ARTICLE CARRIE BATTAN
PHOTOGRAPHY AMY TROOST
STYLIST CATHERINE NEWELL-HANSON
RUSSELL WESTBROOK, STAR POINT GUARD OF THE OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AND NEW FACE OF JORDAN BRAND, IS HERE TO SAVE THE NBA
Even if you didn’t watch a second of the NBA playoffs last summer, you might have an image of the finals burned into your brain. Not of a winning shot, but of a pair of oversized fire-engine red plastic glasses (no lenses, naturally) perched on the face of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook during a postgame press conference. And then there was the accompanying shirt: an eye-popping Prada button-up splashed with colorful vintage cartoon drawings. The Thunder ultimately fell to the Miami Heat, but Westbrook soundly stomped the rest of the league in the wardrobe department. He’s since become something of an avatar for basketball’s newfound fashion sense, a dandyish breed of nerd-chic that pushes back against the baggy-shorts sensibility ushered in by the University of Michigan’s Fab Five team in the early ’90s.
Now Westbrook’s stylistic flash is part of his on-court presence, too. He recently signed on as the latest representative for Nike’s iconic Jordan Brand, and debuted the XX8 shoe in the new Barclays Center when the Thunder first took on the Brooklyn Nets. The aesthetic of the new Air Jordan—which is encased in a zip-up black shell reminiscent of scuba gear—has received mixed feedback, but Westbrook seems to be wearing them in just fine: he scored 25 points and offered nine assists during the Thunder’s win against the Nets. We caught up with Westbrook after his Brooklyn debut to talk fashion, social media, and haters.
My friend has a painting of you wearing the red glasses in his bathroom, and it ended up on your Instagram a couple of weeks ago. How’d you find it?
RUSSELL WESTBROOK Somebody sent that to me! It’s great.
You hashtagged it #trendsetter.
RW Yes. From time to time I definitely start seeing people do things after I’ve done them, especially on Twitter and other social media. People always hashtag my name.
Have you retired the glasses?
RW No, but I haven’t worn them in a while—I’ll only wear them if the outfit presents itself.
You’ve been playing well with the XX8s, which are pretty crazy looking. What did you think when you first saw them?
RW The shoes are...very interesting. They’re different, but it’s a great shoe. Most of my teammates didn’t like them when they were off my feet, but when I put them on they eventually changed their minds.
Did you debut them at the Barclays Center because you wanted Jay-Z to see them?
RW No, Jay-Z wasn’t there. It was a marketing thing—a good opportunity to wear them in a new arena.
Oklahoma City isn’t known to be the most fashionable place. Where do you shop?
I do it on the road when we go to big cities—New York, L.A. I also do a lot of online shopping from places like TopMan, FarFetch, and Urban Outfitters.
What sort of designers or specific items are you into right now?
RW Right now I’m really into Paul Smith, but I wear everything. I’m into cutoff jean jackets, leather stuff…
Then you’re lucky to be a smaller-sized basketball player.
RW Definitely. I don’t have to get anything custom-fitted from designers, which is a blessing.
Do other players ever resent you for your style reputation?
RW They do try to clown on me from time to time, but I don’t pay them any mind. If anything, though, they’re trying to figure me out, to see what I’m going to wear next.
Do you feel a constant pressure to dress up now off-court?
RW I don’t worry about that because I dress naturally. I don’t [intentionally] get dressed up a lot—like, I’m in sweats right now.
Are you ever concerned that the style thing will be a distraction from your athletic career?
RW I don’t. The court is a different thing.
Hair Laura de Leon (JoE management) Digital Technician Denis Vlasov Photo assistants Henry Lopez and Aaron Thomas Stylist assistant Amber Harris Location Sandbox