Smile Politely

C-U In Style: Derek

Farah talks style with a student athlete.

Derek Hoot, Fighting Illini Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team

Shirt: Nike Town in Minneapolis
Jacket: Vintage Shop in Chicago
Shoes: Champs
Watch: United Colors of Benetton

SP: What do you think is the most important part of a guy’s outfit and why?

Derek: The shirt, because it’s the first thing many people notice in a person, and it can reflect the character that you’re trying to portray to the world. Words and graphics express certain ideas, while the color of your shirt can express something else entirely: a mood or the level of formality that you’re trying to emanate.  Shirts are just more versatile than other clothing items.

SP: When did you begin to develop your own personal style?

Derek: I began developing my own personal style in high school. I really liked hip hop, but at the same time I needed to make good impressions, so I wanted stuff that was cool but simultaneously more sophisticated.

I think hip hop more than any other music style drops brand names, so when you’re into something like hip hop, you’re always trying to either emulate an artist’s style or  searching for brand names that are dropped in songs and thinking about what items in that brand you can see yourself wearing. That way, when you go back and listen to that song, it’s almost like the artist is talking directly about you. 

SP: Who are some hip-hop artists or basketball players that influence your style?

Derek: One of the people who drops the most brand-names and that I like to explore is Action Bronson. He drops some really interesting brands… they aren’t necessarily designer. The epitome of name-dropping and the influence of sports is of course Nike, so that’s something I like to wear too.


SP: What influences your style?

Derek: Being on U of I’s Wheelchair Basketball team definitely influences my style. I have this t-shirt that says “running sucks.” It’s one of my favorite items. It’s something a lot of wheelchair basketball players have; it’s a humorous take on being a disabled athlete. I’ve only been able to find it in one store, the Nike Town in Minneapolis, but I wish they made more stuff like that.

Aside from that, athletes in general, whether on wheelchair or regular teams, are always influenced by sports stars. Basketball players always influenced by what NBA athletes are wearing. For example, when Michael Jordan wore his shorts longer, basketball athletes started wearing their shorts longer, and eventually all younger males were wearing their shorts longer. There’s a point when it doesn’t even matter whether you play basketball or what kind… the style choices of players you look up to influence your own style choices.

SP: Does being on the wheelchair basketball team or having a disability in general impact your style?

Derek: I have a prosthetic leg, and I used to like wearing jeans more than shorts because I used to be really self-conscious. Now, though, that’s more of a seasonal thing. Getting older helped me gain more confidence. Playing wheelchair basketball definitely made me more confident as well because it changed how I saw myself.

I was on a traveling team in high school and I was forced into a leadership position. We didn’t really have captains, but we had leaders. Having that position made me realize that a disability isn’t something to be self-conscious about; it gives you an opportunity to make people more aware that disabilities exist, and you can show the world that there are disabled people who are confident and successful. That confidence is something I want to represent in my style, whether it includes exposing my disability or not.

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