UK Men's Basketball

Meet the Cats: Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein marked by sense of style

Willie Cauley-Stein (15) wants both his arms tattoo-filled soon. "You might as well 'sleeve' it out and make it look good," he said.
Willie Cauley-Stein (15) wants both his arms tattoo-filled soon. "You might as well 'sleeve' it out and make it look good," he said. Herald-Leader

During Kentucky's August trip to the Bahamas, Willie Cauley-Stein made a fashion statement as eye-catching as a windmill dunk. He arrived at an impromptu news conference wearing a T-shirt with his initials emblazoned in block letters across his chest.

"That's one of the things I want to do after ball: Open my own shoe and clothing store," he said when asked about the "WCS" a few weeks later. "Designing my own stuff and putting it in there."

Of course, the news conference in Nassau wasn't the first time Cauley-Stein communicated non-verbally. He dyed his hair yellow for a time last season. Tattoos decorate his body in increasing numbers.

So a clothing store stocked with the "WCS" line seems perfectly plausible and, no pun intended, fitting. Cauley-Stein is a firm believer in the Mark Twain adage that "clothes make the man." Twain went on to observe, "Naked people have little or no influence on society." But, perhaps, that's a subject for another story another day.

Why does fashion speak to Cauley-Stein?

"Because one of the best ways to express yourself is the way you dress," he said. "You can tell a person's personality ... by the way they dress."

For instance, Cauley-Stein suggested significance in the shoes a player wears. Wearing the Chuck Taylor Converse model every day connotes "a hipster, outgoing dude." Regularly wearing Nike shoes, say the Michael Jordan brand, implies "your average basketball player."

His mother, Marlene Stein, said her son has always been interested in the arts.

"He wants to design his own clothes," she said when asked about the Nassau news conference. "I guess that was his first little branding himself, basically."

Of the "WCS" lettering, she said with a laugh, "I guess that's his logo."

UK lists Cauley-Stein's major as art studio. This followed the interest he took in art classes in junior and senior high school. Earlier in his UK career, Cauley-Stein noted how he liked to draw and color.

"He's always had that artistic eye," Marlene Stein said.

Cauley-Stein's creativity extends to the artistry of tattooing. His mother said he designed the first tattoo he had drawn on his body: a combination of a cross, a basketball, wings and his initials. It became the first of several. "They say they're addictive," his mother said.

Cauley-Stein all but promised to add to his human canvas. "You see me now, I'll probably be different when you see me again," he said.

When asked why he probably would add new tattoos, Cauley-Stein said, "You just come to a point of no return. Once you go past a certain point, you have to fill it up. Or you have to fill your arms up. Well, I've got space on my arms. You can't have space there. You might as well 'sleeve' it out and make it look good."

Cauley-Stein did not design the tattoos of more recent vintage. "I came up with ideas," he said. "But I didn't draw them out."

His mother suggested there might come a point of too much of a good thing.

"I tell him, you might want to stop a little bit," she said. "You're going to have to wear long sleeves when you're in public outside of basketball."

Marlene Stein laughed before adding, "He's always been his own person. When he gets his mind on what he wants to do, he pretty much does it.

"He doesn't care what other people say about him."

Whatever the reaction, Cauley-Stein is not afraid to follow his vision, artistic and otherwise.