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The Look

Mr Victor Cruz

American football lagged behind other sports in producing a superstar of style – until the arrival of this man

In case you happened to miss Mr Victor Cruz’s famous catch, it was a 10-yard pass on Christmas Eve, 2011 which he then ran, with considerable defender-eluding footwork, into a 99-yard touchdown. This immaculate reception was followed by a salsa dance in the end zone. A Super Bowl championship followed for the New York Giants – capping a string of playoff games that was replete with 21 more catches, including another touchdown and more south-of-the-border hip-swivelling.

Mr Cruz has been a bona fide star ever since, as evidenced not only by his six-year Giants contract worth $46m, but his extracurricular vitae. He’s become a fixture at the men’s collections: in June, he was front row at the Calvin Klein Collection show in Milan followed by Valentino, Raf Simons and Louis Vuitton’s catwalk shows in Paris.

“Three or four years ago, I realised I wanted to expand my mind and hang out in places besides sports bars,” he says, explaining how he got interested in the fashion scene. “I wanted to meet different designers, not just for free clothes, but to be friends and learn from them.” He joined Soho House, the members-only club popular with design and media types in New York’s Meatpacking District. This May he and his fiancée, Ms Elaina Watley, were the personal guests of Ms Anna Wintour, the editor of US Vogue, at the Met Ball.

He now considers a number of boutique designers kindred spirits including sneaker designer Mr Ronnie Fieg, Mr Teddy Santis of Aimé Leon Dore, and Public School’s Messrs Dao Yi-Chow and Maxwell Osborne. He would like to launch his own line of clothing and accessories some day.

“My dream would be to collaborate with Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, and make leather hat cases for travel,” he says. Mr Cruz likes to travel with as many as a half dozen hats and never knows if they’ll emerge from an aeroplane intact. “I have a wide Calvin Klein duffle carry-on, and I just kind of tuck them in gently and hope for the best.” The other accessory that he goes deep on are sneakers – he owns more than 300 pairs and his New Jersey home is equipped with a state-of-the-art sneaker room to house them.

He can hold forth with equal gusto on the collections he’s just seen in Europe and some of the Giants’ big games this fall. On how to wear the “trench-like” silk robe that Dries Van Noten revealed at his show near the Pont de Bercy, he advises pairing it with shorts, “and if I’m going out I’d add some boots. It was just to die for.”

This football season he’s most excited about the Giants’ scheduled games against the Dallas Cowboys (“I always get up for them”) and the Seattle Seahawks, reigning Super Bowl champs. “That’s because they will put Richard Sherman on me,” he says, mentioning the cornerback who became a household name in the US last winter as much for trash talk as his tight downfield coverage, permitting wide receivers like Mr Cruz as much breathing room as Ms Marisa Berenson’s posterior in a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. “The Redskins also have that corner who talks so much – No. 21, the guy who went to Virginia Tech,” he says, unable to recall the defender’s name without a search on his phone. “Oh yeah: DeAngelo Hall. He’s gonna love that I had to look it up.”

The transition from sport to style icon is probably smoother for tennis players (Mr René Lacoste), European footballers (Mr David Beckham), even ice hockey players (Mr Henrik Lundqvist). An aesthetic distance, however, has generally prevented the gridiron and the catwalk from overlapping – and when they do, the results are not always pretty: “Broadway Joe” Namath’s coyote jacket with white-fox trim at the 2014 Super Bowl was not football's (or Namath’s) finest hour.

Mr Cruz is diplomatic about his fellow athletes’ fashion sense, and prefers the look of those who avoid bling. “Aaron Rodgers has a good style, very clean and sophisticated,” he says of the Green Bay Packers quarterback. “I like Larry Fitzgerald’s [of the Arizona Cardinals] three-piece suits. It looks good on a guy who’s tall and has an athletic build like him.” He gently chides the Giants’ Southern-beau quarterback, Mr Eli Manning, for not taking enough sartorial risks: “I’m trying to get him to bring it a bit more. He has a Zegna contract of some sort. He always looks good, but he’s not having as much fun as he could.”

Not that bold choices come easily. At the Dries Van Noten show in Paris, Mr Cruz was taken with a garment described alternately as a harness or a shoulder strap, debuted over loose genie trousers and a bare torso. “I thought, man, I’d love to wear this, but I just don’t know how I’d pull it off,” Mr Cruz recalls. “I really want to try. Maybe in the future. It’s important to have dreams.”