Russell Westbrook on Wearing Thom Browne to the Met Gala: 'It Gives Me the Swagger I Need'
This isn't Russell Westbrook's first rodeo. The 33-year-old point guard has long been a fixture—maybe the better way to put it is a beacon—of NBA style. His tunnel walks have inspired countless social media posts. His enthusiastically exploratory approach to getting dressed has inspired a whole new class of fashion-conscious players to do their own thing with gusto and reap the rewards. And last year, in no small part because of that impressive pedigree, he attended the Met Gala for the first time.
This year, he did it again. But unlike 2021—when the final look was relatively understated for Westbrook, leaning on classic formalwear with a signature dose of irreverence via some boldly dyed hair—2022 proved a little more direct. He stepped onto the red carpet in a look from Thom Browne that shows why he's been such a guiding light for younger players and seasoned veterans alike, pairing an expertly tailored jacket with a skirt skimming the top of striped socks and chunky lace-ups. Things are topped off with, well, a top hat. And below that expertly tailored jacket are the traditional trimmings of white-tie dressing.
This is, after all, an evening celebrating "Gilded Glamour." And what better way for a guy like Westbrook to mark the occasion than by playing to that idea—and then subverting it just enough to make it feel truly personal. Before he hit the red carpet, we talked about why you can't go too on-the-nose with the theme, why the Met Gala is a whole other deal than the events he usually attends, and how working with Thom Browne has given him a new perspective on how to approach his own brand, Honor the Gift, as he guides it into maturity.
Esquire: Can you tell me why you landed on your look and how you started working with Thom?
Russell Westbrook: I’ve just always been a big fan of Thom and how consistent and unique the brand has been. So I’m just thankful to have an opportunity to wear him on the day of the Met. As far as my look, it was kind of a collaborative effort, talking to the team. They presented me with a look that they thought would be great and I really loved it from top to bottom; I’m excited to let everyone see. It fits really well and it gives me the swagger I need.
Swagger must be a necessary element of going to the Met, considering how turned out everyone else is.
If you’re just going just to go, then what’s the point? To me, that’s how you have to attack it, in my opinion. This is only my second time going, but in mindset alone, I think, it’s important.
Is there any particular element of what you’re wearing tonight that really sold you on it when you saw it?
I would say the jacket. The materials are kind of one-of-a-kind, which I think will show well in photos, but is also something that’s really unique about the look itself.
You’ve been to the Met Gala once. Is there anything that you learned last time that you’re going to apply to attending this time?
To me, it was just great to see all those amazing people in one room. So that overall experience is always great, especially considering that for the last couple of years we haven’t been able to get together with people. So it’s always good to see old friends and meet new friends as well, especially at events like this.
Is this kind of event different in that you’re meeting people from a whole host of different professional backgrounds?
Definitely. That’s what I think I was impressed about at the first one—being able to have conversations and talk to people in their respective fields and they may relate to your own in ways you may not know about. I think that’s the best part; it allows you to do that.
What do you think of the theme, “Gilded Glamour?” How did you want to interpret that into what you’re wearing tonight?
When you hear it—for me—you try to not get super duper spot-on. But you do have elements of it, whether that’s materials or even jewelry—just part of your look that has people saying, “I get why he did this.” That’s how I look at the theme, how I find a way to implement things that go with the theme.
Is that like a pro tip? Like, “Don’t go too spot-on with the theme or you’ll maybe look a little dorky?”
I just think you want to have your own personal touch as well, and make it about who you are. I think that’s important.
It seems like the balance is how to show that you know the theme and understand the evening, but aren’t in a straight-up costume.
Exactly. That is definitely the mix. It’s making sure you know what it is, but you’re not, like, head-to-toe. Looking, as you mentioned, like a costume.
Is there anything about the evening that you learned last time that you’re excited to know going into tonight?
For me, I was surprised by how well put-on the event was. The overall production, the décor…Because I’d never been in that museum in general. So walking around, and then actually getting into the gala, was pretty amazing.
Is there any one thing you’re most looking forward to this evening?
Just continuing to meet new people. Creating relationships, obviously, in the fashion world. And seeing some old faces as well and then continuing to make connections through the night and enjoying an amazing gala.
More broadly, I’m curious on a day like today how you’re feeling about your future in the fashion world—how you dress, your brand, and your approach to fashion in general.
For me, personally, I’m really focused on continuing to elevate not just myself but my brand, globally. And finding ways to be able to push fashion but also making it to where people can put their own twist on things, because that’s what I think fashion is about—it’s about how you want to take it, and what position you’re in. And me, being able to design and creative direct my own brand, I see the future for myself and the things I want to do in the fashion space a little differently than I did five or six years ago. Then, it was more about my own fashion, and I’ve already kind of put my footprint pretty well into fashion. So now it’s about how to elevate my own brand and do it the right way.
When you think about your brand and working with Thom for the Met Gala, was there anything you encountered that you said, “I want to take this away with me?”
I think it’s just the consistency. To be able to know, [like] when you come to Thom, what you’re going to get. But then, each season, you see the elements that he added or may have taken away. For me, as I sit back and watch and observe, that’s what I’m looking at. If you want to create a fashion house, a fashion brand, you want to be able to know what works, but also keep things fresh for people. And you want to be consistent. I think it’s a healthy mix that Thom has down pat.
Do you think we can expect you to start making menswear skirts for your own line? Or is that Thom’s thing?
I don’t know. I don’t plan on it, but it really depends. I think Thom has that pretty down pat, but I may make one for myself.
From: Esquire US