boss because I’m creating everything people want to buy and see – so why not be in control? It’s the fact of me having to fire people and having more control over what I do and say. I had to have a look to match that. You have to look the part to play the part. No one would take me seriously if I came in with a jogging suit on. They would think I was going to jog. So I was going to put a business suit on so they would know I was going to do business. One thing about the business that I do is it’s about fun. Once we get past the fun, it becomes a great business venture because if it’s fun we’re going to love doing it, we’re going to do it all the time.
And that brings us up to your recent trip to Jamaica and new reggae-influenced album, which has resulted in yet another look for you, but it seems that this one is more spiritual in nature. I imagine embracing Rastafarianism has changed the way you shop. Where are you getting your clothes these days, specifically the white linen smock-type suits you’ve been sporting?
I got a store that I shop in, you understand me? Rastafari, sugah! I don’t want to give that location out because I don’t want to have too many people looking like me. You know, before I know it I’ll see you doing the interview looking just like me. [laughs]
No, I don’t think that would be possible. I couldn’t pull it off. But it is an enviable look: You’ve got comfort, class and a stately presence all rolled into one.
That’s what we seek; we seek to be comfortable and relaxed but also to be sharper, because at the same time we like to look good, we want to look good. One thing about the West is that we always try to look good. We try to outdo our friends to get a girl. The one thing about the ladies out here is that they like a man to be dressed up sharp and be serious about what he do. It gave me some insight on fashion at an early age, when we got to where we started to want to have girlfriends and be impressive – trying to get a job, to do things in the world, to try to bring yourself to another level, to step up.
Your hairstyle has drastically changed throughout your career alongside your various looks. I feel that hair is so make-it-or-break-it – so many public figures have tried to change their hairdos, and a lot of the time it ends up being a totally embarrassing disaster. But you’ve never had a misstep in that regard. What does the way a man styles his hair say about him?
It’s your strip. That’s what it’s all about. Most definitely, that’s been my style since day one; my hair has always been my main focus. I always make sure it looks right, and that I’ve got a new style, something that fits me that’s different. Even when I wore it in pigtails, or permed my hair like Shirley Temple, whatever it was, it was always something that was on the edge. It was like, “Wow, it looks nice.” But it was always different, so even now that I’m locking up, this is me being me. My hair has always told the story, and this is my journey at the moment.
Reincarnated is playing in select theaters beginning March 22, with a DVD release to follow on April 16. The album will be released in April.
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