OK McCausland

IT’S THE AFTERNOON of the first Monday in May, and New York City is in full-throttle prep mode. Sprinter vans and PR interns are dashing to and from The Carlyle and The Mark hotels, crowds of people are flocking to the museum in hopes of catching a glimpse of an A-lister, and in a room somewhere in Manhattan, Brooklyn Nets forward Ben Simmons is getting ready for his first Met Gala.

It’s only 2 o’clock when Simmons and I connect over the phone, and though the red carpet doesn’t even begin until 6, the NBA player has already been at his hotel for over an hour; he’s gotten a haircut, will be getting some food, and is readying himself for the rest of the night. He’s attending the Met Gala with Thom Browne, in a custom boucle tweed suit and (bear in mind, Simmons is 6’10”) oversized coat with a hand-painted, satin stitched white bullion rose growing up towards his ribcage. It’s apt for the ‘Garden of Time’ dress code, equal parts delicate and hard, a play on the Met Gala’s theme of permanence.

“Once I see something that I love, it makes me comfortable and confident,” Simmons tells Esquire. “I feel like this outfit is very me. I’m excited to go to the Met and show off what Thom has done, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Simmons owned a pair of Thom Browne sweatpants before he even landed in the NBA. But the partnership between the two tonight is a full-circle moment of a more substantial nature, with Browne — a swimmer throughout high school and college — designing the look for Simmons. Two athletes-turned-fashionphiles are better than one, after all.

“[Thom] has just always catered to the athletes, and I think that’s just been amazing for our industry,” says Simmons. “You see guys all over the league wearing his clothing.”

Below, Simmons delves into the evolution personal style, his relationship with Thom Browne, and what makes an NBA fit worthy of a tunnel walk.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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On his Thom Browne look for the Met Gala

I’m excited about it, I think it’s gonna stand out for sure. Obviously, given Thom and his experiences in the sports world, he’s an iconic figure in terms of athletes and outfits. So I’ll be rocking a Thom Browne coat over top, and then I’ll have a tweed jacket. The bottom half is painted in black, and we actually used car paint. So there’s going to be a Japanese-style stroke, which is interesting, and I’m excited to see. Then that’s going to be layered with a white rose stitched onto the side of the jacket, and I’ll have some Thom Browne glasses and other accessories. The other day I went to check out the outfit and get fitted, and it was just kind of surreal, seeing the outfit come to life.

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On his personal style

I feel like I’ve had an elevated style since I’ve come into the league. I’ve always worn various brands, and I continue to do that. I try to keep it classy, simple — but it always comes down to the details. I’ve always cared about what I wear, even when my mom was putting me in certain outfits when I was younger that I probably didn’t agree with. But just with growing up and moving to the States, you learn different fashion styles, and you create your own unique identity through that.

In terms of influences, I’d say [Russell] Westbrook, he really pushes the envelope a lot. LeBron, too, and Pharrell. Pharrell, of course, is one of my favourites.

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On fashion in the NBA

Obviously we have the walkthrough, so before games everyone is seen, and that’s just the first aspect of going to a game. People want to know what you’re wearing and what your style is, and that’s how it’s been for me over the years, collecting different pieces and different looks that people have appreciated, but also that I felt comfortable wearing.

Everyone’s style is different, so it’s always interesting to see what the guys are wearing or how they put it together. What makes an outfit worthy of a walk? I think everyone is worthy of their own outfit or style. There’s no specific outfit that you have to wear or things you have to put on, everyone’s just unique in their own way.

Being in New York, the fashion is so diverse, and you just see all types of styles and people. I think being in New York has probably made me more open-minded to different looks or outfits or things like that. It’s just seeing the uniqueness of everyone in New York and Brooklyn that’s been amazing, so style is one of those things that I’ve taken with it.

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On his pre-Met Gala ritual

Oh, I’m going to take a shot of tequila and hit the red carpet.

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This story originally appeared on Esquire US


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