GQ Interviews Hampton+Baker
Pro Soccer Player Robbie Rogers Is Making a Play for Your Wardrobe
Max Berlinger | April 20, 2016
Hampton + Baker, Rogers' new line with stylist Warren Alfie Baker focuses on luxe denim jackets—but that's just the beginning.
You probably know Robbie Rogers as a soccer phenom, or a gay rights activist, or, maybe, just as that incredibly stylish guy who pops up on red carpets and in the pages of this magazine. Now he has a new descriptor to add to his already heavily-hyphenated name: fashion designer. Rogers and his good friend and stylist Warren Alfie Baker have teamed up on a new menswear brand, Hampton + Baker. Launching today, the first offering features five styles of one of American menswear's most enduring pieces, the denim jacket. And since the duo takes inspiration from classic Hollywood style icons, the indigo outerwear pieces are aptly named after the greats: Newman, Redford, Delon, Cobain, and Dean. Like those gents, there's equal parts substance and style at play here: slim fits, Candiani denim sourced from Italy, and custom distressing and embroideries done by hand in Los Angeles, a city both Rogers and Baker call home.
By keeping this first collection small and focused, and the jackets in limited-edition runs, Baker and Rogers are able to control the entire endeavor, from concept to customer purchases. And that doesn't just ease the creative and logistical processes, it also affords both men the time to focus on their full-time gigs (pro soccer for Rogers, styling Hollywood's up-and-coming leading men for Baker). We caught up with Rogers last week just before the launch to find out more about how the athlete's love of men's fashion started, how Hampton + Baker was born, and what we can expect from the newborn brand's second release.
GQ: Was fashion important to you when you were growing up?
Robbie Rogers: Yeah, it was. My mom tells this story about when I was younger and I would tell her to give all my clothes to my younger brother Timmy and she’d say, “That’s so sweet of you.” Then I’d say, “And then we can go shopping.” So from a very young age, I’ve always been interested in fashion and clothing and textiles. One of my good friends growing up, his dad ran a big textile firm, so I was always around it in some way.
When I lived in London and played for Leeds, after I stopped I interned for a fashion PR company on the London Collections and became friends with guys like [designer] Matthew Miller. I was going to go to London College of Fashion and take a men’s design course, I wasn’t going to go back to playing soccer … but ultimately I went back to soccer. I also interned at Men’s Health, I was a proper intern, I would go get coffee and run errands. The reason I did all this was because I wanted to learn all different aspects of the business and eventually use that knowledge for something, so hopefully we’ll see if I learned anything [laughs].
So you really trained for this.
Yeah, people couldn’t understand it because in England soccer is the biggest sport, and so people were like, “Wait. You play soccer? What are you doing here?” They couldn’t wrap their head around it.
How did Hampton + Baker come about?
Warren [Alfie Baker], he’s a stylist and started off as a model and we met at a shoot. He’s worked his way up and styles guys like Miles Teller and Evan Peters — he’s one of the first guys I came out to. We’ve been friends for a while now and when he’s styling me it’s become this collaboration because our aesthetic is similar and we love the same brands. We kept saying we needed to do something together, and we finally came up with this, starting Hampton + Baker and starting with denim and just five jackets.
We just started making mood boards and pulling images we were attracted to. We started looking for fabrics and working on the fit last September, so it’s been quite a while. Even before that, we were really asking what we wanted to do: suits, tailoring, knits.
Why denim jackets?
When we were looking through images, we were constantly attracted to these Hollywood fashion icons of the past like Paul Newman, James Dean, Robert Redford — even guys like Alain Delon and Kurt Cobain — just seeing what they were doing. There were these guys that just had this masculine, spiritual coolness that they brought to their lives that seemed simple and effortless. We saw a lot of denim jackets and chambray shirts and Warren and I both wear a lot of denim jackets — I wear it to the stadium, I wear it to events. We were like, you know what? Let’s just really perfect this, let’s come up with a few ideas, different variations, we’ll work with premium denim, we’ll slim down the fit, we’ll crop it a little, slim down the arm and focus on details.
We wanted to keep it simple, we both have other jobs so we kept it to five jackets made in a limited run here in Los Angeles with antique buttons and custom embroideries. It’s a way for us to be creative but to also keep it simple.
Do you plan to expand beyond jean jackets?
Yeah, we hope so. We wanted a simple outlet to create garments that we'll love and our friends will love and hopefully other people love. But when we were designing we would think that something would be good for, like, James Dean to wear, so we for each of the five jackets we had people in mind. The end goal is to create a men's brand that includes denim, knitwear, pants, tailoring ... We want to grow from here but we wanted to keep it simple the first season and keep everything here in Los Angeles and focus on the premium fabrics rather going for it and having a bunch of garments sitting in a studio somewhere that we have to sell. We wanted to enjoy it. I'm a professional soccer player and a dad and Warren's a stylist.
We wanted this to come from a personal place. I miss London where you would put on a knit and a jacket and dress up a little. LA's so casual, I usually just throw on jeans and a t-shirt and at night I'll put on a suede jacket or a denim trucker. I'm wearing one of the jackets right now.
So you want this to be a full lifestyle brand.
Oh yeah, that's definitely the goal. Definitely. 100%.
What brands do you gravitate towards?
I love Our Legacy for casual stuff. For tailoring I love Hardy Amies. I wear Ferragamo a lot, I think Coach has been doing some cool stuff lately. I really love Marni and I have for a long time, I think it's quirky and cool. And then there's obvious ones like Tom Ford which is really beautiful — oh, and that Spanish brand Loewe! Such cool stuff ... but expensive. My personal style is casual and simple with a few quirky pieces mixed in.
Why are you launching online?
Warren and I wanted total control over it. We didn't want to make like 500 or a thousand jackets and trying to sell them wholesale to a bunch of different buyers. We wanted to keep it small and exclusive, promote it through social media and our friends who are celebrities. We just thought that for the first season, the first two seasons, that would be best for us. We wanted to make a few hundred jackets and keep it simple. And, with how things —I mean I'm a big fan of Mr Porterand buy a lot of things online, a lot of my friends shop online so we thought if we make a site that works well and looks nice, it should work out.