In 2005, the NBA became the first professional sports league to institute a dress code thanks to David Stern’s decision to require players to adopt a “business casual” aesthetic—a mandate that was supplemented by fairly controversial (and arguably racially motivated) bans that targeted oversized t-shirts, visible jewelry, Timberland boots, and other pieces of apparel inextricably linked with hip-hop culture at the time.
The change in policy was an incredibly transparent attempt to clean up the league’s image in the wake of the Malice at the Palace at a time when many people were throwing out the word “thugs” to describe NBA players at the same rate fans in Detriot chucked various object at players during that fateful night.
Despite the backlash it received at the time, the NBA dress code unintentionally ushered in a new era courtesy of a butterfly effect that’s been impossible to ignore.
The rise of social media (which coincided with a spike in interest in the many subsets of menswear) made players influencers in the fashion space, and some of the biggest names in the league have routinely made a statement with their sartorial choices, whether we’re talking about Russell Westbrook using a photographer’s vest to throw some shade at Kevin Durant or LeBron James challenging convention by rocking shorts with a suit.
Kyle Kuzma is another notable name who’s made more than a few headlines thanks to his pregame outfits, including the oversized sweater he sported last season and a particularly flashy jacket he donned around a month later.
It was only natural that Kuzma recently teamed up with Japan’s POTR by Yoshida & Co. and Stella Artois for a collaboration that will give fans a chance to join the Wizards forward for a $10,000 shopping spree or snag a limited-edition bag as a consolation prize.
I got the chance to sit down with Kuzma for a conversation where he chatted about the project, shed some light on his fashion philosophy, and discussed how he and other NBA players have started to serve as de facto style ambassadors.
Without further ado…
BroBible: Kyle, thank you for taking the time to chat today.
Kyle Kuzma: No problem boss.
Can you give me a lowdown on your newest project?
I linked up with Stella Artois for the Secure The Bag campaign. We just wanted to bring a lot of fun and some luxury along with POTR by Yoshida & Co., who helped make this all come to life.
If you win the contest, you win a free shopping spree with me, which will be a lot of fun to get in with fans.
I’d love to get some insight into your fashion evolution. Was there any catalyst you can point to that sparked your interest or have you always been drawn to the space?
I think just getting drafted and ending up in Los Angeles was a big one. It’s a place where there is a lot going on with fashion. Meeting people in L.A. and just falling into that industry a little bit really just enticed me.
It’s not just wearing clothes. There’s a lot that goes into it. I’m not just wearing stuff for the tunnel going into a game.
Did you really get your first taste when you were gearing up for the draft or had you already developed an interest in college as well?
I was always conscious about looking nice in college. I obviously didn’t have the same type of money, but I always looked nice and presentable.
Even when I was a kid, I always tried to have like one or two nice outfits, whatever that was.
I feel you. I always have that one nice button-down in college I pulled out when the occasion called for it.
I know your style and your approach have changed over the years. Do you feel like you have an established personal aesthetic or are you always sort of tweaking it with sort of what you have on hand?
I feel like I always tweak it because I’m a very spontaneous person. I’m not a person who’s like, ‘This is me and this will always be me.’ I’m evolving. Everyone evolves in life. It’s the same thing with fashion.
I know a lot of people who got hooked by something specific, like classic menswear, streetwear, workwear, etc. Were you initially drawn in by any particular sphere?
It was kind of just all over the place. For me, it’s not like wine where you may only just drink stuff from Napa, you know what I mean?
Some days I feel like wearing streetwear. Some days I feel like wearing a tux. Some days a suit, a blazer, some nice trousers or whatever that may be.
I’d love to get a metaphorical peek into your closet. Do you have any specific pieces you find yourself going back to or any grails that you’re particularly proud of?
I have a lot of basic things and a lot of essentials I love wearing.
I have a nice leather jacket that I love to wear. I have a nice zip-up hoodie that I really like. Everyone has their favorite pair of jeans. Everyone has their favorite pair of shoes that are used more than others too. My closet is probably more normal than a lot of people would think.
I do have this really nice sweater. It’s really, really nice, but I don’t wear it all the time because it’s just really colorful.
Are there any outfits that you look back at and you’re like, “Man, what was I thinking?” Or do you have no regrets?
I don’t have any regrets. I know a lot of people make it a big deal and say, “Oh, what are you wearing today?” I’m just putting on clothes and outfits that are in my closet.
To touch on that, I feel like by now you probably know that you’re going to get a reaction regardless of what you wear. Do you ever keep that in mind or worry about—or perhaps have to resist the urge—to feed the trolls?
No, I just always do what I do because there’s always somebody who’s going to talk about you. Like, I’m sure there are people that talk about you because they didn’t like something you wrote.
I am very familiar with that.
But you don’t really care about that, right?
You’re going to still keep doing your thing. It’s the same thing for me. If I do something that people don’t like or get people talking, hey, at least I gave them something to talk about today.
I like getting the chance to chat with guys in the NBA because I’m 6’10” and rock a size 16 shoe, which has been a bit of a barrier when it comes to my own fashion journey. As someone who’s basically the same height and build, I’m curious if you’ve encountered similar issues.
It’s funny you mention that. I just had another interview where I said the world was not made for us. Like, you can’t really be a sneakerhead because you can’t wear a certain Jordan because they only go up to size 14. I get that. We have the same struggles.
There are certain brands that make things for people our size. For me, a lot of it is just having relationships with people. It’s a little bit easier to have someone make your size or make things for you if they see you wearing them.
I do have a platform, so I’m blessed and lucky enough to have those types of relationships with certain brands, it’s a little bit easier for me to find clothes that are still cool.
I recently got to see a retrospective of Virgil Abloh’s career at a museum in Brooklyn and couldn’t help but notice the parallels between what he did merging street culture with high fashion and what you and a lot of other NBA players have also done when it comes to exposing fashion to a new audience.
Do you ever think about that impact and your ability to expose an audience that might not really be into fashion to other realms and get them thinking or talking about it?
That’s a great question. You kind of hit on the head.
Fashion is not everything. I remember one time Draymond Green told me, “I like style. I don’t like fashion.” That’s fair. You can have your personal style that’s—I don’t want to say basic or bland—but like, a nice pair of pants and a really nice bomber jacket or something like that and it looks good.
Fashion is different. It’s about the silhouette of what somebody wears. Fashion is really about trends, which makes it a lot different. My platform is sports fans and basketball fans. I’m not saying they’re small-minded, but a lot of them aren’t really in tune with fashion and trends because it has its own type of world.
I understand there are certain things that I will wear that people are going to talk about and say things like “What in the world is he wearing?” or “Why is he wearing that? It’s hideous.” But there are other people in the world who say “Yo, that’s beautiful” or “That’s super cool.”
It’s all about your just reference points.
Parts of this conversation were edited for clarity.
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