Men who hate to shop are a dime a dozen, but Matt Kemp is a rare exception: not only does he tolerate the experience, but he actually even enjoys it. OK, he has some help, but don’t detract points just because Matt can afford the services of a professional. “I have a stylist,” the Los Angeles Dodgers star confesses, “but I love to go shopping. I love look at clothes. I don’t necessarily like to try things on, but I do love to go and shop.” He isn’t just talking about the brands you’d expect a baller to wear. Though he loves luxurious designers like Balenciaga and Maison Martin Margiela, he’s equally at ease shopping off the rack at H&M or Zara.
Though we suspect it’s comfort in his own skin that is the true secret to Kemp’s success, he swears it’s his love of basics that have helped create his winning style. “I try to keep things simple,” he says. “Some people try too hard to develop their own look and they go too far to be different. I try to keep it simple, clean and nice-looking. I like the grown man look.” He may like to dress like an adult now, but then, Kemp has had nearly 30 years to evolve his style. Though he didn’t fully realize his sartorial potential until he arrived in LA seven years ago, his female family members have been schooling him on the importance of presentation from a very young age.
“My grandma taught me about style,” Kemp reveals. “She’s a seamstress, and back when I was a kid, my grandma always made sure my clothes were ironed and clean. I always looked nice, and I still like to look nice. Oklahoma, where I’m from, is a country state, and back in the day, we were rocking baggier clothes. When I got drafted and moved to LA, I realized that people here wore things much more fitted than I was used to; I didn’t know how people dressed. Now I add my own little swag, I take it to a whole ‘nother level.”
“My grandma taught me about style. She’s a seamstress, and back when I was a kid, my grandma always made sure my clothes were ironed and clean. I always looked nice, and I still like to look nice.”
It was in LA that Kemp discovered his love of high-end timepieces and his affinity for luxury cars. “I had a teammate named Rafael Furcal and he had all these nice watches. He said to me, ‘Matt, one day you’ll be able to buy all these nice watches too.’ He was right.
As I got older, my appreciation got deeper, and now I have a nice little collection. I have a couple Rolexes, a Hublot, and an Audemars Piguet. I have about 15 watches at the moment, but I want more. I need to up my game.” The MLB star clearly takes well-deserved pride in his appearance, and he embraces other athletes that do the same. “A lot of people say that athletes don’t dress well, but I think they’re starting to do better,” he says. “LeBron James dresses really well. Victor Cruz is a really stylish guy too. Everybody has their own little look.”
Similarly, Kemp, who turns 29 on Sept. 23, continues to hone is own look. Style alone, however, isn’t the only aspect of his life he is still refining. When he joined the major leagues, he gained access to a new world of culture, travel and entertainment, and like a sponge, he’s soaked up every last experience.
“I wanted to be both a basketball player and a baseball player. Only one of my dreams came true, but I can’t complain. T o see where I was, and where I am now, I’d say I’m a pretty lucky person.”
While traveling for pleasure wasn’t something the outfielder had done often, he has now since gotten the wanderlust bug. “Being from a small city in Oklahoma, I never really dreamed about traveling the world,” he admits. “But I got lucky. Getting to go to Europe, to cities like London and Paris, has been unbelievable. The experiences, the food, the culture, it’s unreal. Paris is my favorite. When I first went there, I was walking outside sightseeing and everywhere I looked I saw a man in a nice suit, or a woman in a nice dress, dressed to the nines just on their way to lunch. Everybody there has such a great look, and I like that.”
From his enthusiasm for life to the way he talks about his mother, who also now lives in Los Angeles, to the little boy excitement he displays in his newest toy, a Mercedes G class wagon, it’s hard not to like Matt Kemp. Sure, he’s been dealt a great hand, but he appreciates all he has, and takes nothing for granted. He loves designer clothes, a gourmet meal and luxury hotels, but why shouldn’t he? He’s earned it.
“I’m very blessed,” he admits. “As a kid, you grow up and dream about being something: a lawyer, a doctor, a basketball player, a baseball player. I wanted to be both a basketball player and a baseball player. Only one of my dreams came true, but I can’t complain. To see where I was, and where I am now, I’d say I’m a pretty lucky person. Not a lot of people get to realize their dreams. I’ve been given the opportunity to live a dream I’ve had since I was four.”
Because he has been so fortunate, Kemp devotes himself to paying it forward. He founded Kemp’s Kids, a Los Angeles Dodgers Player Program that provides underprivileged and inner city youths with opportunities to visit and experience Dodger Stadium. But he doesn’t want applause or congratulations for his philanthropic acts: Kemp was brought up to value doing the right thing.
“I was raised to help others,” he says now. “My family always tells me to remember where I came from, and not to let being out in the big city distract me from what I was put on this earth to do. That’s grandma all day.” One particular example of his philanthropy involved a terminally ill young fan named Joshua Jones, who sadly passed away in August. “I was in San Francisco and one of my coaches came up to me and said ‘There’s a boy here who says he’s your biggest fan. He has cancer. Can you just come up to him and say hi?’” Kemp recalls.
“Now, I’m playing for the LA Dodgers in San Francisco’s stadium. It’s our big rivalry. After the game, you just want to get off that field as soon as possible. But I walked over, and Joshua’s eyes lit up. He couldn’t talk. I just decided to give him my jersey and shoes. I didn’t realize it was being filmed. It wasn’t something I wanted anybody to see, I just wanted to make his day.” Somberly, Kemp adds, “[Joshua] actually passed, but to know that I got to do something good, that I could fly he and his family out to Dodger Stadium to see a game, it brought me back. It made me remember how blessed I really am, because other people are fighting for life, and you’re living the life they want to live.”
Kemp also puts his money where his mouth is in many other ways. “If I’m watching TV and something touches me, I’ll donate my time, or money, or find a way to help. That’s just how I am. I didn’t know how important it was to be a baseball player, but kids often tell me how I’ve helped them, or that I’ve inspired them. I love to make kids happy and try to put smiles on their faces.”
That’s just the kind of guy Matt Kemp is. Though he’s had a rough year himself, his glass remains half full. Injuries like an ankle sprain have kept him from the field for most of the season, though he was finally reactivated on Sept. 16 after spending time in the Dodgers’ Arizona training facility. “This year has not been a really good year on the baseball field,” he admits. “I’ve been hurt most of the year, but the way you bounce back tells you a lot about yourself. There’s always going to be bad things that you go through, but you’ve got to go through bad things for good things to happen. It is what it is. It’s life.” He adds, “The team is playing really well right now, and I’m [happy] to be part of that. I want to be part of something great.”