Billy Porter’s 2020 Grammys Mechanical Hat Was Inspired by Billie Eilish

We already know that Billy Porter’s understanding of fashion is a deep and artistic one, so whenever he is spotted with a statement piece, there’s certainly going to be a story with a meaning behind it. When he showed up to the Grammy Awards wearing a mechanical hat, it definitely had the intended impact of drawing attention. 

Billy Porter
Billy Porter | Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Now we know a little more about the story behind that motorized fashion statement, and it turns out that the inspiration was one of the most celebrated artists at the ceremony that night: Billie Eilish. 

Billy Porter is not afraid to speak his mind 

Porter uses fashion to make statements, and those statements are often bold, personal, and filled with passion. When he showed up on Sesame Street decked out in the tuxedo gown he wore to the 2019 Oscars, he was doing so with an important message in mind. He knew that he would be appearing in front of children and that the way he showed up in that space would have an impact on developing minds. 

“I’m first-generation post-civil-rights movement, and we were always taught to dress for the job you want, not the one you have . . . and that has been my life’s mantra,” Porter explained.

The job he wants, it’s clear, is one that lets him share his beliefs about equality and fairness to the largest possible audience. In fact, his friends and family thought that he would become a preacher because of how outspoken and passionate he was. Instead, he is using fashion and his many celebrated appearances to spread his message. 

Billy Porter’s mechanical hat drew attention 

Porter’s looks are almost always designed to attract attention, but the mechanical hat he donned to the 2020 Grammy Awards took it to a whole new level.

Porter showed up decked out in a crystal-encrusted bright blue outfit and sported a matching custom-made hat. The hat featured two crystal curtains that were motorized to open and close. 

Porter himself was stunning as always, but the hat took on a life of its own. The dramatic and slow opening of the curtains combined with Porter’s carefully made-up and stoic face made for a video that was perfectly meme-able. Fans were quick to use the hat as a symbol for being a little “extra” and over-the-top. While the posts poked a little fun at the look, they also held a clear sense of respect and admiration for Porter and his bold sense of fashion. 

The hat was inspired by Billie Eilish

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It turns out that the hat had another connection to the Grammy Awards that night. When Porter appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he talked a little more about the inspiration behind designing the hat. Porter had drawn his design ideas from Billie Eilish, the young performer who was very busy collecting multiple awards at the ceremony that evening. 

Eilish had appeared on the red carpet at the 2019 American Music Awards wearing a crystal veil that was a little reminiscent of a beekeeper outfit. Porter was inspired by the look.

“It was so cute, and I said ‘Oh that’s really cute — but I’m never wearing something that covers up my face, I’ve waited too long for this moment,'” Porter explained. “Folks need to see my face.”

The solution, of course, was to take the best of both worlds. With the mechanized version, Porter was able to pull up on the mystery and allure of being veiled, but he also made sure to show off his remarkable make-up with the push of a button. The button itself was controlled by Porter’s assistant who was given a signal when it was time to make the hat work its magic.