MAN OF STYLE INTERVIEW: Professional Soccer Player, Michael Chabala

Sunday, August 10, 2014

If you follow me on instagram,  then you know that I've had a school girl's crush on Houston Dynamo Player, Michael Chabala, ever since last Summer. Every time I run into him at an event, I try to snap a picture with him and then proceed to post the picture on IG, calling him my "future hubby" (all in joking fashion of course)! Luckily for me, Mike seems to be unaffected by girls wanting to marry him (ha!) and graciously agreed to sit down with me for an interview (without security) on his personal style, interest in fashion, and passion for Soccer! The interview was conducted at Saks 5th Avenue, Houston Galleria Mall on the Men's level (of course)! It was the perfect backdrop for a man of style interview. Read the fully transcribed interview below! 

INTERVIEWEE: Michael Chabala, aka Chewy
CAREER: Professional Soccer Player & Entrepreneur
GUILTY PLEASURE: Online Shopping
FAVORITE COLOGNE: Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino 

I have to know why people call you Chewy? It came from my teammates making fun of my last name, Chabala. Chabala, Chewbacca, Chew, Chewy. It was also easier to say on the field than Michael or Chabala.

Speaking of field, that was actually going to be my first question. What is your current status/situation with the Houston Dynamo?
I’m a former player. I’m not on the Dynamo roster this season, unfortunately. It wasn't by choice. These situations sometimes happen in sports. But, I've been very fortunate to be apart of the organization for 6 out of my 8 years as a professional athlete and I was fortunate to win 2 championships with them. That’s my current status.

Well, we definitely miss seeing you out on the field! Any plans to continue playing with other teams? I’m kind of new to the MLS soccer world, so you’ll have to explain how it works. 
I’m sure you enjoyed the world cup though, so you’re probably more of a fan now?

Yes I did! I’m definitely more of a fan now! 
I still train. I still play. As far as my opportunities go; outside of the country is still something I’m interesting in doing, but as far as [playing] in Major League Soccer, I’m still exploring options at this point. For me, I’m finding the line between when to transition at 30 and what else I want to do with my life, while still trying to play [soccer] and pursue my lifelong dream and passion. I've been enjoying the downtime, being able to travel. I’m a bit of an Entrepreneur. I've started a few things on the side and I've been consulting as well. I've been enjoying this moment in my life.

You travel a lot! I always see you on twitter and instagram in different places. Weren't you recently in Hawaii? 

What were you doing in Hawaii? 
I've run a soccer clinic in Hawaii. It's been 4 years now. I go over there for about a week or two and 'Keep the ball rollin'. I basically spread the game and educate kids over there that don’t have the proper training and tools, and access to a professional athlete, such as myself. I go over there to do the clinic and vacation. I like surfing and being in the sun too, so it’s not a bad place to go and do both. 

Hmm, life could be worse than having to go to Hawaii every now and then! Well, I first took note of you when I met you at the Macy’s & Houston Style Magazine, Trendspotter event last summer. After that, I kept seeing you around town at all these fashion events. This intrigued me because I never really think of athletes and fashion together. I've always thought of them as separate worlds outside of an ad or two, but I kept seeing you, so I figured, let’s chat with Mike about his interest in fashion. 
I feel like some athletes are into fashion, Russell Westbrook for instance? I feel like a lot of guys, some athletes are [into fashion]. Well, I should say, some more than others.

Definitely, but some come out more! (My hint to Mike, that I enjoy seeing him out and about!) 
I've always had an interest in fashion, and being flashy if you will, flamboyant if you may. It’s always been something that I've felt allowed people to express themselves, whether you just like wearing shorts and a t-shirt or whether you like pushing the limit. I think it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I’m also a firm believer that your presentation as a person is by your appearance and how you dress. If you want people to take you seriously, then I think your presentation of that and how you step outside of your home is equally as important as your values and how you carry yourself. That’s something I've always enjoyed doing, as far as my own personal ventures and my own personality in expressing myself, especially as an athlete and a soccer player. Most guys, well not most guys, but most teams are in a uniform and the only way that we can truly express ourselves is by our footwear or maybe, even perhaps, by a headband. Luckily, I've had a good head of hair and I would do that occasionally [wear a headband]. Nike, thankfully, has come out with some pretty cool boots and footwear that lets guys express themselves. But, when I get off the field, that’s the time where I think myself and some of the other guys enjoy taking advantage of that [personal style & expressing ourselves].

Well, that definitely makes sense and I totally agree with you.  The first impression that you make is by what you wear. I'm sure it's nice to be able to express yourself when you’re off the field, and you do it so well at all of these Houston fashion events! When did you first start getting into the Houston Fashion Scene? 
I've been in the city for awhile now. I moved here in 2006 when I was drafted. I left for about a year and a half, but coming back, I felt like it [the Houston fashion scene] was something that I was interested in a bit more. Obviously, I think the Houston fashion scene is a bit smaller than other cities, but I think through my network and meeting different friends, I've been fortunate to have been invited and have the opportunity to be at the front of those events. I've just enjoyed going, and seeing what local talent is up to and supporting friends like Jared Lang, Fashion Houston, and their movement, and just being active in Dress for Success and Career Gear. The non-profits are really out there trying to make a difference in the community. It’s been something that I've enjoyed from a passion perspective and point of view and trying to help the friends that I've made here in the community.

You definitely do a lot of charity work! Who are some of the recent charities you've partnered with? 
As of lately, Career Gear, and that's dressing men that can’t afford a suit. It's about putting guys in a position to be able to interview properly and give them the materials and tools they need to go and do that. It's similar to Dress for Success, but the men’s version. Can't leave out the guys, right? I've also been an advocate of Gait Analysis and Blue Cure. A couple of the events that we've done lately, raise awareness for Prostate Cancer and men’s health. Once again, you have breast cancer awareness, which is is massive and obviously has it's own color associated with it, but, I think 1 out of every 3-4 men are diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. I think it’s one of those issues that needs to be presented and turning 30, I’m taking a little bit better care of myself now too. Even though I’m a professional athlete, it’s always something that you want to push the limit on and use your platform to bring awareness. 

One thing that’s always been close and dear to my heart has been Pediatric Cancer research. I've always found a home at Texas Children's Hospital, so I continue to support them. The Dynamo organization has really taken up the event that we started awhile ago, called Bald is Beautiful, which is shaving your head yearly. All the guys on the team still continue to do that and it really just identifies with all those patients at Texas Children's Hospital. It's the one thing that you can really do to make those individuals feel that there's a connection. Raising money and awareness for that has been something that the team has taken on, and I'm happy to see that that continues.

That's amazing. It's horrible for anyone to have Cancer, but it's just something even more horrific when it's a little kid, a little girl, or a little boy. I don't know if you're familiar with Talia Joy? She was the young girl who was on Ellen last year who was really into beauty & makeup. She passed away around this time last year, but my organization is helping to raise money through the Mint Manis for Talia 2014 Campaign, with the proceeds going back to the American Childhood Cancer Foundation

Wonderful, I love it. I think this city breeds philanthropist. I think it's a great place to be able to get involved. Gala season is approaching and everyone is trying to contribute and make a difference. I love this city for that, because people are taking advantage of the energy and the growth of this community and simultaneously giving back. I think as far as a sports player, that's been in this city for awhile, it was not only something I enjoyed doing, but I felt that it was a responsibility. It's always great to see other athletes take on that responsibility too and use the platform that they are given and go out into the community and do something with it. 

Yes it is! Well you definitely do both, in the scene for fashion AND giving back. Let's take it back to fashion for a minute. Tell us a little bit more about your personal style? Earlier you mentioned flashy & flamboyant? 
I think it's been refined over the years. I think turning 30, I have changed my idols as far as the fashion scene goes. I've always admired David Beckham, as far as a player. That was the one player that I've always wanted to ascend to be like, play like, be if you will. Posters, that was my guy. To be able to say that I played against him and scored against his team, that was one thing, but now I feel like I'm at a different place in my life. I still continue to do that [admire David Beckham] but in regards to his entrepreneurial career, and his post-career as an athlete, along with his fashion sense. I'm sure he has some great people behind him, dressing him, but I like his classy, clean cut style. I think over the course of my time as a professional athlete, I've changed and grown and went through different styles and trends, but now, I find, simple is best. I think making a statement by keeping it clean and not overdoing it. I said the flamboyant thing because I think that was in the past a little bit more than now. I like to just keep it a little bit more sophisticated and classy, just depending on the situation. I feel that my wardrobe is eclectic and diverse enough that for any situation I can dress the part.

That's smart! It's good to have a diverse range of style, and I agree with you! I also turned 30 this year and there was definitely a transition and things that left my wardrobe that I will never wear again. I think it happens with everybody! 
Out with the old, in with the new!

Exactly! And now I'm discovering new brands that work for me at this age! So that brings me to my question of do you have favorite brands and stores that you like to buy or shop in? Especially here in Houston?
Yea I mean, as bad as it sounds, I really don't. Obviously, I enjoy designer clothing and all the rest of it too, but that's probably 1% of my wardrobe. I enjoy looking at it, probably more than I enjoy buying it. But truly I think you can find some great deals online. I'm a guilty fan of Gilt Groupe. I shop online probably more than I do in stores now. I've always enjoyed Zara. I think Zara, in the Houston Galleria Mall, has been one of those gems where a lot of guys can find clean, slim cut styles from whatever season. When it comes to suits, I've always gravitated towards my friends at Lucho. They have been really great. and they make some great custom shirts as well. Those are probably the two areas where I spend most of my time, well three, if you count the online shopping. But, I'm never opposed to shopping thrift and seeing what hand me downs are out there because you can find some really cool stuff.

You can find some Valentino in those thrift shops! People don't know what they're giving up, or they're like, "I don't need it anymore"!
You'd be surprised!

Let's finish up here with a return to soccer since The World Cup just finished. I know you said you're transitioning into other options and maybe still pursuing that [playing soccer], but since the World Cup seemed to be so big this year for the U.S. especially in regards to U.S. fans, I'd like to get your opinion on soccer in the US. I think this is the most I've really seen Americans really rallying behind our team, and really being about the sport. What is your take on soccer here in the U.S., especially Houston? Is it growing? Is it becoming more popular?
I mean, I think everyone knows the sport is growing, and whether you like to admit it or not, the U.S. team, the guys, did a great job of taking that bar to the next level and expanding the reach in this country. Obviously, I think over the course of the past 4 years it's been coming to this point where more kids are now more interested in playing soccer than maybe football, baseball, & basketball. I think the league (MLS) in itself is expanding. When I joined there was 12-13 teams, and starting next year they'll be 21 and 22 the year after. The growth, as far as the sport goes, is at it's best and if not, it's will be even better in the next year. 

But I mean, it's guys like Clint Dempsey & Michael Bradley coming back into the states. They represented, the United States well, playing in England, playing in Italy, playing abroad, but now wanting to come back to the U.S. and play in Major League Soccer. It says a lot about the league and the growth and the talent that we have here. I think the sport is growing as far as the youth systems, and it used to be top down, meaning, the MLS teams would keep trying to bring in international players to feed the need of players, but now I think it's switching to a bottom up approach where they're looking at the youth players that are coming up through the academy systems. I think that is the biggest indication of the growth of this sport in the United States because now they're developing players from the youth standpoint, rather than trying to import those guys. Long-winded explanation, but yes, the sport is growing and obviously The World Cup helps tremendously, along with great product on the field for MLS helps the growth and keeps moving us forward. 

You had a fair amount of previous teammates in The World Cup? How was that? 
Geoff Cameron, being the most recognized person and was a great guy to play with and against. He deserves all the credit that he has received and deserved to be where he was and I'm really happy for him. The time and energy that he's put into his career has been impressive and I admire what he has done with his career. Boniek Garcia, who I think is one of the best players that I've had the pleasure of playing with, was playing for Honduras. It was great to see him play, and unfortunately they didn't have the best run. They had a tough group with tough matches but still to have that experience, I'm sure they relished every moment of it. 

That's cool that Boniek played for Honduras! What is your ethnic background? Chabala doesn't sound from round here! 
Chabala is German, a little Czech, a little native american, but I'm an American. Californian I say, but now I say I'm a Texan.

So you weren't just a little happy when Germany won The World Cup? 
No, I was rooting for Argentina. I mean everybody was rooting for Germany. They were the best team, they were the most prepared, they were disciplined. They used the depth of their roster. They deserved it, but I was happy that that was the match-up; Argentina vs Germany. The Netherlands were just as good, but I wanted to see a South American team in the finals. I think it made it a good tournament.

That was a good match up. I liked it, but as I said just joining on the soccer bandwagon, I was rooting for Argentina too! I tend to go for the team that's not the dominating team. Not that Argentina wasn't good, but everyone just kept talking about Germany, so I went for Messi and Argentina! Last question, what about fashion in your family? Is anyone else in your family into fashion? 
No! Not at all actually. I don't even know what happened. I think I was adopted, but the bottom line is I give my Dad a hard time about it all the time. It's like a constant work in progress and it's frustrating. My sister's very simple. She's Anthropologie all the way, and keeps it 10 and 2 and doesn't go outside the lines, and I love her for that. My mom is the same way. My Dad he just enjoys the hand me downs and really just enjoys wearing the soccer stuff and still being a Soccer Dad. He's proud of what I've accomplished, but both my parents are lovely and they both can clean up when they need too, but as far as myself I think I've kind of taken it to another level. 

Well thank you so much Mike for taking the time to sit down with me and tell my readers a little bit about yourself and personal style! Good Luck to you! 
Thank you!

To keep up with Mike and all his comings and goings, follow him on Twitter & Instagram!
A special thanks to my co-worker David Martinez for taking these photos!

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