Iman Shumpert, shooting guard for the New York Knicks, best known for his signature high-top fade and fearless off-court style, is showing off his kilt.
Inside his sacred space — a self-described “man cave” on the second floor of his three-story brownstone in Harlem – hundreds of sneakers line each wall, and dozens of others take space on racks. A green street sign that says “21 Shump Street,” given to him by a fan, sits on top of a middle stand as a centerpiece.
So sacred is his home that no one from the outside world — other than his girlfriend, hip-hop artist Teyana Taylor — has been invited inside.
“No one even knows I live here,” he said, explaining his efforts to protect his privacy.
On Thursday, the 24-year-old showed off his “repertoire” as he calls it — racks of apparel and accessories he’s acquired over the years — and modeled a few of his favorite pieces before hitting the red carpet for the premiere of the Amar’e Stoudemire-produced film, “Beyond the Lights.”
The very first item he wanted to talk about was the kilt.
“Okay, well, it’s not really a kilt, I use that term just for a lack of a better term,” he said, eagerly pulling the piece from his closet. He lifted it and it was long — ankle grazing — black, and had a gold pin on the middle front. Sometimes when he’s feeling it, he’ll put up to 30 gold clips on it, he said.
“I always wanted to dress up like Darth Maul,” he deadpanned. “So I designed my own kilt. When I designed it, the tailors wanted the kilt as a high joint but I wanted mine low like a Jedi.”
“If you grew up watching ‘Star Wars’ you’re like, wow, look at Darth Maul, he has that outfit. And that lightsaber. And he’s jumping. When I see stuff, rarely do I forget. And that’s what I always wanted to wear.”
Sounds like a pretty off-kilter idea, unless it’s for Halloween, but when Shumpert puts it together and struts out wearing the outfit, you start to believe. The kilt, worn over black jeans with a dark elongated hoodie from Oak, screams avant-garde fashion. Grungy as it is downtown, it’s dark and odd, but interesting, almost Rick Owens-like. And on the 6-foot-5-inch athlete, it somehow works.
It’s obvious that Shumpert is as obsessed with fashion as he is with hip-hop (he released a track called “#HowtoHate” this summer with 12.5 million spins) and basketball.
From his Dior button ups and Balmain shoes to the way he styles a white button-up with another zebra-printed button-up on top of it, Shumpert said his fashion sense is all about taking risks.
“I don’t want to see anyone else looking like me,” he said. “That’d be my nightmare. Though if I saw someone wearing what I did, I would know he was swaggy.
“I don’t have a stylist. That, in a way, is cheating. Put five players in a thrift store and see who has the best style in the end, and then you’ll see who has real style.”
Dressing up, now more than ever, has become an essential part of the NBA. With cameras on players from the moment they walk out of their buses, this is their runway. “By the time I got to the league I knew the cameras were going to be there and to turn it on,” he said. “I remember watching Mike [Michael Jordan]. I remember him having a royal blue blazer and all black t-shirt and he came out of a blue Corvette. That was dope to us. We were like, ‘Yo, Michael killed today.’ He didn’t even talk to the media and walked straight into the arena. Everyday’s like Mike.”
Before hitting the carpet with his girlfriend, Shumpert sat down with WWD at his home to talk his hair, what Tyson Chandler told him about personal style, his fashion goals (like finally hitting the front rows of Paris Fashion Week), and why he’s the league’s newest sartorial star.
WWD: Tell me about how you dress everyday.
Iman Shumpert: I’m conscious about what I wear, whether it’s a game or an event. Say that yesterday I wore a white button-down with the sleeves rolled up, today, I can’t do a button-down shirt. Everyday has to be different for me. Even if people are like, “You dressed up like a character today, it’s not Halloween.” It doesn’t matter because I want to be that guy who you never know what I’m going to wear. I don’t want to be predictable at all.
WWD: Did you always love fashion? It’s apparent you love sneakers from the hundreds you own.
IS: When we were growing up we only got two pairs of shoes every year. With me, I was lucky because I got three pairs of shoes, the third were basketball shoes: Black Air Force Ones, White Air Force Ones, and boots for the winter. But I was growing, so I had to scrunch my feet up. Now people are like: “Why do you have so many shoes.” I jump at the fact that I can wear something new everyday. I can wear a regular fedora, a snap back, a fitted cap, a big fuzzy hat. I can do whatever I want.
WWD: So it’s in high school that you developed your style?
IS: My mother worked in fashion design and she used to show me all of these looks. She tried to get me to wear fitted jeans in high school. This is when big jeans were popping. She was like, “You can wear it big, but cut to your body and show your muscles.” I was like, “I’m not doing that.”
WWD: Was it at Georgia Tech where you found your personal style?
IS: When I got to college I finally got a job. I would have people send me shoes and I had 40 pairs and none would fit in the dorm room. People would come by and be like, “Yo, I’ve been looking for these shoes.” I was like, “I’ll sell them to you for $300 right now.” I’d sell them, save up $4,000 to $5,000, go to the mall and just buy a bunch of new stuff. I threw all my clothes away from high school. Then I started dressing and people used to ask, “Where do you get all that stuff?” I was going to thrift stores with my best friend Bianca Stewart.
WWD: So you two hang out at thrift stores?
IS: No one else on the team in college was dressing up. They were wearing sweats. I was like, you know, if you want to be someone big, you have to dress the part. Me and Bianca would go to thrift stores like the Salvation Army. We’d pick up dope stuff no one ever heard of. But we’d put it together in ways that would work and be different. I’d get the army camo pants that had the long straps on them and buckles but something a veteran would have worn. We’d take them and let the buckles off and then tie the ankles and then wear lo-tops to show our ankles with no socks. Then I’d come out wearing it with a jersey and a long hoodie. People would be like what? I’ve never seen that done before.
WWD: So you found your style in college.
IS: I always knew what I wanted to dress like but that’s when I became really passionate about it. We’d be in class and Google outfits or I’d doodle what I wanted. When I started in the league, I went to a tailor and told him I wanted long t-shirts. But they were like, “You know, you don’t know what the trend is.” I was like, “Look dog, I don’t care about trends or your fashion sense. If I’m going to pay you money, this is where the shirt is going to end. I don’t like that I ask you to put it here but then you put it here because you think your fashion sense is above mine.”
WWD: Is there anyone who helped you out in the beginning of your NBA career?
IS: I asked Tyson Chandler who has to customize everything because he’s 7-foot-1. He’s said, always call a designer. You want to wear certain stuff but people don’t make it. Tyson encouraged me and was like, if that’s what you want to wear, wear that. Don’t listen to nobody else. He doesn’t listen to people either. He does whatever he feels like and people will be like, “Who dressed you?”
WWD: Speaking of stylists, why don’t you have one?
IS: They’re putting you in a style that most people are in because it’s the trend. So you might have on the same outfit as everyone else. You’re not going to find me in something someone else is wearing. Unless, of course, he’s a very swaggy individual. If he’s got what I have on, he’s got it figured out. You expect a basketball player to come with a white button-down, Balmain jeans, and Balenciagas. You expect that. But when I come with an extended button-down, camos, no socks, Louboutins that have spikes on them, and a bow tie with diamonds, you’ll be like, “What? Who dressed him?”
WWD: I’m wondering why you don’t put more of your outfits on Instagram?
IS: I don’t know, I have an Instagram [account] but I don’t feel a lot of love with it.
WWD: Why is that?
IS: Because, I live a real life so I forget to take pictures. I mean, shout out to the people that get dressed everyday and want to take that picture everyday. I would much rather post pictures of [my girlfriend] than of myself. A lot of times I just feel like this is not a special day, these are just clothes that I bought.
WWD: Don’t you want more people to see that you’re stylish?
IS: That’s kind of the mystique If you [post your outfit] on Instagram all of the time, I’m going to see a bunch of people walking around looking like Shump.
WWD: So that’s your worst nightmare?
IS: It’s not my worst nightmare. I’m cool with it, but I don’t feel like you should promote personally that you dress nicely. I’m not trying to plant the seed that I’m the most fashionable NBA guy — of course, I think that in my own mind.
WWD: Do you want the attention of the fashion crowd? Is that important for you?
IS: I don’t want the attention. I want the respect. I would like to walk in a room and people know who I am and be like, “Oh, I respect his opinion.”
WWD: So you want to be front row at Paris Fashion Week.
IS: Oh, without a doubt. I’ll show up at Fashion Week with a mink on with a lion head biting my shoulder. I would love that. Oh my God, with a jaguar tail on my shoes. Something crazy.
WWD: Do you want to learn more about fashion?
IS: I would love that— anything that’s going to help me put certain looks together. Maybe somewhere down the line when I’m done playing, I’d want to style NBA players. There’s a lot of guys in the NBA that would hire stylists because they know they don’t have their own sense of style and they need a little guidance. But they don’t want to deal with certain stylists. It’s hard to want to let somebody into your house. I’m super reserved in letting people in my house. A lot of guys don’t trust anybody in their homes but they would trust somebody like me because I’ve been there.
WWD: Do you look up to guys like Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade because of their fashion credibility?
IS: I respect them, but would I dress like them? No. Would I wear something that you picked out? No. They’re doing great, kudos to them, but throw five guys in a thrift store and see which of the guys comes out the best dressed. I would tip my hat to him.
WWD: Would that be you?
IS: Without a doubt. But the judge would have to be people in the fashion world and a bunch of random girls. Because guys in the league aren’t trying to impress guys in the league. They’re trying to impress people who have clout in the fashion world and women.
WWD: So is that why you dress up?
IS: Without a doubt, because I want a woman to walk past and say, “I would love to be in a picture with him.”
WWD: Would you want a designer like Giorgio Armani to say, “Who is that guy?”
IS: Yeah. I would love that. I would love that respect. That’d be cool.