There’s a southern sway in the tone of Justin Bethel’s voice as he reflects on his calm and collected views on life experiences. His motto: “If you give it your all, it’ll all work out in the end the way it’s supposed to” is truly reflected in the broad array of ventures that seem to present themselves in the life of the New England Patriots cornerback. How Bethel found himself on a fashion runway from a football field is a reflection of his curious nature to embrace any opportunity that presents itself. It was the off-season in 2015, Bethel was having a conversation with his agent who brought up the concept of modeling. True to his chill demeanor, Justin’s response of, “Hey, why not, I’m not doing anything else right now, might as well try something new,” flourished into once in a lifetime opportunities.
“I didn’t even know what Wilhelmina was to be honest with you. I just really liked the vibe of the people I met with, which is why I signed with them.” The powerhouse agency served the NFL Pro with new paths to explore and learn from. “For me, I’m always down to try new things, because you never know what you can gain from it.” After various print campaigns, Bethel walked in his first New York Fashion Week show this past February.
The connective tissue that is weaved through the sports and fashion world was pulled tighter as Justin Bethel wore shades of blue in the Alex Carter show. The brand’s creative director, Chelsey Carter told us, “I have always felt as if music, fashion and sports bring people together—unparalleled by their religion, educational background, class, race or identity. Knowing this, the similarity is the common thread of “all can enjoy”—specifically with Fashion & Sports. For NYFW, I wanted it to be a celebration of African American models during my segment of the show. Showing variety for the brand in offering things for both men and women was the goal.”
What Justin’s rookie debut on the catwalk revealed, is an unexpected parallel between the grit on the gridiron and the work ethic in the fashion world. “With football, it’s a craft, and that’s the same when it comes to the fashion world,” Bethel told me. The minute details and dedication to near perfection were easily identified, as he turned his attention to the behind the scenes work that was circulating around him. “What happens backstage, for a maybe 20-second walk, it reminds me of football. We practice all week, for a 3 hour game. Or you practice a play, over and over that might happen once in that game. The work that goes in behind the scenes of a fashion show that people don’t get to see, just so that final product, the little bit of time you look at it, is polished, and what the viewers want to see is outstanding. I definitely enjoyed it.”
Leaning into his football training to prepare for fashion week, Bethel’s approach was to “be yourself, don’t be afraid to take criticism, be willing to work on a new thing and know that it takes time.” There was no intimidation in the fast pace that flows in fashion week, telling me he’s “one of the most fly by the cuff of your pants type of guy.”
Even in the briefest of conversations with Justin, there’s such an eager curiosity that is apparent within him. Growing up surrounded by his highly talented musical family, and playing the drums himself, it’s no surprise that there’s such a high level of respect for honing the craft of football and fashion. “Music is my first love. If I wasn’t playing football, I would definitely be doing something in music,” Justin reveals. His band with his brothers, House of Bethel, and their eclectic approach to jazz is truly the soundtrack to Justin’s life. His tone of voice is one of settled bliss as he gives props to the talents of his brothers and the childhood dream of having a group with them come to life. One of the first things Justin told me was, “for me, I’m always down to try new things, because you never know, what you can gain from it.” As he details the role of music within his life, it’s very apparent that his respect for music was an initial driving force in the many ventures that Justin Bethel dives into.
The question of what’s driving the ever growing interest of professional athletes in the fashion world is one that lies deep within each individual. But, the craftsman details that are the foundations of these two industries, does offer a layer of respect that only those who work in each fully feel. A nod to what’s done in darkness will be fully revealed in the light, surely the bridge of the grid of the fashion and football world.