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Drawing from the likes of David Beckham and Justin Beiber, the Punjab Kings skipper’s latest collab with Puma, 1DER, is an expression of his fashion choices

In 2016, India was playing West Indies in a two-T20I series in Florida, a rather unusual venue for a cricket match. In the US, the game remains exotic (except among the increasing number of Indian expats, of course). So, the short form of the game was supposed to be a promotional effort. For someone watching cricket for the first time, KL Rahul would’ve stood out that day for two reasons. One: he made the most number of runs that game (116 off just 51 balls) even as his team lost by a run. Two: his hairstyle. Rahul looked more like a West Indian player with a cornrow braids. The team’s coach, Anil Kumble, was mildly shocked.

KL Rahul: bringing his fashion A-game to Puma

The Beckham inspiration

“My mantra has always been: ‘Try things. If something doesn’t come off, I don’t mind it’,” says Rahul, 29, of his fashion choices, ahead of the launch of Puma’s 1Der, an athleisure range he’s designed with the sporting brand, which released on September 30. This mantra applies to his life, too. In school, Rahul , the son of two professors, used to turn up in flip-flops and coloured hair. He admits to being a rebellious teenager, but this was not just to provoke people. An ardent David Beckham fan, he had an idea of how he wanted to look even then. “I was more interested in his lifestyle, and less about the football,” adds the cricketer, who now follows personalities like Justin Bieber and Travis Scott. “They are artists who also dipped their hands into fashion. That interested me and I thought I could do this too.”

And, he did. Two years ago, Rahul launched his street-wear label, Gully, with retail partner Zeko Online. 1DER, too, is an avenue to express his fashion ideas and the range (recently released on Flipkart) includes sneakers in bright hues of orange and blue, caps, and an apparel line comprising hoodies, pants, and the like. “It was great to work with the Puma team [he’s been associated with the brand since 2018]. I would discuss designs and colours, especially for the sneakers, as I am a massive sneakerhead,” he says.

KL Rahul: bringing his fashion A-game to Puma

Expressions in ink

After cricket, fashion is his second love. “These days, with social media, you can see what guys around the world are wearing. And, I think, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool. But I could do something cooler by pairing it with something else’,” he says, adding that his philosophy, in fashion and life, is simple: if it makes you feel good, don’t hold yourself back from doing it. “As long as I am not disturbing anybody or harming anyone, I can do whatever makes me feel good.”

KL Rahul

His mother, for instance, was shocked when he got his first tattoo (wings on his back) at 16. She even gave him a bar of soap to wash it off, and was upset when he told her it’s permanent. Rahul, who went on to tattoo his mother’s name, Rajeshwari, on his right wrist, says, “Every tattoo has a unique story. They serve as reminders.” This is especially true for the one on his right forearm — it reads, ‘deshi basara’ — an inspiring chant from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.

According to the film’s composer Hans Zimmer, ‘deshi basara’ roughly translates to ‘rise’. Rahul, after a horrific Test debut in Melbourne, bounced back within a week in Sydney with a fine century. This yea,r too, he was among India’s key performers in their Test wins in England. This, after being dropped from the Test side for a while. His journey has seen many falls and rises. “I would not have wanted it any other way,” concludes Rahul.

Priced between ₹1,499 and ₹4,999, 1DER by PUMA is available on Flipkart, puma.com, and select Puma stores

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