On the football field, Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt is unquestionably a force to be reckoned with. And the exceptional athlete is hoping to shake up your shoe game with the release of his Reebok JJ I today. Talking to PeopleStyle, Watt opens up about flexing his creative muscles as a footwear designer, and why he just might work the shoe into his date night attire.
“As a kid, you always think of stuff like having your own shoe, but you never actually think it’s going to happen,” says the 27-year-old, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who spent months turning fantasy into reality after teaming with Reebok.
The pro, who joked of drawing up logos in middle school, had “a lot of input” on the shoe’s design. “I actually ended up drawing some of the final changes to it. I had an idea and they had an idea and we kind of collaborated on it, but in the end I was like, ‘I got it, I know what I want,’ in my head and I threw it out and it turned out.”
For his debut shoe, “I wanted something clean, crisp and classy,” explains Watt, who chose red and white to pay homage to his college (he played for University of Wisconsin-Madison) and professional football career colors.
The sneaker had to stand up to Watt’s aesthetic, and to his intense workout regimen. “For me it wasn’t just about looks, it was about making sure the shoe would perform. And for Reebok to be willing to listen to me and take my advice was great. It’s surreal to look back at everything that’s happened so far in my life and see where we are today.”
Scoring the perfect kick wasn’t easy, the newly-minted designer admits, but in the end, “we created everything I wanted in a shoe.” And he’s already thinking of his next sneaker — and making space for his forthcoming footwear empire in his closet. “I [recently] moved, I made it my goal to clean out the closet a little bit, so now I have about 10-15 pairs of shoes, which is a lot, but I chopped it down.”
For Watt, a gym sesh isn’t the only place the shoe might make an appearance. On the right date, he says he’d definitely rock it. “If you’re going to mini golf, especially if you’ve been going out for a long time, then you can wear a jogger and the JJs!” Though a more formal setting might call for a high-top or a nice Oxford, he advises.
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But don’t expect him to call on a stylist to form a fashion game plan. The 6’5”, nearly 300-pound pro dresses himself—which while fun, can sometimes be a fumble, he reveals. “Sometimes I’ll look back at pictures and be like, ‘oh, what was I thinking?’ Like last year at the ESPYs, the white pants were a bold move. Being almost 300 pounds, I don’t know if that was the right move, but that’s the way it goes.” For this year’s ESPYs he opted for a “clean-cut” suit.
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“Dressing my frame is hard — you have to customize a lot of things. My waist will be a 38, but the leg area won’t fit because you build muscle through squatting and things like that. You work to create an athletic body so you want stuff that’s going to accentuate that, you want stuff that’s going to form fit and show off what you’ve been working on.”
The process isn’t always easy, but Watt loves it nonetheless. “The fun part about styling yourself is that you can do whatever you want, and then nobody else can take the blame for you!”
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— Jackie Fields