I was sent this story I wrote in 1999 for a European Magazine. It was a P Funk Fashion Piece. hippie wedding dresses
Shady Grady Thomas
P-FUNK FASHION STATEMENT
1989 to 1999
BY GINA HALL
There are certain first sights that make strong impressions on us. So
much so that they remain vivid visions in our mind for a lifetime. These
images can range from things as grand as one of the seven wonders of the
world, to something as personal as the first look into the eyes of your
child. That would leave a lot of spectacles in-between. Somewhere in
there is where seeing George Clinton and the P Funk Allstars for the
first time fits in for me.
I am not easily impressed. In fact, I would categorize myself as
somewhat jaded. I live in the Castro district of San Francisco, Ca.
where Drag Queens register people to vote on street corners. Faux Nuns
with white face, miniskirt habits, eyelashes that extend two inches or
more and painted red lips whiz by you on rollerblades. Punks, Hippies,
Goth’s, Rockers, HipHop kids, business people and those with leather
lifestyles all shop at the same supermarket. I have neighbors who will
wear a poncho and a sombrero when they eat a burrito or a Kimono when
sushi is served. For a time anything other than fuchsia, electric blue
or lime green looked unnatural as hair color. Living with this constant
barrage of free expression can tend to make one immune to the pageantry
of a concert or stage show. This was absolutely not the case the first
time I saw the band of Funk Musicians whom I now call my friends.
In 1989 I had the opportunity to interview George Clinton for the first
time. He was an eyeful with his multi-colored hair and his brilliant
smile. Still, not enough to be on the same level as my first glimpse of
the Grand Canyon. A mutual friend was present on that assignment. We
interviewed, listened to tapes, looked at George’s sketch books and
talked for about four hours. I was unable to attend the show that night.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t miss the next gig.
It was about a year later when the opportunity presented itself. I
arrived at a nightclub called Bimbo’s to see George Clinton and the
P-Funk Allstars for the first time.
I walked into the club lobby and I felt rather than heard some heavy
bass coming from the stage. I asked the guy at the door if I had missed
a lot, he response was “You will probably get another two”. “Another two
what”?, I asked. he replied “Two More Hours of Funk”. I thought, Cool,
finally a band that you don’t have to worry about it if you are fifteen,
twenty, sixty minutes late. This alone was enough to keep me as a
I heard Belita Woods singing Sentimental Journey as I walked to the
stage and I saw the band in person for the first time. I was transfixed
with excitement, but curiosity got the best of me. I snapped out of it
and began to snap some pictures.
I had to get closer. When I did, George noticed me and gave me a wave.
All of this, and he had a good memory. I was so tickled that I started
to laugh out loud.
There was George Clinton, featuring Technicolor hair and wearing a long
garment that made him look like a Sorcerer dressed for casual spell
The funkiest thing about dressing funky is that it's an independent
action, you don't have to be in uniform with the rest of the crowd. When
the Parliaments started out wearing suits and being cool, with conks in
their hair, they were slick and in line with each other as well as other
popular r & b groups of that day. But, when the hip scene and acid rock
hit, they saw that the rock groups didn't have to go through all that
preparation to be cool, in fact it was even cooler not to overdress like
Danny Depressed. “We took our suits and put them in garbage, and took
what was in the garbage and put it on. Got me a sheet," says George
Garry Shider was on his right wearing his diaper, a knee length tiger
skin jacket and a leather cap. Mudbone Cooper was in his Cowboy Dread
gear and Peanut was clad in head to toe black leather. .. Andre Foxxe
came on stage in a very lovely wedding dress, veil and combat boots.
Cherokee in a loin cloth and a large feather headdress. Belita and Grady
looked like Persian royalty. Sir Nose was there with his wide brimmed
fur hat and four inch nose
Musicians kept coming and going and switching instruments. I needed a
tour guide. I really got thrown off the track when a white guy in a Tee
Shirt and Jeans walked on stage and picked up the mic and then actually
began to Rap!! he was Louie Kabbabbie. The rest of the band were all in
clothes less dramatic than a wedding dress but nonetheless, quite an
“Before I got in the band, I was playing around the southern Maryland
area with a couple of local bands. We sometimes made no more than a
dollar a night, playing in clubs that had dirt floors and no roof! So I
was a "small time country boy on the slide trombone" when I first had
any contact with da Mob. It was an enlightening experience for a 19 year
old college dropout, to say the least.
Upon arriving at the Ramada in Baltimore, I spotted this weird, wiry
fellow walking around the hallway with loud-colored, horizontal-striped,
wool leg warmers tucked inside his knee-high boots. He sensed that I was
looking for the room where the auditions were being held, introduced
himself as the road manager (one of many that they had at the time), and
pointed me in the right direction.
Upon entering the room, it was like walking into a giant crayola box.
Patched-to-be-damned jeans, lime-green platform shoes (I mean LIME
green!), giant sunglasses (at night even), leather in every color
imaginable, fried, pimp-ass hairdos (for those who didn't have bright
rollers in their hair), "hoe-red" nail polish on long pinky nails (which
I learned later doubled as a "spoon"), but most importantly, a gang of
funk!!! It was so thick that you
couldn't cut it with a chainsaw...
Not only was it great to be in the funkiest band in existence, but you
get to wear anything you want! Couldn't wait to show the fellas back
Just when I started to adjust to the audio and visual feast before me
Bootsy Collins took the stage. He was clad in knee high, 3 inch platform
white boots, his trademark star shaped sun glasses and a jacket with the
American flag and peace signs all over it. There is no missing Bootsy on
“I go for the ‘Where no man has gone before” vibe. Reaching for new and
different things trying to be as original as always. I don’t know what
the reason is. I’m just glad that I kind of got that space. That’s kind
of what I have always been reaching for. The space that I could just do
what I wanted to do. It’s a whole other ball game and I’m glad that I
fit into that space, where whatever it is you want to do and you are
doing it as long as you are happy doing it., then you know, what the
heck. A lot of kids get a complex about that kind of stuff. They tried
to give me a complex when I went to school. They would laugh at me and
the stuff I was wearing but after a while I started laughing at it
myself. It was kind of funny. It wasn’t like stuff they were advertising
and the hip stuff was going on in the day. It wasn’t like that stuff
because I couldn’t afford it, so I had to wear whatever I could get. I
used to wrap a whole lot of different stuff around me. When I was
growing up, I didn't have a lot, so when I got the chance to style, I
Parliament/Funkadelic was the beginning of the no limit dress code and
it has emerged into a modern day presentation. Just as the music has
changed so has the costuming. One thing that George Clinton and the P
Funk Allstars are not is Nostalgia.
George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars have a unique look that is a
Fashion Statement that has not one but all eras attached to it. The
common thread in their threads is originality, exaggeration a lot of
color and a serious sense of humor.
The key factors that create the look of the band are the basics, Hats,
Hair, Fabrics, Color, patterns, cut and drape. Add some creativity,
ingenuity and courage and the combination create the style.
A wonderful example of someone who makes these elements work is Belita
Woods. She can take any garment and transform it into a costume within
hours. Her tools of choice are sequins, a glue gun, fabric swatches and
her imagination. She can turn a common straw hat into an elegant fashion
piece or a men’s tux into a woman’s tux in no time at all. She is Funk
Lige Curry and Blackbyrd McKnight have a great variety of ethnic
fabrics and styles that they mix with their army fatigues. Clip can be
found in solid black one show or in a grass skirt the next. Boogie is on
my Best Dressed list. He always looks great because he knows how to
accessorize with a flair. He has a pair of knee high fur boots that send
my dog into a tailspin. He looks at them as if he has found a mate.
Tracey Lewis is the most in touch with what is coming from streetlife
style: “After years of Dumpster Diving for clothes, I consider my style
of dressing to be ‘HaberTrashery’ . We are living in the Garb Age.”
Frank Waddy, who is behind the drums, always wears the greatest pants.
From Black and Red spandex to baggy bell bottoms he is always styling.
Razor Sharp wears his trademark head scarves and likes tee shirts. The
horn section is a coordinated trio normally in black vests and pants.
Garry Shider is still in the diaper but he always makes another
statement at the beginning of the show with hats, coats and glasses.
Paul Hill is the most contemporary dressed in the band, he knows his
labels and he always is beautifully put together. The entire band is
into Army Fatigues, desert , jungle or multi colored styles in shirts,
pants, hats and coats. Another popular item on stage is the sports
jersey, guitarist Michael Hampton is partial to those.
The younger generation P Funk who are members of the crew and are sons,
nephews and godchildren of the band have their own look going on. They
influence the band with their modern approach and sense of style. Hats
are key for all generations. Sunglasses are also a hot item.
If you combine ALL of these items that collectively comprise the bands
wardrobe and put them in one package the outcome is George Clinton.
George is by most standards a huge fashion DON’T. His attire works for
him so thoroughly that bizarre color matches don’t clash and
multi-patterns start to blend. He is a trend setter for Individual Style
although very few people imitate George Clinton’s personal style. Some
may borrow aspects of his formula but the whole recipe is too rich for
anyone besides George to wear.
The 90’s are coming to an end but George Clinton and The P Funk
Allstars/Parliament/Funkadelic are just hitting their stride. George
Clinton will have a foot in each millennium when he and the band perform
on The 180th Meridian, the International Date line located at the island
of Tavenui in Fiji this New Years Eve. One can just imagine the first
impression that the natives will have when this phantasm is displayed on
their remote tropical paradise. Perhaps something as grand as one of the
seven wonders of the world??????
Gina Hall San Francisco, Ca. ©1999