Exiting the locker room 20 minutes later, Westbrook looks like something from the street style blog The Sartorialist. In fashionable cities like New York and Paris, stylish people stick out like manicured thumbs. In a hallway full of security guards with ill-fitting sport coats and blasé basics, Westbrook is literally shining.
No, really: There’s a lustrous, metallic square on the front of his Neil Barrett sweatshirt, one of the more striking pieces from the designer’s fall/winter 2012 collection. Light bounces off the shirt in waves. It fits Westbrook perfectly—snug but not super tight. The sweater gives way to a slim pair of Hugo Boss 708 jeans, the color somewhere between seafoam and minty toothpaste green. On his feet are spiked Louboutin sneakers, more extravagant than menacing. A Fendi belt peeks out from underneath the sweatshirt, and he’s holding a brown Louis Vuitton leather dopp kit by its thin strap.
Westbrook is at the forefront of NBA fashion. His approach to dressing up is as fearless and aggressive as his derring-do in the paint.
After the loss, Westbrook is not as light-hearted as usual. “There’s no joking when the game starts,” he says, his outfit much brighter than his disposition. Fortunately, his parents are waiting to greet him upstairs. “My family’s always been supportive of me and what I was doing.”
His dad, Russell Sr., helped him perfect his game, but Westbrook’s sense of style clearly comes from his mother. Shannon Horton wears skinny cuffed polka-dot pants almost the same shade of green as her son’s. On her feet are coordinating Air Max 2012 sneakers, which she picked up in London while watching Russell win a gold medal during the summer Olympics. Her purse is by Hermés. The former cafeteria worker is absolutely killing it today.
“That’s where it all started,” Westbrook admits. “She used to shop for us growing up. But then it got to a point where I was so picky about my clothes that she stopped shopping for me. I had a sense of the style I was gravitating to. I worked for stuff I couldn’t afford.”
Having signed an $80 million, five-year contract extension with the Thunder last year, Westbrook can now indulge his luxurious tastes without limits. “Some people may be scared to wear something,” he says. “I obviously don’t care.”
When the Thunder beat the Lakers to clinch last year’s Western Conference championship, their win was nearly outshined by Westbrook’s post-game outfits, particularly his glasses. The Miami Heat went on to beat the Thunder in the Finals, but there was no question who won the Playoffs’ fashion MVP.
When superstars like Dwyane Wade or Lebron James get dressed up, they put on slim, conservatively designed suits and shirts by classic American menswear designers like Michael Bastian or Ralph Lauren. Westbrook favors outside-the-box pieces like a spread-collar shirt emblazoned with patches of denim, plaid, and flannel from forward-thinking Japanese designer Junya Watanabe.
A disciple of legendary Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo, Watanabe’s deconstructed garments are not the sort of thing you expect to see on mainstream celebrities, let alone NBA players, who typically rock big labels like Gucci. But all that is changing. Since the 2005 dress code, NBA style has evolved from Allen Iverson’s baggy sweats to Shaq’s egregious affinity for sleeveless suits to Russell Westbrook. Just as A$AP Rocky predicted, clothes are getting weirder, and while Knicks players like Tyson Chandler are experimenting with capes, Westbrook is at the forefront of NBA fashion. His approach to dressing up is as fearless and aggressive as his derring-do in the paint.
“He’s got a fierce curiosity about how far he can push the limits, and anybody who appreciates personal style can appreciate what he’s been doing in the NBA,” says Ryan Bowling, owner of Oklahoma City’s Black Optical, the eyewear boutique where Westbrook bought most of the frames he wore during the playoffs.
“When I met Russell, I was wearing a pair of Barton Perreira Joaquins,” Bowling recalls of their chance encounter at the mall. “Russell was on his phone. He told the person he’d call them back and he was like, ‘What are those?’ ” Bowling offered to let Westbrook try on the $400 glasses, and they snuck into a fitting room at Ann Taylor so Westbrook could see how they looked on his face. “Two weeks later,” says Bowling, “he and his brother rolled in the shop and picked up a few pairs.”
Westbrook caught flack for wearing glasses in spite of his perfect vision. “No lenses at all,” he confirmed in an interview with Ahmad Rashad. “It’s my own flair, man. I know what looks right and what looks crazy.”