"When I put my outfit on, I promise I was not thinking of you,” says the man of the hour, Mr. Stefon Diggs, with a cheeky smile. We’re talking about that Stefon Diggs, the Maryland native with All-Pro NFL wide-receiver hands, currently savoring a 4-year $96m contract with the Bills of Buffalo (sponsorships not included), and a fashion sense that is not common but rebellious, not trendy but trend-setting.
Diggs is sitting in a black Escalade. A Bottega some-thing-or-other draped over his low-4-second-40 yard-dash physique, iykyk. Fingernails dancing pearlescent like Tiffany jewels, simultaneously defying masculine convention and cementing what is real and true and so shall remain.
And we talk like that, with Diggs psyche-parading betwixt the gridiron and the runway, from European dreams and the cultures that give no fucks and pay no minds, and then off to the touchdown celebrations on American football fields. Hallowed ground beneath Diggs’ feet wherever he seems to walk.
And the man is clearly moving into a new stage of evolution—a fitting theme here—what the theme of the issue that humbly houses the superstar that of the Spring Formal, a sometimes nostalgic, sometimes cringe-eliciting segue between major stages.
But where is Diggs going?
Somewhere beyond the material pursuit that has highlighted his past and into the sunlight of creation. A horizon as bright as his visor on gameday, replete with a budding fantasy of helm-ing some kind of team at some kind of creative hub.
Will it be t-shirts you can’t let go of?
Or armchairs you can’t step out of?
Because they feel so good, because they feel so well thought out?
“I’ve bought over 400 bags,” Diggs says, matter-of-factly, ruminating on his experience with the textures and materials that very few get to behold, “and I’ve bought a million pairs of this or that, but now I’m shifting, shifting my energy toward something bigger. I can see myself in a creative director role, I can see myself with a team of people, and building something real. This time feels like me putting on my graduation hat and throwing it in the air by pursuing my dreams.”
We now commence to dream with the NFL superstar. We dream up and on as much contemporary mystique as we can fit into a car ride from one end of Sunset Boulevard to the other, and despite all the bright lights and billion-dollar backing of the stage he’s accustomed, we savor the granular, we appreciate the glory of the minute to minute.
Can you speak on what masculinity might mean to you in today’s world, and as a participant in such a historically masculine sport? There have been the odd sartorial moments cross-ing over, like the famous Joe Namath in the fur coat moment on the sideline, but this is a different era altogether. How might you want to shift the perspective of how we see men?
From my own experience [as a football player], also being an African American male, I have a lot of men, in general, watching me. But in that same [masculine] realm, I always got my nails done, I’ve always been groomed. Aside from just having a typical haircut, I enjoy getting my feet done, I enjoy smelling good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re also living in a new age where we’re pushing a lot of boundaries, and I’m never against pushing boundaries. And when people ask about the mindset of ‘being feminine’... Well, what is being feminine? The psyche of it is that we have followed something for so long it’s become a tradition, and like football, it has transformed into something else. Your form of expression can come from many different ways, like Joe Namath wearing that fur coat is probably the first time they had ever seen anybody do that, and to that point you had only seen women wearing fur coats—I mean, men may have, but I’m just saying to push the boundaries has always been my thing.
Is there a limit to the level of boundary-pushing?
I don’t care how far somebody pushes it. Ultimately, if you’re being you, then I will support it, I don’t care. I don’t care where you are or who you are, I’m a supporter of people being themselves. The masculine thing is interesting, since I play such an aggressive sport. So people might look at us and say, ‘You’re not supposed to do this or that,’ but who is saying that? Especially coming from a small-minded person, coming from one area who maybe hasn’t traveled anywhere or hasn’t seen anything or dove into the world of fashion. And the world of fashion is freedom. The biggest thing is being free and wearing what you want to wear, as long as you feel confident, and looking at it as a moment to share and express yourself to the world. Like I’m expressing to you what I wanted to wear today. You don’t have to wear it. My outfits are my outfits. It ain’t for you sometimes. Sometimes you will like my outfits, sometimes you won’t, but when I put my outfit on I promise I was not thinking of you.
How might you define masculinity today?
I would like to more so challenge who made those boundaries, or who made that word where you have to be put in a box, because I know some feminine men that can fight. Like, if you question a man and then get beat up by him, does that make you not masculine anymore? Because you got beat up by somebody you deemed feminine? I would like to challenge this, because there is a lot of toxic energy created when you put men (or people) in a certain box and think that they have to be a certain kind of way, because then they are forced to be something they may not be. Whatever you think a masculine man is: tough, hardcore. That stuff doesn’t make you masculine, that stuff can put you in a box where you feel like you have to prove yourself, and I never feel like I have to prove myself. That doesn’t make me feminine, that makes me secure within myself, if anything.
Considering your Instagram, which, looking at it, to me feels like a kind of lookbook of vibrations. You seem to vacillate between an existential journey in self-love and creative empowerment. Simply, what are your thoughts on being a man and loving yourself? Or cultivating love in your life?
I play such an aggressive sport, such a run-into-a-wall sport, such a talk-shit sport, that I promise you that at the end of my day when I see my significant other, all I want is a hug and a kiss. My most vulnerable times are when I have given it everything I can, and at the end of the day, I fall short. And if you don’t want love after falling short, you’re fucking crazy. I need that love, I need that support system, I’m not afraid to say that, and that doesn’t make me less of a man or less masculine, because I still get out on the field and bust your ass, I’ll still fight you at the drop of a hat if you say the wrong thing to me. Wanting and giving love doesn’t make me less of a man. If anything, it makes me more human, because come on now, I like to give love. I’ve got younger brothers, I’ve got siblings, and that’s the first thing I lead with. I used to be so tough on them: no pats on the back or saying they need to do more, and you can’t love everybody like that, you can’t push everybody like that. Some people need a hug along the way and to be told, ‘Hey, you got this.
Was paying attention to how clothes made you feel always a part of your life?
It has always been a thing I was into. Even looking back. Like, where I’m from, DC and Maryland, it’s always been a big shoe place. Everyone has always been into their shoes whether it’s Dunks or Air Forces or New Balances, it’s always been a shoe hub. But to me, I’ve always been a full-outfit guy. My shoes will tie it all together, but I pay attention to my full outfit. So I’ve been focused on what I’ve been wearing probably since I was like 6 or 7 years old. My mom can tell you. For instance, I used to wear these cowboy boots in the middle of the summer just because I loved the cowboy boots so much. I always had an appreciation for what I’m wearing, and how I wear it, and when I wear, it and there’s a freedom in that for me.
Cowboy boots on the East Coast are a pretty rebellious move.
If you see somebody wearing something, do you think, ‘No, I’m going to go the other way.’ Or will you be inspired?
I feel like there’s nothing wrong with being inspired, but you have to put your own twist on it. You have to. You have to make it your own. I don’t see anything wrong with being inspired, especially in this day and age, you see a lot of instant gratification and a lot of things come across your mind with content, but I feel like the most fashionable people are everyday people. And you don’t know them personally, but you can see their personal expression through their clothes. 100 times out of 100, it has to be personal. Say, for instance, I see a shoe, I might change the laces or go for a different colorway, or as for a sweater, I might cut the sleeves off, or make it cropped, or something like that. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired, but it has to end with you.
I know you don’t have a stylist, which for many in the public eye is a big risk. What’s your thoughts there?
I always picked out my own clothes. I never let my mom dress me or my dad dress me. In the morning, I wanted to pick out my own clothes. I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear. Obviously, that became a bit of a problem when I wanted to wear rain boots in the summer, but all-in-all, I garner a lot of my looks from creation. For instance, for this shoot, I didn’t get a whole lot of direction, but when they told me ‘prom’ or ‘formal’ I knew what direction I wanted it to go. I wanted it to look clean yet with pops of color, mute a couple looks so the scenery would be brought out. I’m big on direction—once I know what direction I want to go for, then I can execute it.
Did you go to prom?
I actually didn’t go to my own prom. I got into too much trouble at school. But at the time, my girlfriend was going to prom, so I ended up going to hers.
What did you wear to said prom?
I was big on not wearing all-white. I told my mom that I didn’t want to wear all white. Looking back I thought I would look foolish. So I wore all black with a simple white shirt.
I find it a very interesting time to be in today’s big business NFL and to be such a free spirit like yourself. Can you comment on being in a sport that can traditionally be so hyperaware of its image?
Being a part of something that is kind of micro-managed is weird. And the NFL is not coming from a bad place, but on the business side, you’re got uniform regulations, stuff like that. So, it can really be a slippery slope. Throughout the past five or so years, the NFL likes the creativity of having different cleats. They would post them on Instagram. But we also lived in a world [and a game] where we would get fined for wearing them on the field. But to garner the attention on Instagram, the NFL will be for it, because, of course, the little kid in the backyard playing wants to see crazy cleats and fun stuff.
How do you navigate that?
I try to somewhat fall underneath the radar. Be within the lines a little bit, and have my fun here and there, but keep the business in mind, because who wants to lose money? But at the same time, be that motivation and be that creativity for that kid, because it is a form of self-expression. I still want to have fun with my cleats, but it depends on the day, what gloves I want to wear, what socks I want to wear—it’s the small things that I try to fly under the radar, and hopefully I don’t get caught, but at the same time, I’m here for self-expression and I want that kid that’s following me to know that you can be yourself at any level. Being yourself is the biggest thing. And never feel like you’re in a box. Yes, I love my money, and I don’t want to lose it, but if that day I want to wear something different, then I’m going to wear it, because money doesn’t drive me. My form of creativity is way bigger to me. Being able to swag when I want to and how I want to. I don’t want to feel like in the back of my mind that money is going to prohibit that. And when you do get a lot of money, you can kind of scale it back, and get boring, and that makes sense, but for me it doesn’t—when I made money, I could just continue to embrace myself and be myself. But when I didn’t have money, I still felt like I was putting the best clothes on. Money just gave me another level of feeling like this is a one-of-one outfit—like, this really is some of the best.
In keeping with the Spring Formal theme, I feel like you’re almost graduating, transcending in some way into a new level of life.What do you feel like the horizon says for you?
I’m a creative, but I also have such a business-like mind. The next steps for me aren’t money-driven—they are more from a creative direction standpoint.The creative direction of the clothes, the textures, the cuts, the sewing, the process, I love that. I want to dive into it deeper and I’m slowly pushing myself into that unknown area and uncharted waters, because being on the other side of it, well, I felt like at some point I was done being a consumer. I started to think if I’ve bought ten denim jackets, which, mind you, are all different...why couldn’t I make that denim jacket? So, slowly going into the waters of design. And I feel like I’ve really learned through experience. And applying the same amount of dedication that I have been doing with football my whole life—why can’t I do that with fashion and curating great products for people to appreciate? There is nothing like buying a good hoodie. There is nothing like buying a great shirt. I want to be the person that makes something that makes people say, ‘Damn, this is my favorite shirt.’ That’s what I want to hear at some point in my career and new stage of life. And I’m also into furniture and art. I feel like if you’re into fashion, you’re into furniture and art, and it’s all tied into one thing. But, right now, putting that focus on clothes and being a maker. But, ultimately, I want to be limitless.
Photographed by Fabien Montique
Styled by Stefon Diggs
Written by Augustus Britton
Groomer: Giulio Panciera
Creative Producer: Mui-Hai Chu
Fashion Market Director: Zoe Costello
Producer: Jonas Farro
Styling Assistant: Zoé Minard-Liévain
Styling Intern: Grachova Liza
Photo Assistant: Philip Skoczkowski
Fashion Market Assistants: Brandon Yamada and Claire Davis
Location: Giulia Paris