The Aesthete: Mutaz Essa Barshim’s black book of style

The Qatari high-jumping world champion enjoys Monopoly, vinyl and channelling Jackie Chan. By Baya Simons

Barshim at home in Doha
Barshim at home in Doha | Image: Anna Nielsen

My personal style signifier is my RM 67-02 Automatic Mutaz Barshim watch. It has my country’s colours on it, so it means a lot to me. I was involved with the design process and I’m so proud when I wear it. Richard Mille is a big fan of athletics – that’s how we met and I became an ambassador for the brand. He came up to me in the stadium and said, “Wow, I love the way you jump, it’s really elegant.” RM 67-02 Automatic Mutaz Barshim watch, POA

Barshim’s Doha 2019 high jump world championship gold medal
Barshim’s Doha 2019 high jump world championship gold medal | Image: Anna Nielsen

My proudest sporting moment to date was winning the double World Champion in Doha, in front of the home crowd. I’d been competing all around the world and winning medals, including at the Olympics, but to have that energy was amazing – and especially because 2019 was a very difficult season for me; I was coming out of a big injury and I hadn’t competed in anything, so it was a big risk. But in October, the home crowd showed up at the stadium – not one seat was empty. They gave me the energy I needed. It was a great moment... the highlight of my career so far.

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My at-home fitness regime is very challenging right now – it’s so difficult to do anything. My trainer and I are just trying to do what we can, as we don’t have access to the facilities. I can’t jump, but I can do my own regime of cycling, stretching and running. We work on my core stability and I lift weights in the backyard. It’s very difficult to work when you have no clear goal, but I talk to my coach and we take it day by day. I have to maintain my shape so that then when the competitions start again, I won’t be far behind.

Never Grow Up by Jackie Chan, Barshim’s favourite recent read
Never Grow Up by Jackie Chan, Barshim’s favourite recent read

With time on my hands I’m doing a lot of reorganising, cooking and spending time with my wife, Alexandra. I’ve been trying new recipes: lots of cakes and pasta. We’re walking, watching documentaries and playing games like Monopoly. This time makes you realise that when you were busy, you took your relationships for granted. Now we can sit and spend time together. 

Some of Barshim’s collection of sneakers
Some of Barshim’s collection of sneakers | Image: Anna Nielsen

The best book I’ve read in the past year is Jackie Chan’s book Never Grow Up. I’ve been a big fan of his since I was a child. He sent me his book, and I’m really enjoying it. I love the mix of comedy and action, and the way that he talks about his childhood. It’s so inspiring.

Barshim in formal Qatari dress
Barshim in formal Qatari dress | Image: Anna Nielsen

A recent “find” is… furnishings. We moved into a new house in February, so for the past few months we’ve been doing a lot of designing. The furniture is everything, from Ikea to Versace.

One of the board games he plays with his wife
One of the board games he plays with his wife | Image: Anna Nielsen

An indulgence I would never forgo is chocolate fondants. I like the ones at Zuma and Novikov. I’ve been into those on my cheat day recently.

Double-breasted style
Double-breasted style | Image: Anna Nielsen

I have a collection of sneakers. I’ve always had a thing for them; they give me joy. When I was young and only had two or three pairs, I would always keep them clean and make sure that they were displayed. They weren’t just for my feet but for my eyes. I love the low-rise white Nike Air Force 1s. They’re the shoes you can literally wear with everything, so I have a few pairs. But I also love really colourful shoes.

Barshim on his roof terrace in Doha
Barshim on his roof terrace in Doha | Image: Anna Nielsen

When I’m not competing or training, I like to unwind by being around my family. Usually we would gather, maybe have a nice meal, talk about how recent competitions went. For a celebratory meal I like sushi, so at home in Doha we’d often go to Market by Jean-Georges and Megu Restaurant in La Plage Villas West. At the moment, I pass by their houses once a week and say hi – no handshakes, mask on, gloves on – just to make sure everybody is fine. 

Barshim’s RM 67-02 Automatic Mutaz Barshim watch, designed for him
Barshim’s RM 67-02 Automatic Mutaz Barshim watch, designed for him | Image: Anna Nielsen

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe was a pair of G-Star Revend super-slim black waxed jeans that I bought on a trip to Germany in January. £90

His grooming staple – Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne Intense
His grooming staple – Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne Intense | Image: Anna Nielsen

The tech I couldn’t do without is the Technogym cycling machine. It’s elegant and very high quality. From £2,250 

Sculpture by Takashi Murakami
Sculpture by Takashi Murakami

The last music I listened to was by Pharrell on my record player. His album GIRL is my favourite, but I love all his work. I collect vinyl – not just for the music but because, for me, they are pieces of art. 

Recent tunes: GIRL by Pharrell
Recent tunes: GIRL by Pharrell

The grooming staple I’m never without is Jo Malone Velvet Rose & Oud Cologne Intense. In Doha we like oud-based perfumes because it comes from the Middle East. This one mixes smoky oud wood with rose in a good balance. Alexandra picked it out for me and I’ve loved it ever since. £78 for 50ml

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My sporting icon is someone who keeps delivering and achieving under higher pressure and more difficult circumstances than before. So, Muhammad Ali; Nadal and Federer for tennis; and in basketball, Kobe Bryant – rest in peace – and LeBron James. 

Before competing I am a bit superstitious about wearing my watch – I feel like it brings me positive energy. But I don’t have a set ritual. To be honest, apart from talking to my coach a little bit about technique, I like to be alone. I love Japanese animation, so I’ll maybe watch some cartoons and try to set the right mood.

In my fridge you’ll always find San Pellegrino, milk, bananas and eggs. And ice cream in the freezer – I have a thing for salted caramel at the moment. 

My favourite room in my house is a room that I use as an office and where I keep my art and exclusive sneakers, my jerseys and some of my trophies. I’m having fun designing it at the moment. 

My favourite website is TheAthletic.com. I usually go there every day to read all the track-and-field news. And lately, for fashion, I’ve been going to Farfetch.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Takashi Murakami. I have some of his work, but would like to have much more. I like colourful art – something that brings joy to the eye, but with a fun twist to it. 

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