The Sexier Side of Denim with Iman Shumpert and Teyana Taylor

When Iman Shumpert was drafted by the New York Knicks in 2011, he wore a simple gray suit. Last month, when Shump patrolled the red carpet outside this year’s NBA Draft, the draftees he spoke to wore bold suits in just about every color in the rainbow. And no one knows better than Shumpert how intensely the game has changed. Shortly after arriving in New York—and thanks to the help of a few veterans—he was testing the outer limits of personal style. (Remember his Fashion Week crop top?) Now, as he waits to find out where he’ll play next year, he’s keeping busy with Centerpiece, the fashion line he spent years saving money to start. To celebrate his unending dedication to style, GQ and Vogue co-produced a racy, denim-filled video with Iman and his wife Teyana Taylor (read Vogue's interview with her here. Then we called Shump up to talk about jeans, his budding clothing line, and the state of style in the NBA.

GQ: The theme of that shoot was all about jeans and denim, and obviously you're a big style guy. Are you a jeans guy?
Iman Shumpert: I'm actually more of a sweats guy, but I'm a jeans guy if I'm going out to do something. I'm more of a sweats guy if I just wake up my day is for me, but if I got something to do or somewhere to be, I definitely like the jeans.

What kind of a jeans guy are you?
I'm a blue jeans guy, but I like there to be some different pop to them. I like it to be original.

Do you have a pair you keep coming back to?
I got a favorite pair, the pair I designed—it was my first design, so my first-design jeans are probably my favorite. They fit exactly how I wanted them.

When did you design jeans?
I actually designed all my stuff a year and a half ago. I did everything from scratch, and everything took so long to get the fabrics made for fall, which is when I was going to put the stuff out. I didn't end up being able to drop it until about a month ago, and it's actually doing really well. The jeans didn't sell out because it's so hot, but the track pants and the button-down shirts which seemed like everybody's favorite, that all sold out with the socks and stuff.

You've been into style for a long time. What made now feel like the right time to start a line?
I spoke a lot with [sneaker designer] John Geiger who took his big step in just designing things, and he's got his shoes selling out like crazy right now. Me and Geiger came up in New York together when he was working with Darrelle Revis, and when I was there with him, we always did a lot of talking about fashion. Once he went on his venture to do his shoes, he came back and was like, "Yo, I got a place that can do this for you, this for you. I got this factory now and they can do this." And when he came back with that excitement, it was enough for me to say, you know what, all that money I'd been putting to the side to finally do my line, I'm ready to do it.

The cool thing about it is, I came out with the first pieces that I wanted and those are, like, my forever pieces. These are the pieces that I want to have when I'm two, three collections down the line. It'll be cool to see people that had the first pair of jeans. I'm not going to remake them. It'll be like oh, they got the first generation jeans.

The way you talk about this is not, like, "I'm a basketball player and I do some T-shirts on the side." This sounds like a full-fledged design career you're working on.
Oh yeah, this is for real. The first collection was for the masses. More of the stuff that's coming out later on will be really, really limited, but more about fashion and more about taking chances with fashion. [For] people that actually walk on that wild side, to try some things out, instead of the simple T-shirt, the simple button-up and jeans, and the track pants. It's going to be a little bit more outside the box when we bring the new stuff in.

What was the moment when you decided to start experimenting a little bit with your own style?
When you get in the NBA and your check hits, there’s an excitement—and then the season starts and you forget that you're making the money that you're making because you're so locked into the season, there is so much excitement, you're playing a game every day. You're still spending money like a college kid.

I got to hang with Melo and Amare [Stoudemire] one day. We went shopping. And this was a few months into the season, so they realized that I wasn't buying things because I didn't really know where to go. When I saw something, I knew I liked it, but I didn't really know store names. I didn't really know big brand names. I didn't come up doing that. I played basketball and I would have my mom cut my shirts or cut my jeans how I wanted them because I was outgrowing them, but never saying, "Oh, I want this brand new Tom Ford jacket." I would never say that. I would take what I had, try and make it look cool.

Did Melo buy any crazy hats?
Of course, that's why we went in there in the first place. That's when he was doing the big Pharrell hats, the fedoras and the Pharrell hats.

Did he try to get you into them? "Hey rook, check out the hats?"
I actually used to wear them. I went to school in Atlanta, so they were doing that a lot. But [Carmelo] didn't like the quality of hat that I was buying, which is why he took me with him. He said, "There’s no reason for you to buy a $20 hat. You got to buy a more expensive hat that's going to last longer. You buy that hat and somebody sits on it, it's over for that hat. This hat, it's going to keep its form, it's going to stay like this. It comes with a box to keep it nice." What I appreciated about it was he wasn't just saying just buy an expensive hat because you're rich, he was saying buy this hat because if you buy this hat, you won't have to buy another one.

In the NBA, the tunnel before the games has become this incredible style moment.
What's crazy about the runway, too, is when I first got in the league, we had to really dress business casual, and if you didn't come with really nice jeans or something that people felt was more appropriate for that business look, the NBA was all over you. I feel like a lot of guys went through what I went through when they were little. We didn't have enough money so I had to wear the same thing every day and then it's like you finally get to this and you're like, "I want to express myself, I want to feel like I'm ready to play wearing the things that I love to wear." And I think once the NBA showed that appreciation for that, it just grew out of control.

And now you've got a bunch of Instagram blogs now that do nothing but capture people walking into that tunnel. That runway—we call it the runway now —it's a different vibe now. It's cool for fans to finally be able to see. It's the worst feeling in the world for somebody to look at you and just say like, "Yo, you're just a dumb basketball player."

That's really what people think a lot of times. It's cool [that] through fashion, you can have a conversation with somebody and realize, "Damn, he's not just a basketball player. This dude really likes clothes!" You give somebody a compliment and then you start to realize he's a person, he's not just this basketball player that doesn't talk, and he's mean, and he has a bodyguard. It just sort of knocks you off the pedestal for a second so somebody can say, "Oh man, I really like those jeans. Oh man, I really like that shirt. That outfit you wore ..."

So where do you think the NBA is at right now in terms of style?
It's growing. I think people are taking more and more risks. People are starting to want to impress themselves for themselves, and say, Maybe I'm not playing so well right now, so let me wear this outfit, get my confidence to feel like I'm ready to play, look good, feel good, play good. It's one of those.

I did the GQ red carpet [at the NBA Draft], and those young guys coming in, they were serious. Me personally when I got drafted, I wasn't thinking about what I had to wear. I'm like, "I just want to wear my jersey." They were excited to tell me about their outfit, and it's cool because, like I said, the worst feeling in the world is for everybody to stare at us like, "Okay, play basketball, entertain us, or get out of our face, because you guys look like avatars and you don't fit in." It's the worst feeling in the world. Every room I go into, when you get treated that way, I say, Where is a seat so that I can sit down and make myself short so I'm not sticking out like a sore thumb? Because everybody is just fishbowling me. Nowadays I would much rather you fishbowl my outfit than fishbowl me because it's like, "Oh, he plays basketball. Go put it in the hoop."

Watch: The Sexier Side of Denim

See the video.


Director: Steven Brahms
Director of Photography: Bear Eveno
Executive Producer: Chris Ehrmann
Fashion Editor, Teyana Taylor: Alexandra Gurvitch
Fashion Editor, Iman Shumpert: Jon Tietz
Groomer, Iman Shumper: Barry White
Makeup, Teyana Taylor: Teyana Taylor
Hair, Teyana Taylor: Porscha

Originally Appeared on GQ