Hayley Williams shares her thoughts on her most daring looks, thrifted outfits, and the fanny pack she wore to perform with Taylor Swift

Paramore performs during "The Tonight Show" on November 3, 2022.
Paramore performs at "The Tonight Show" on November 3, 2022.NBC/Getty Images
  • Hayley Williams is the lead singer of Paramore and the cofounder of the hair brand Good Dye Young.

  • Insider recently spoke with her and her hairstylist, Brian O'Connor, about her most daring looks.

  • They also discussed thrifted outfits, the designer look they'd throw away, and her current style.

Hayley Williams has inadvertently become a fashion icon.

Hayley Williams has inadvertently become a style icon on and off stage.Amy Harris/Invision/AP

The 34-year-old musician and Good Dye Young founder has a bold style that's entirely her own.

She started her career onstage in mismatched outfits and single-handedly inspired a generation of emo kids to dye their hair fiery-red shades.

Today, she's more often seen in a mix of vintage pieces and designer duds, though her signature bright hair remains.

But fashion was never at the forefront of her mind. As Williams and her longtime hairstylist Brian O'Connor told Insider while looking through photos of her boldest looks, she was just trying to be herself.

Her style has always been bold, even during Paramore's earliest tours.

Paramore at the Vans Warped Tour in Miami, Florida, on June 24, 2006.
Paramore at the Vans Warped Tour in Miami, Florida, on June 24, 2006.Ralph Notaro/Getty Images

When asked what her relationship was with fashion in the early 2000s — when Paramore was getting its start at small shows and the Vans Warped Tour — Williams joked: "Clearly not good."

"I had just gone to Japan, so that's why I'm wearing all the tights," she said. "I think I bought another suitcase because I bought so many tights and socks, and I bought those shoes."

Her hair, on the other hand, she styled herself.

"A music-video director made me get my hair cut a little bit," she said. "Up until that point, the only people who cut my hair were my granny and one of the guys in the band."

Though Williams had yet to meet O'Connor at that point, he still has opinions on her Florida Warped Tour look. "God, your poor thighs in this photo," he said.

As Paramore rose to fame and started attending red carpets, Williams aimed to land herself on "worst-dressed" lists.

Hayley Williams at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 7, 2008.
Hayley Williams at the MTV Video Music Awards on September 7, 2008.Frederick M. Brown/Stringer

At the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, Williams walked alongside her band in an emerald-green minidress, ripped black tights, and Creepers from T.U.K. footwear.

"I was maybe 18 here, and I hated this event — I hated it," she said. "We got there and the label had found a stylist that we'd never met, and she pulled all these glamorous looks. I said, 'You know what? I'm gonna look shitty.'"

Williams added that at the time, she preferred being named on "worst-dressed" lists "because those get talked about more."

"I also just did not enjoy the attention of being the only girl," she said. "I was the only person they sent a stylist for, and I just felt very singled out. I kind of lashed out on my own — like I cut my nose off to spite my face."

As for her red locks with blonde highlights, O'Connor said: "There are so many extensions in your hair. We need a do-over."

"It was a rough night," Williams added with a laugh.

By 2010, she was pairing handmade tank tops with jeans and sneakers for her onstage looks.

Haley Williams in 2010 while promoting Paramore's "Brand New Eyes."
Haley Williams in 2010 while promoting Paramore's "Brand New Eyes."Jeff Kravitz/Lester Cohen/Lyle A. Waisman/Getty Images

Some of Williams' tank tops featured single words like "Security." Others had phrases including "Brand New Eyes" — the name of Paramore's third album — and "Paramore is a band" written on them.

"With the 'Paramore is a band' shirts, I was always trying to make sure people had to think about it — that they had to see the words 'Paramore' and 'band' together — because people would call me Paramore," Williams said.

She also said the shirts were inspired by Blondie, which sold similar tops that said "Blondie is a group" in the '80s.

She continued: "At this point in my life, I was only buying secondhand or running into stores when we were on tour. I was not investing in fashion. I was not paying attention to any of that stuff."

That year was also the first time Williams experimented with custom looks. For the MTV European Music Awards, she wore a sheer top she helped design, and makeup inspired by drag queens.

Hayley Williams at the MTV EMAs on November 7, 2010.
Hayley Williams at the MTV EMAs on November 7, 2010.Ian Gavan/Stringer/Getty Images

The event was also the first time O'Connor did Williams' hair and makeup for a red carpet. They'd previously only worked together on concerts and music videos.

"I remember being shit-scared terrified," he said. "I thought: 'What if it's not cool enough?' We had dyed her hair pink for the 'Playing God' music video."

Williams added that she was "super into the pink," and described the color as a "much-needed detour" from her usual orange. As for her outfit, it was a custom piece that she collaborated on with a friend.

"I kind of drew up what I wanted to see and then someone made it, which was very surreal," she said. "It was the first time I ever had that experience of being like, 'I think I want to wear something like this.'"

Her makeup, on the other hand, was inspired by O'Connor's history with drag.

"I remember saying to Brian: 'I want you to do drag makeup on me. I want you to do the real thing, like a full beat,'" she said. "I knew that he had done drag before, and he is the hottest lady I've ever seen. But I digress. I just really wanted that experience. We had fun."

At the 2011 Grammys, Williams wore a sparkling minidress with a sheer top and pink fuzz lining. Today, Williams and O'Connor say they'd "throw it away."

Hayley Williams at the Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011.
Hayley Williams at the Grammy Awards on February 13, 2011.Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

"Nope. Throw the whole bitch away," O'Connor said seconds after seeing photos of Williams in the Jeremy Scott dress.

"Even that day, I was like, 'God, I wish I knew her better because she needs somebody in her life to say, 'No ma'am,'" he added.

Williams noted that she loves Scott's designs and thinks they're "iconic." She just doesn't believe she "particularly wore this well."

"As soon as I got the dress on and got out the door, I probably didn't think twice about it," she said. "I don't even know what goes on in a person's mind when they're walking those carpets. I feel like you just black out. So I was living my best life."

O'Connor added that he doesn't think the dress was the problem — it was the juxtaposition between the vibrant garment and Williams' bright hair.

"There's just so much going on," he said. "Do I look at the Muppet that was murdered to make the bottom of that dress? Or do I look at her hair?"

Sheer fashion has long been trendy on red carpets, and Williams has never been afraid to experiment with it.

Hayley Williams at the CMT Music Awards on June 8, 2011.
Hayley Williams at the CMT Music Awards on June 8, 2011.Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Williams said she doesn't see "naked" fashion as a trend that should stay or go. Instead, "it just matters what the look is."

"If something has that detail and I like it or I feel comfortable in it, then I'll probably cop it," she said.

The see-through top she wore to the 2011 CMT Music Awards, for example, was a last-minute fashion choice that she wore simply because she liked it and had it in her closet.

"I didn't have any clothes; I just had to find things in my drawer and throw them together," she said. "You can see my yellow roots here. I probably did my own hair and makeup for this."

"I can see you wearing this today," O'Connor added. "The only thing I would change is the shoes and the jewelry."

The jewelry in question was a thin, silver chain with a large cross pendant — one Williams found in an unexpected place.

"I'm pretty sure that's a 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' necklace," she said. "It came with a 'Buffy' box set and I think I just threw it on because I was loving 'Buffy' at the moment."

Some of Williams' most memorable style moments were last-minute choices.

Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams perform during the "Speak Now" tour on September 16, 2011.
Taylor Swift and Hayley Williams perform during the "Speak Now" tour on September 16, 2011.Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images

In 2011, Williams joined Taylor Swift onstage to perform "That's What You Get" during the Nashville, Tennessee, stop of the "Speak Now" tour. She wore a black vest with a Paramore patch, red jeans, and a studded fanny pack.

"We had just been in New York and I went to a couple of stores that I love in the East Village," she said. "I got this spiked fanny pack because I was so tired of touring and carrying a purse. But then for some reason that night I was like, 'Make it fashion, bitch. Bring it onstage.'"

So what was inside? According to Williams, she carried her phone, money, and other necessities.

"The funniest thing is that I got so much shit for this look," she said. "I got hated to a degree that does not even make sense over a fanny pack."

"But then the next year, everyone had one," she continued. "I don't think it was because of me — I think I was just early. But I felt so vindicated when people were into it. I was like, 'See bitch.'"

Williams and O'Connor had found their groove by the time Paramore's self-titled record was released in 2013 — but they were still open to trying new things.

Hayley Williams at a Nylon event on April 13, 2013.
Hayley Williams at a Nylon event on April 13, 2013.Rachel Murray/Stringer/Getty Images

They changed Williams' hair frequently — "more than any other" time in her life, she said — and experimented with daring fashion.

Look no further than the see-through, bag-inspired dress from Jeremy Scott that Williams wore to a Nylon event in 2013.

"There were nights that I felt like this version of me, which is more colorful," Williams said.

Though 2013 was a difficult year for Williams, she used fashion and beauty as a tool for self-expression.

Hayley Williams at the Teen Choice Awards on August 11, 2013.
Hayley Williams at the Teen Choice Awards on August 11, 2013.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

"I was, emotionally, just not in a great place," she said. "I needed to express and change and just use that as an avenue to channel some of my confusion about life at the time."

One of those expressive looks was the black-and-white ensemble with "bondage elements woven into it" that Williams wore to the 2013 Teen Choice Awards.

But ultimately, it was her blunt bob hairstyle that Williams remembers most.

"This hair is so funny because Gwen Stefani's guy Danilo chopped my hair into this bob in my kitchen with kitchen shears," she said. "The next day, Brian came into town and gasped. He was very, very upset."

Williams added with a laugh: "For the next year and a half, he had to do the honors of helping me through the awkward stage of growing it back out."

"I mean, it's a look. You are hot," O'Connor added. "She's gonna file your taxes and walk all over you at the same time."

Fast forward to 2017, and Paramore was promoting its most vibrant, pop-infused record to date. But Williams' colorful wardrobe contrasted her actual feelings.

Hayley Williams performs with Paramore on May 17, 2017.
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore on May 17, 2017.RB/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

At the time, Williams was going through a public divorce, unsure of her place in Paramore's future, and experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts.

When shown photos of Williams from that point — when Paramore had just released its fifth album, "After Laughter" — O'Connor replied: "I have to be very frank, it's really hard for me to look at. All I see is the saddest time of my friend that I've ever known."

"It's not that I don't love how she looks, because she's always beautiful to me," he added. "But I can see there's just so much sadness. Even now when I come across photos randomly, I have to scroll past it really fast because I don't want to go back there. I don't want her to go back there."

Ahead of the release of "This Is Why," Paramore's sixth studio album, Williams has been sporting lots of chic, all-black outfits.

Paramore performs during "The Tonight Show" on November 3, 2022.
Paramore performs at "The Tonight Show" on November 3, 2022.NBC/Getty Images

When asked about her current style, Williams was certain about one thing: "I think Brian is relieved."

"Listen, I am the happiest gay man," O'Connor said. "I have waited 17 years for this era of my friend. I think Hayley is one of the most beautiful people inside and out, however you want to look at that."

"I think this is the first time Hayley is allowing herself to really be Hayley," he continued. "It's not about what people expect or want, but rather it's what makes her feel good — and not Hayley, the lead singer of Paramore, but for Hayley herself. And that is the best gift someone could ever give themselves."

Read the original article on Insider