‘I design my collections while I'm running.’

Thom Browne tells GQ’s Will Welch about transforming his highly competitive sporting past into victory on the runway.

Portrait by Philip-Daniel Ducasse

Performance. Thom Browne. - © System Magazine

Thom Browne tells GQ’s Will Welch about transforming his highly competitive sporting past into victory on the runway.

Since its creation in 2010, the CFDA Fashion Icon Award has charted the place of fashion within the wider culture, honouring household names from Lady Gaga to Johnny Depp to Pharrell; figures from industries – pop music, Hollywood, fashion itself – where personal image is part of the profession. But in 2023, Serena Williams became the first winner from the world of sport, an arena which celebrates a different kind of achievement: superhuman ambition, supreme discipline, prodigious talent, year-on-year dominance. The award marks both a recognition of the monumental status of Williams herself, and the increasing alignment of sport and fashion. But for Thom Browne, handing Williams the prize in November in New York as Chairman of the CFDA, it was personal, too, linking two worlds that have shaped his own rise to global stardom. Fashion has made Browne’s name, but sport is in his blood: as a child in an intensely sporty family; as a fiery young tennis player; as a college swimmer, up at dawn to train a minimum of four hours a day. And it’s that drive that’s also behind his rise through fashion: after trying to make it as an actor in Hollywood, Browne headed to New York City and worked in the showroom at Armani before serving as men’s creative director for Club Monaco (at the time owned by Ralph Lauren). In 2003, he launched his own label, rapidly carving out a unique place in the menswear market with his signature shrunken tailoring: cropped trouser, shorts suits, slight gradations of mid-grey wool, often genderless. Collaborations with Brooks Brothers and Moncler followed, then an expansion into womenswear in 2012 – dressing First Lady Michelle Obama that same year at the presidential inauguration (womenswear now represents almost half of the Thom Browne business). In 2018, Browne sold 85 percent of his company to Zegna in a deal that valued the label at $500 million, and in 2023, the growth continued, as the designer marked 20 years in business with his first haute couture collection.

And then there’s sport, and the brand’s close ties with icons such as LeBron James, Lionel Messi and NFL star (and beau of Taylor Swift) Travis Kelce. Back in 2018, James and the rest of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates arrived at their NBA playoff games in matching custom Thom Browne suits. The same year the brand announced a partnership with Messi’s then-football club FC Barcelona. The subject of this feature’s accompanying photoshoot, NBA star Russell Westbrook, has also cut a toweringly striking figure when wearing the designer’s pleated skirts to New York Fashion Week and the Met Gala – effortlessly shifting the conventions of basketball style, menswear, and indeed masculinity. ‘It gives me the swagger I need,’ affirms Westbrook.

At the recent CFDA Awards, Thom Browne got chatting to Will Welch, global editorial director at GQ and editor-in-chief of GQ US, so System invited them to continue the conversation the following afternoon: on Serena, sizing, and the competitive spirit across sport and fashion in the US.

Will Welch: We saw each other last night and you said you have a lot to say about sports. What did you mean?

Thom Browne: My inspiration from sports is so personal to me, and I think it’s a very non-fashion approach to having inspiration. But I think what I meant really stems from seeing Serena last night. For me, she’s the most important female athlete, if not athlete, over the last 50 years, for her way of bringing fashion into her personal and professional life. She really showcased herself as an individual. For me, hers was the most important award that was presented last night, because she’s the first athlete to win [the CFDA Fashion Icon award]. When athletes are going to their games you see the fashion that they really champion and the individuality in their choices. I thought it was time for an athlete to be celebrated for that.

Will: It is perfect for this moment when athletes are driving so much of the fashion conversation. And when I talk to retailers, they’re driving sales, too. In Serena’s speech last night, she characterized herself as an individual, and it seems like she knows how to use fashion to express that.

Thom: She wanted to bring her individuality to a whole sport, as the new face of tennis. Most of the time you just see players in their sports clothes. She played in her fashion, and I’m sure some of the things that she was wearing were probably not the most comfortable things she could have chosen.

Will: She definitely painted outside the lines of what you’re supposed to wear for tennis.

Thom: She re-energized the sport. I think the new generation are great players, but they don’t have that thing that drew you to watching her. She revolutionized tennis in so many ways, both for men and women, by being a true individual ready to take a chance, which is so rare. She was such a cultural moment. Similarly, I think LeBron James in that grey suit was a cultural moment; the Cleveland Cavaliers team was a cultural moment.

Will: Before we get further into professional athletes, I want to talk about your own relationship to sports. I know that you were a competitive swimmer, but before that, when you were a kid in Allentown [Pennsylvania], were you playing other sports as well?

Thom: I swam competitively from the age of six, and I played tennis through high school. But then for college I had to choose. I was actually a better tennis player than I was a swimmer, but my father wanted me to stick to tennis, so I chose to swim. That’s the type of kid I was.

At school, I was in the pool by 6am. Two hours in the morning, two in the afternoon. Three times a week. And an extra hour in the weight room.

Thom Browne

Will: Why do you think your dad preferred tennis? Could you have played college tennis?

Thom: I don’t know. I think my dad hated sitting in auditoriums, with the echo and all that chlorine. He was always very kind of stressed, and he never took his coat off for some reason, so he was always warm. Maybe he saw that I was a better tennis player, but tennis at that level is very lonely. You are always on your own. With swimming, I had a team and I had some friends; with tennis, I didn’t have that.

Will: That gladiator aspect of singles tennis is so incredibly intense.

Thom: People don’t realize the schedules that they have. I think people now know more because of reality shows and the Tennis Channel, so they see that there’s a tennis tournament every week. People thought there was only Australia, France, Wimbledon and the US open.

Will: Just the four slams! How do you think that past connects to what you do now? As the designer of Thom Browne, when you think back to those times, what jumps out? Perhaps a feeling of nostalgia, the loneliness of tennis, the uniform, the equipment elements…

Thom: All of it. Sometimes the reference is a little more literal, but when it comes down to it, my approach to work in general and in design is about that rigour, almost about competing with myself. ‘This collection needs to be better than the last.’ There’s always that competitive side to me. The literal references to sports are personal to me, and I like them because they’re not normal, boring fashion inspirations and I feel like they’re relatable. As conceptual as an idea may be, if there’s a reference to a tennis ball, but the tennis ball is a round sphere that somebody has on their body, people get that reference. They think it’s crazy, but there’s that little bit of understanding of where it’s coming from, as opposed to a conceptual idea out of nowhere that just totally alienates a lot of people. Although I like doing that, too.

Will: Yes! I’ve felt alienated at a Thom Browne show before. Where am I? What is going on? [Both laugh] So when you do a tennis collection, for example, would you say the references to your own experience as a tennis player are more literal or less literal?

Thom: Less literal. It’s more like referencing Suzanne Lenglen from the 1920s, more a nostalgic and idyllic reference to tennis. Hopefully referencing the past, then making it relevant for today, which is what I always try to do.

Will: To what extent do you think Thom Browne is about you and your experience?

Thom: It’s all about me, in a way. I mean, it is my life, it’s what I do. So as foreign as it might seem from me, it’s still so much part of me. Everybody says my shows are as they are because I’m an actor, but their theatricality has nothing to do with my wanting to be an actor. The ideas are all things in my head that I want to put out in the world. They come from a real place; it’s not something contrived.

Will: I like this idea that if you do a tennis collection it’s not about you as a kid playing tennis, but it is about you in the sense that it’s all through your filter.

Thom: If I did a tennis collection that was truly personal to me, there would be 500 broken tennis rackets.

My approach to design is all about rigour. Competing in sports has now turned into competing at work, and almost competing with myself.

Thom Browne

Will: Did you have temper issues?

Thom: I had the worst temper. I am usually very calm and I actually do not have much of a temper, but for some odd reason, if you put me on a tennis court it would just trigger something almost uncontrollable.

Will: Maybe that’s why you turned up the dial on swimming.

Thom: I always used to win, too, so it wasn’t like I was losing. I remember this one time I won a match and I was out of control and I went to take the kid’s hand and he said, ‘I did not deserve that.’

Will: He didn’t deserve the beating?

Thom: He didn’t deserve having to endure my energy. Which is pretty bad.

Will: I had the opposite problem. I struggled to be competitive enough to get really good. Tell me about swimming in college at Notre Dame. I remember feeling a lot of sympathy for the athletes at college because it was such an extraordinary commitment to compete at that level.

Thom: For all four years at school I was up at five thirty to get to the pool by six. Two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon. And three times a week, I’d do an extra hour in the weight room, too.

Will: But from what I know about the way you organize your life, you like schedules and rigour. Did the intensity of that itinerary suit you then, too?

Thom: It was just such a part of my life. I remember the last time I swam in my senior year thinking, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I never have to dive into a pool ever again.’

Will: What was the emotion that accompanied that thought?

Thom: I was so burnt out. I was so happy. But then I had all that free time, so I started running just to have something else. I ran twice a day: in the morning and in the afternoon. Without sports, I wouldn’t really know what to do with my free time. The thing about swimming is that if you don’t make it to the Olympics, you’ve just wasted so much time in your life. Of course, you learn the lessons of discipline, but that’s really all you get, as opposed to sports in which you can become a professional athlete.

If I were to design a tennis collection that was truly personal to me, there would be 500 broken tennis rackets. I had the worst temper on the court.’

Thom Browne

Will: My understanding is that the running is something that you continued for quite a long time.

Thom: I still run. Not twice a day, but usually a little over an hour, around eight miles, any time of day, seven days a week, although I try to take a day off. I very rarely miss it. It clears my head. I design collections while I’m running; just thinking through what I want to do, ideas that I want to bring back to my design staff.

Will: Maybe this is a weird question, but do you think of your running as sports or as exercise?

Thom: Exercise, because I’m never competing. I do sometimes think it would be odd to compete in a sport again. I don’t know how that would feel. I almost don’t remember the feeling of competing in a sport. It was such a part of my life, but then I couldn’t wait to not have to compete. In a way, it’s turned into competing at work.

Will: How has your running uniform evolved? My early years at GQ were your early years doing Thom Browne, and I remember the cashmere cardigan as part of your running attire.

Thom: Yeah. That was a little bit stylized, a little bit of theatre. I don’t really run in cashmere. Although if I’m going to the gym and running inside, I do wear it to the gym. We do a fashion version of sportswear; it’s not like we do wear tests on things.

Will: Do you remember why you came to bring sportswear into the mix? Even if it isn’t meant to be performance and you’re not worried about wicking materials and all that stuff.

Thom: It’s always a personal thing; if I want it for myself, then I usually think that it’d be interesting to infuse it into the mix, like, next to a $6,000 cashmere coat. If it’s a part of me, it should be in the world of Thom Browne.

Will: What’s the story behind the Thanksgiving game, which I believe started in 2014?

Thom: Growing up within a family of seven, we always had a football game on Thanksgiving Day. So I thought it’d be nice for our family here to put on our sweats and create the game. It started in Central Park.

Will: Are you the best athlete of the Browne kids?

Thom: No, we all were pretty good. My brother played professional baseball for the Texas Rangers. My sister swam with me at Notre Dame; we overlapped on the team. My little sister scored over 2,000 points in college basketball. And my little brother played a bit of professional football in England.

Will: Incredible. That was serious Thanksgiving warfare!

Thom: Competitive, and we were all pretty good at it too.

Will: And thus a little bit dangerous.

Thom: Which is good. Somebody would usually get hurt, usually break something. And of course, as a stubborn Irish family, somebody would be pushed into the bushes once in a while.

Will: Any injuries in the Thom Browne version of the game so far? Has anyone gone down?

Thom: No, it’s pretty tame.

Will: You hosted this fabulous dinner at The Grill the other night, and obviously you’re going to choose a restaurant in New York that feels like an appropriate context for your vision. But what is it like for you when you look out across the tables and see people from all different worlds wearing your clothes? Your world has come to life on all these different characters. How does that feel as a designer?

Thom: It feels great! Sometimes people feel like what we do is not for them, and I don’t understand that because I put clothing on so many different types of people. I just don’t understand when people say, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I could wear it.’ There’s so much within the collection that is very understandable, very wearable, very classic, very simple. And people sometimes see those exact pieces just happen to be on Lil Uzi and they think they can’t wear it.

Will: Like, it’s not the forehead tattoo that’s making him pull this off.

Thom: After LeBron and the team were wearing the clothing, I thought we were going to have throngs of men going down to the stores. But – zero! Which was fine, because it wasn’t a marketing thing in my head; I wanted it to be more of a cultural thing. Same thing with the First Lady; when she wore our clothes, I thought every woman in the world was going to come, but they didn’t.

Will: One thing that’s interesting about having built a very specific world over 20 years is that there’s always a play between really pure classicism and an extreme re-imagination based on proportion. And I think the word ‘extreme’ is fair. For me, one of the things that you have done so successfully is to use athletes’ bodies to show that the proportion holds when you scale way up. I remember standing on the rooftop last year in Paris, thinking ‘Serge Ibaka looks perfect in these clothes.’ He was wearing a vest and – do you call it a kilt?

Thom: A skirt.

‘Seeing a basketball player like Russell Westbrook in a skirt seems so normal to me, but for so many it’s still confusing, and they don’t understand it.’

Thom Browne

Will: He was wearing a vest and a skirt and he looked perfect. And Serge has an immense, unusual physique. So we’ve seen everyone from Jenna Ortega to Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. And your proportions hold. But when people say to you, ‘I still don’t get it,’ do you think your eye no longer registers the extremity? What do you think is going on there?

Thom: I think it is that it’s become normal for me, in a way, but I think that the challenge in the next 20 years is to never lose that. Because I think I will always want people to see that it’s for a lot more people: it’s for somebody like Serge or Russell, and it’s for someone like Jenna Ortega; polar opposites. But fundamentally everybody wants to see the four bars and the red, white, blue grosgrain, or the white, red, white, blue, white grosgrain.

Will: Let us not erase the trim.

Thom: But I would most likely be known for the proportion – the plain proportion – because that’s really where it started: the proportion of the top and the bottom. And that can be adjusted for anybody’s size. The thing is, I do want to get it out there in as big a way as possible; I think there is still so much more to do. We just came from Asia and we are still so niche; $500 million into this business, and we’re still so niche. So even just by opening people’s eyes that this is actually for them, there’s a huge potential in regards to what could happen.

Will: Why is it exciting to you to basically push it as far as possible, versus being in a comfortable zone? You’ve built a really sizable global business. In many regards, you have achieved scale. But what you’re talking about is the possibility of scaling further. Why is it your impulse to continue to push it?

Thom: I guess it comes down to my competitive side. And, really, just why not? Why stop here? Without taking away from the first 20 years, why not build upon them? I sometimes think there’s nothing worse than seeing something that has kind of fallen flat. I would love to just keep things evolving and moving in a really positive way that doesn’t take away from what it’s built upon.

Will: And we’re Americans – we’re into growth.

Thom: Well, speaking as the Chairman of the CFDA, it is our responsibility to the next generation of American design and fashion. My biggest challenge to all these young kids is to do it, to really want to do it. All of them. They are talented. It’s just that you have to make it happen.

Will: What do you mean by that, that you have to kind of make it happen? What’s the spirit behind that?

Thom: No one’s going to make it happen for you. Everyone wants advice. Everyone wants the secret formula. There’s no secret formula.

Will: ‘I need the perfect executive. I need the investment.’

Thom: If that’s what you need, then great. But don’t let somebody tell you that’s what you need. Instinctively and personally, what do you want and what do you need? Because my story is my story and it probably won’t work for you, so don’t take my advice. In 2009 I was told to declare bankruptcy and start over and I didn’t because I could never do that. I could never start over. Those first seven years are something I couldn’t do again.

Will: One thing that I think has been an incredibly powerful driving force of your growth and evolution is that you guys have done a fantastic job of using interesting, talented, famous, influential people. You’re sort of playing at all tiers. I now know that if I’m going to a big event, there’s going to be a team of people in Thom Browne showing me all the different ways that it can be done. And I think it would be easy for a very successful, very elevated fashion designer like yourself to be, like, ‘That’s playing the influencer game, which is lowest-common-denominator shit, and I’m not going to do it.’ But you took a different tack. I’m wondering how that conversation evolved both in your head and then here in the office.

Thom: Well, a lot of them started as customers. They’re always real relationships, and there’s some sort of real connection, of mutual appreciation for what each other does. So it’s never a forced relationship, because that just doesn’t work. We had one situation like that, and it just wasn’t worth it.

Will: I’m not trying to get you to say anything you don’t want to say, but can you tell me a little bit about that?

Thom: Just a lack of appreciation for my staff. And I was just like, no way, forget it. How dare you. Never again.

Will: So somebody notable was going to wear you, and the way that they behaved just wasn’t in line with what you stand for?

Thom: Yes. It comes down to respect. And for the most part, we have really, really nice times with everyone. It was just that one moment. Not worth it.

Will: Now you guys are just in this incredible groove, right? The thing that I love so much is you can get the breadth and depth of Thom Browne in just one night from all the different ways something is being worn. Was there one organic relationship that led to another? How did you get to this point?

Thom: I think it just evolved from the world we live in. I like people to see what I do on different types of people, in different ways, so it just naturally came about. Of course, we have more resources now, so we can do a lot more. I guess the first moment would be down on Little West 12th Street with David Bowie; how he just kind of appeared, and then how that influenced people.

Will: When did David Bowie appear in the shop? What was he looking for?

Thom: It was 2005. He just wanted to see what I was wearing; I honestly don’t know how he knew about it. But I got the phone call, ‘David Bowie’s coming.’ And I was like, ‘What???’ I turned a lot of people away from my shop at the beginning; they wanted things that fit them a little differently, and I was, like, ‘I’m sorry, this is what it is.’ He came in and he was, like, ‘I want it exactly like that.’ So you kind of think, ‘Okay, there’s something I’m doing right here.’

Will: Do you remember one of the first athletes where a relationship like this evolved?

Thom: Well, Dwyane Wade was one of the first. LeBron was a customer for a long time before the moment with the team. He and Dwyane Wade came pretty much at the same time; they were playing together. Venus Williams has been a long-time customer. Reilly Opelka.

Will: So a Reilly Opelka or a Serge Ibaka comes in to get dressed. What is exciting to you about it? What is the challenge?

Thom: It’s never really a challenge. A lot of times it’s last-minute, so that can be a challenge, making sure that we have something that can fit. What’s exciting is that I’m still a designer: when I see people wearing Thom Browne on the street, I still get excited. And athletes, especially at that level, are so inspiring because I know what it takes to be at that level. I didn’t reach that level, and I know what it took just to get to where I was. They’re superstars. When you talk about someone like Michael Phelps, people don’t know how superhuman he is, but he is superhuman. Same thing with Serena. For her to have that career for that long…

Will: Yeah, it’s like the great pyramids. The awe comes from seeing something that exceeds our ability to understand. What is interesting about athlete bodies versus civilian bodies? I think for some designers, it’s less about the body, it’s more about the garment. But I feel that with what you do with proportion, it’s sort of all about the body.

Thom: Actually, I think sometimes it is about the garment and the proportion for me, and an almost classic idea proportioned in an odd way is great to see on a superhuman body. I think my approach to design fundamentally starts with playing with proportion, and athletes just have really good bodies.

Will: Like, here it is on Reilly Opelka, at seven feet tall.

Thom: This is why I don’t understand why people don’t see it and think, ‘Oh, wow – I can relate to this.’ Because they know how big he is. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think he looks really good. What guy wouldn’t want to look like that? And the same thing with women. What woman wouldn’t want to look like Serena Williams?

Will: I understand your lack of understanding. Let’s say that for the same night, you were putting Lil Uzi and Serge Ibaka in essentially the same look. How do the proportions relate to each other? Is it how a scale model works, where you’re like, well, it’s one to 218. Does it work like that?

Thom: Yeah. It kind of works that way; it really comes down to the fitting. It has to hit certain places. A classic jacket shouldn’t go much past the bottom of your rear end; it should actually, hopefully be significantly shorter. They’re very eye-level kinds of measurements.

An almost classic idea proportioned in a kind of odd way is great to see on a superhuman body – and athletes just have really good bodies.

Thom Browne

Will: So, in a way, it does sort of work to scale. I have one arm that’s longer than the other, so I need help there. But otherwise, no.

Thom: It could fit everyone.

Will: We’ve talked about LeBron and Serge Ibaka, but what about Russell Westbrook?

Thom: Well, I just think he looked amazing when he wore the white pleated skirt at my Spring 2022 show. Russell brings a real confidence to everything he wears, and that confidence makes him look even better. It takes a true individual to have the confidence to wear whatever, and people like Russell and Lebron and Serge and Serena are true individuals.

Will: Do these athletes directly influence your design approach, and what you want to say with your clothes?

Thom: I just approach everything the same way, hoping to create stories that create conversations; that push the idea of what we think something is supposed to be. Seeing a basketball player in a skirt seems so normal to me, but for so many it’s still confusing, and they don’t understand it. So I hope the most important thing that I do is challenge people to understand differently. I just want people to see the person in the clothing, that what they’re wearing is almost an extension of their own true individuality and personality.

Will: We touched on the tennis collection, but today, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about conceptualizing the Olympics collection?

Thom: What Olympics collection?

Will: The Coliseum show.

Thom: Oh, that one. Yeah. I was, like – wait, am I designing the uniforms for the Olympics? Next summer? It’s a little late! [Laughs] Well, the challenge with that collection was Covid and the logistics of just getting a collection done. I remember wanting it to be all white because of the moment we were living in. I wanted it to be the purity of just one colour. I don’t remember when it became the Olympics collection, other than that we had to film it, and I thought about filming at the [Los Angeles Memorial] Coliseum. The [1932] Olympics was at the Coliseum, and I’m always inspired by that era of Olympic uniforms and purity, and the almost non-functional aspects of uniforms back in those days. Those looks were a good play with proportion. I think one of the long cardigans or the long trompe l’œil polo shirts was based on a classic polo shirt and the long skirt. I was playing with the idea of creating an Olympics in the future, based in an old Olympic stadium.

Will: I want to ask, how did you come to the two big team moments in 2018? You’ve said LeBron was a long-time client, so was he essentially gifting matching Thom Browne suits to his teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers? How did that unfold? And just practically speaking, how do you go about fitting a whole team?

Thom: Well, initially it started with a conversation with Dwyane Wade. He was giving me an award at Fashion Group International, and in easy conversation I asked if the Cleveland Cavaliers would ever want to be wearing just grey suits as a team. They have access to everything and can wear whatever they want, to show their individuality. But I thought it would be even more important for young kids to see them all wearing the same thing and still being individuals, to see the power of the team. And then it was really a conversation with Dwyane and LeBron because they were on the same team at that time. They thought it was a great idea, so it was pretty easy.

Will: I thought it was such a powerful moment. So visual.

Thom: It was true to what I wanted. It became a little bit more fashion because the guys are great looking and the clothing fits so well, but for me, you saw each one of them as true individuals when they wore the same thing. I thought that was so powerful. And it was the same thing that I wanted to do with FC Barcelona: putting them all in that grey suit and seeing them all as one unit. But you also see that each one of them is such a true, superhuman individual.

Will: So the uniform, instead of suppressing the individuality, just becomes like a control group, which – in a counter-intuitive way, perhaps – emphasizes their individuality.

Thom: Then through the season, you saw some of them trying the shorts, and some of them having a better bag. LeBron at one point had the great crocodile bag. So they all kind of personalized it, but it still stayed true to the idea of a uniform. That’s what I’ve tried to do from the beginning, to have many different versions, but for it to still feel like one focused idea. So that when you think of what I’ve done, even when I’m gone, there’s an image that you have in your head.

Will: One thing that’s fascinating to me about how far you’ve taken Thom Browne is how creativity comes from limitations. By having rules and sticking to them, you’ve put yourself in what some would see as a very tight box and you’ve made it explode.

Thom: It might just be the world we live in. You have to be more conscious of what you’re putting out into the world. You don’t want to offend, and you want to make sure that you’re relevant with what’s going on in the world. That does make things harder, but it can actually make you more creative. You really have to think.

Putting all of FC Barcelona in that grey suit was like seeing them all as one unit. But you also see that each one of them is such a superhuman individual.

Thom Browne

Will: You can’t just irresponsibly shoot it out of your fingertips.

Thom: Those days are gone.

Will: One thing that we really pushed back on over the years at GQ, was that we used to reach out to brands to dress an athlete that we were shooting – it might be an American football player who was really bulky, or an American basketball player who was really tall – and people were like, ‘We’re not going to fall over ourselves in the way that we normally would for a GQ shoot to dress a tall, black American athlete.’ I think there was often a racial component to it. And it has been really cool over the last 10 years to see all of that flip the other way.

Thom: But shame on people that it took so long. That it wasn’t immediate, like, ‘Oh, great! Of course I will!’

Will: Yeah. The resistance of 10 years ago was palpable: I wasn’t dreaming; I wasn’t misperceiving. And now the eagerness is palpable. That’s been quite a change, and a credit to so many athletes who were just, like, ‘We love fashion and we don’t give a shit about the attitude.’ It’s great to see now how these moments are sort of undeniable. People come to us all the time asking ‘What can we do around the NBA? What can we do around global football? What can we do around F1?’ Now everybody has leaned in, even if they were a little slow on the uptake.

Thom: Yeah, I would be slow now about offering those people the option. Like, ‘Hey, remember when…?’

Will: [Laughs] They always remember! A last question: How is your tennis game?

Thom: I never play. The thing is, especially with a game like tennis, when you are fairly good at it, and then you don’t really play, and then you try to play and you stink, it’s not fun. Why do people bother to play sports that they aren’t that good at? I just don’t understand why they would do it.

Will: Totally. Yeah. Especially if it all kind of comes apart with time. I was playing basketball with my nephews last year, and I basically just fainted or something. I just fell down and they were like, ‘Uncle Will, what happened?’ And I was, like, ‘I actually don’t know.’ What I do know is that my basketball career is fully over [both laugh]. Well, that was so fun. Thank you.

Thom: Thank you.

Taken from System No. 22 – purchase the full issue here.