Since pulling off an impossible one-handed catch late in his rookie season, the NFL’s highest paid wide receiver hasn’t let the spotlight fade. Off the field, he consistently wears the most hyped pieces in menswear, along with his trademark bleached hair and dangling earrings. In a league that still skews older and more conservative, 26-year-old Beckham — known simply as OBJ — is the NFL’s foremost embodiment of youth culture, his boldness and earnestness breathing fresh air into the often-stuffy sport.
The NFL is flush with spectacular athletes, but Beckham has set himself apart by becoming not only one of its star players, but also one of the sport’s most marketable faces, a rarity for non-quarterbacks. Beckham’s unrelenting personality has made his every action, from getting dressed to addressing the media, just as memorable as his acrobatic displays on the field.
This brashness makes him a constant source of controversy while also putting him in a small club of NFLers who can actually sell shoes.
The NBA talent pool is always being replenished with the perfect mixture of talent and personality required to sell sneakers. Breaking the same ground is much harder in football. In the past 30 years, only 17 NFL players have been deemed worthy of their own sneaker.
With the Nike SF AF-1 Mid “OBJ,” a tactical take on the Air Force 1 in an NYC taxi colorway, Beckham joined the likes of Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Randy Moss. In basketball, a signature shoe is a sign that you’ve made it. In football, it shows you’ve transcended the sport.
Beckham isn’t stylish in the sense of putting together disparate pieces into a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing outfit. Victor Cruz, Beckham’s former teammate and predecessor as the NFL’s style king, was much better at that. The crown’s new bearer simply knows what he likes and can afford to max out his indulgences.
Fashion today is centered on highly covetable pieces, and Beckham is aspirational style incarnate, stacking the most Instagrammable items — often all from the same collection — on top of each other. He still has room to grow but being “in the know” makes him a hot commodity.