Listening to the latest BØRNS single, “Faded Heart”—and you should listen to it if you haven’t already; it’s a jam—you might briefly mistake the 25-year-old for yet another 1970s-swag devotee. Listen more closely, though, and the song turns out to be more complex than the same old moves that pop music has built its empire on. Ask about the specific influences behind his second studio album, out in early 2018, and the Michigan native lists great American musicians and composers from the Beach Boys to Roy Orbison to Les Baxter. Indeed, everything about BØRNS seems to derive from a deeper source, or perhaps several sources pooling together in vivid iridescence.
His wardrobe is no less colorful or varied. He’s often found in flowy shirts and tight pants à la Keith Richards on the Sticky Fingers tour, and his long wavy hair appears to give him Samson-like powers onstage. Now that he’s popping up at fashion week front rows, rubbing elbows with the top brass at Gucci and collaborating with the white-hot designer Jahnkoy, BØRNS has emerged as the embodiment of a modern men’s style that’s retro and forward-looking all at once. You would do well to read on and see how he does it.
You moved to Los Angeles fairly abruptly a few years ago. How has the city influenced your style?
It wasn’t really a move; it was sort of an accidental four-year vacation. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been in L.A. for four years because I’ve been touring so much. Since working on this new record I’ve reacquainted myself with the sounds, the heat and the spice of life here, which is really nice.
A lot of musicians find it hard to go from the road to back home and the studio. How do you deal with that creative dichotomy?
I think there are two people living inside me: One is the vagabond who enjoys performing and wearing bright, silky things, and then there’s another part of me that enjoys getting into the craft of music and just wondering about a lot of different things.
How did that influence the upcoming album?
Two things I wrote down when I was thinking about this record were “live strings” and “theremin.” I wanted to have those on the album, so that was a jumping-off point. It’s a mixture of real and synthesized instruments, and I think that’s kind of where we are with music these days.
Who are some of your style icons in music?
It’s pretty broad. Anything from Purple Rain–era Prince to a younger Little Richard, when he would go on all the talk shows in his pajama-style suits. Pretty much anyone who likes to constantly reinvent themselves is interesting. I have a pretty short attention span, so I always like trying different things.
You’re known to have an affinity for Gucci, and the creative director there, Alessandro Michele, has spoken highly of you. What attracts you to that brand?
Alessandro’s never-ending playfulness. There are so many things that go into those clothes, and his creative mind—where it goes and how he takes ancient influences and combines them with modern ones—is inspiring.
How would you describe your own style?
I guess it depends on my mood. I’m always blending in with my surroundings. Lately I’ve been wearing a lot of natural textures, and I’ve been into changing up my silhouette. I like high-waisted pants, blousy shirts, crop tops—stuff that moves with the wind. I’m always experimenting and getting weird with what I wear because it’s fun and it makes the performance different.
What’s your hair regimen?
Just let nature do her thing. I don’t really do much to alter it. It’s good to let the natural oils work their way.
How has your look changed as you’ve been exposed to the fashion world?
I think it’s interesting that the fashion world is derived not just from fashion but also from the history of art and architecture. Fashion is just one element of that. Since I’ve been traveling a lot and working with my stylist, Kat Typaldos, I feel I’ve been getting a lot of different influences.
What trends are you into these days?
I like athletic influences in clothes. I did a collaboration with Jahnkoy, an incredible designer from Siberia. She does these kind of deconstructed tribal tracksuits, and her line is just unreal. I saw a show during New York Fashion Week back in January that was really inspiring, so we collaborated.
What was it like being a CFDA ambassador for New York Fashion Week: Men’s?
You wear designer clothes, walk around, watch shows and drink expensive water.
You’ve said you were inspired by vintage playboy’s when you were writing your first album, Dopamine. Can you elaborate on that?
Sure—how much do you want to know? [laughs] I mostly loved the advertisements. The language in them was clever and sexy and enticing. Actually, one of the songs on Dopamine, “Overnight Sensation,” came from an ad for a speaker system that just said “Overnight Sensation.” The picture tells a thousand words.