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2011 NBA Draft Style Analysis: The Suits Finally Fit and Kemba is King

The 2011 installment of the NBA Draft was not given the opportunity to be great. Madison Square Garden, the usual host for festivities, is under renovation so the hopeful rookies had to travel across the Hudson River to Newark and walk the stage at Prudential Center. Bloggers and basketball pundits dismissed the next class of NBA talent as bottom tier. Also, with a lockout looming – will these young men ever see playing time? In 2003, LeBron James’ oversized white ensemble was better suited for a pimp and not the first overall draft pick. His personal style has evolved thanks in part to the dress code, maturity and careful image management. The NBA instituted the dress code in 2005 and it came at the perfect time as menswear was moving towards to the skinny suit and tailored styles thanks to Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme. Fitted or “European” styles began dominating locker rooms along with luxury sneakers and Louis Vuitton everything. Braids began disappearing as Carmelo Anthony shaved his off and Kobe Bryant switched from jerseys pre-game to suits. Players no longer wanted to look like Allen Iverson but now Kanye West’s fashion forward style evolution was to be mimicked. This year’s draft class may not have hit the perfect style notes but it’s clear that with the help of stylists, the new kids are learning how important fit is in a suit. Gone are the days of the LeBron white suit or Jalen Rose’s infamous red atrocity. Without further ado, here’s the best, worst and downright average style grades for the 2011 NBA draft class. It should come as no surprise that a New York kid wins my award for best dressed. Kemba Walker won my respect and fashion gold star last night because he wore a suit that was not only perfectly cut for his body type but because he was able to still let his personal style shine through. Last year, Wesley Johnson’s plaid pants and double-breasted ensemble may have been sartorially inclined but it looked like the outfit wore him, not the other way around. Walker looked both comfortable and cool in the single breasted blue-grey suit. The peaked lapels were in proportion with his shoulders and the jacket was modern without being fussy. Walker was already on my radar for his understated, well-fitting suit at Connecticut’s visit with President Obama after winning the NCAA National Championship. His big heart and great speaking skills makes him a complete player off the court as well – he’s a marketing dream. In fact, he already has endorsement deals in place with Axe and Best Buy without the elusive title of being the number one draft pick. Walker’s accessory choices elevated his look from above average to exquisite. The pocket square in beige with a pink hue picked up the rose gold outsole of his two-tone shoes. The tie bar kept his look clean but added some visual interest on his thin, patterned tie. Even his belt was a leather with a pink undertone to tie it all together. Fellas, when I say the items of your outfit don’t have to match but they have to go, I’m talking about putting an ensemble together like Walker’s. The hues (underlying color) are all in the same family – blue in the primary items and pink in the accessories. Since the colors are all related, they work in harmony. I’m excited to see what Walker brings to Charlotte off the court. According to my favorite Bobcats’ source, Ben Swanson (a.k.a. CardboardGerald), the rookie came to the press conference dressed to impress in Louis Vuitton sneakers. Kemba Walker, you’re on my fashion radar. He’s my early pick for style rookie for the season….if we get a season.

Walker’s swag dominated the night but credit has to be given both to my Canadian countryman Tristan Thompson, as well as Marshon Brooks for sporting full ensembles not just a suit. Thompson (and his personal shopper) found a suit that managed to fit him perfectly without looking snug in the shoulders or short in the sleeves – an issue for a player with a seven feet, two-inch wingspan.The polka dot tie contrasts with the pink tone in the shirt and the paisley pocket square ties it all together.His rose gold watch face is the right shade for his skin tone and the leather watch strap and shoes are the perfect complimentary shade of warm saddle brown – this is how to wear black and brown together. It certainly looked like Thompson dressed to best match his new Cavaliers cap – think he knew something the media didn’t?

In every draft class, there seems to be one player that calls dibs on the bow tie and tries to make it work for him. This year, Marshon Brooks took the honor. The last time a bow tie was worn properly was when James Harden sported his cream ensemble and has since had the neck accessory a signature. Brooks seems to be following Harden’s sartorial example. Brooks was originally drafted by the Celtics before being moved to the Nets, sported another bow tie at his introductory press conference in Newark. For draft night, his two piece grey suit fit in the shoulders and the sleeve length was fine although it could be taken in more in the torso and in arm width to remove some of the bulk – the ill fit was made obvious when he stood up to meet Commissioner Stern. Besides the technical suiting issues, the patterned shirt mixed with the neutral grey suit really make the bow tie the star to the outfit. A good tactic to draw attention up to Brooks’ face and away from the terrible adidas draft caps.

The number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was Kyrie Irving out of Duke University and the only thing that streamed first overall about his outfit was his timepiece.Besides the impressive watch, the rest of ensemble was average – decent fitting jacket and shirt, pants could be tailored and the tie was too skinny and poorly knotted. Hopefully fellow rookie Tristan Thompson and veteran NBA fashion plate Baron Davis can help their new teammate take some risks this season.

Speaking of sartorial risks, Kawhi Leonard went for preppy throwback look with white piping on black two button suit. When I originally saw this suit, I immediately thought he belonged on a yacht or perhaps parking cars at the yacht club. The buttons are a bit distracting and the pocket square seems like an afterthought but the piping has grown on me. Keeping the shirt and tie relatively neutral was a smart move so it didn’t distract from the jacket. The fit is decent, but as with many of these young men, the sleeve could be slimmed down. A pop of color or sheen in the pocket square could have upgraded the look and he might want to re-think the braids – no one should take manscaping cues from Udonis Haslem.

Pocket squares have become the new accessory of choice for NBA draftees in recent years and this year, some players either didn’t put enough thought into them (Leonard) or tried too damn hard. It’s important to remember that for these young men, most of their interviews will head and shoulder shots so the pocket square will be shown and having one that looks like a used tissue stuffed in your pocket looks sloppy. The Morris brothers were a great story of the draft, twins going one right after another to different cities for the first time in their young lives. But they had me crying foul all over Twitter as with the pocket square, bigger is not necessarily better as you have a limited space to display your accessory.

Markieff Morris, the slightly older twin and the first to be drafted, thirteenth overall to the Suns, wore a pinstripe suite that looked be right off the rack and ill-fitting on his massive frame. The jacket is too long, the shoulder are bunching and sleeves and pants must be taken in. Also, on a large man a three-piece suit adds bulk, he should have gone for a sleeker silhouette. As for the pocket square, it looks like he found some iridescent Kleenex and stuffed it in his pocket. The fact that you actually see a bulge from the access fabric in the jacket is a terrible look. Remember, it’s a square, not a scarf. While we’re on accessories, white watches, like white sunglasses, often just look cheap and it does not work with his outfit at all.

Marcus Morris, the younger brother by seven minutes, was drafted next to another Western Conference team, the Houston Rockets. Marcus, followed suit almost literally with a pinstripe three-piece suit in black that was looked to fit in the shoulders but not so well elsewhere. Not to be outdone by his brother, upped the pocket square ante as his almost reached his tie knot – far too large. I’m all for flair but the pocket square took over his entire outfit and you became distracted by his accessory and not listen to what the newly minted rookie had to say. Also, if you look the Morris’ brothers wore similar shirt and ties. The best moment from the twin’s draft came from their interview with their mother, who was also in a pinstripe suit, who said she wouldn’t wear either of the adidas draft caps – smart woman.

As for the rest of the draft class, it was nice to see the players put some effort into their attire, the recent explosion of athlete stylists are certainly helping keep the players current. Derrick Williams tried to work with a skinny suit silhouette but didn’t make it. The tailoring was fine but the tie knot didn’t work with the shirt or the tie width. The bright red tie was a nice burst of color, but some more texture would have really made Williams stand out.

Jimmer Fredette came into the draft with plenty of hype thanks to his ridiculous NCAA campaign. While Fredette’s stock dropped a touch on concerns over lack of defensive fundamentals and size, his fashion game could probably use a return to basics. His jacket hit in the wrong spot and Fredette looked like he was sporting a pot belly. The stance on his jacket was a touch high and the cut made him look boxier. Dressing in BYU blue (navy suit, blue tie, blue shirt, blue watch) was a nice nod to his alumna matter but it came off a little dull. Fredette is more modest than most NBA rookies but his giant timepiece and rapping brother give the impression that the young man from upstate New York wants to take a few more risks.

Finally, I have to give points to Jonas Valanciunas, my hometown Toronto Raptors fifth overall draft pick. Most Raptors picks were hoping that local hero Tristan Thompson would have his homecoming on the Air Canada Centre court, but as usual the Raptors went European. Valanciunas went for subtle but well-tailored. The olive-green tie and pattern mixing with a different pocket square elevated the look from basic to interesting. The sleeve length was also on point so kudos to the unknown centre. I’m sure he’ll be a frequent visitor to Yorkville this season, Toronto’s high-end shopping neighbourhood soon.

Overall, this year’s draft class was an improvement over last year’s. The new crop of NBA rookies need to continue to practice and perfect the art of fit and how to dress their frames. Hopefully they’ll start taking more risks and find their own personal style among the NBA trends and Louis Vuitton littered locker rooms. Good luck gentlemen and welcome to the big leagues.

Photos courtesy of ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports and NBA.com.

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Sean John and the NFL Draft: Tailored for Performance

The draft for professional sports leagues are hype machines. College-age kids parade in front of media and NFL staff like prized dogs; it’s the most public job interview on the planet. While all leagues have something offer fans and athletes, the pure pageantry of the NFL Draft cannot be beat.  

A general view of the stage during the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

The event takes place in Radio City Music Hall, the  grandest of stages, in the biggest American city “where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do” – New York City. These draftees are the nation’s focus, some at the peak of their careers: it’s their Hollywood moment – there’s even a red carpet. These young men will sign contracts that most of us couldn’t even fathom, from the dollar signs to the endorsements to the restrictions and ownerships on their lives. It’s fitting that companies and stylists are clamouring to dress these future stars before they’re whisked from collegiate stars to NFL starters, as the old cliché goes, it truly is the first day of the rest of their lives.  

The first overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft: Sam Bradford. The Oklahoma QB did not opt for Sean John makeover but still looked modern and right for the big day. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

In the past, draftees have sometimes come correct, showing their flair or perhaps a swift mother’s hand. Other looked like they’re wearing old ill-fitting church suits and some were just trying a little too hard to impress. As much I want to see these young men shine, bad draft day outfits are what keep blogs going. But dressing properly for the occasion is something that all new employees of the NFL should learn as it can help them in their public and private reputation for years down the line. If the NFL added a style boot camp to the combine, I would be in sports heaven.  

The Sean John Fine Tailoring Experience extended to first round NFL draftees. A clean and clearly effective invite.

 

One brand decided to try to do their own version of a style boot camp coupled with a strong branding initiative – Sean John. It was announced in Women’s Wear Daily, that the man they call Diddy’s fashion brand would be dressing a number of top NFL prospects for the draft. Sean Combs’ defined his company’s work with the draftees as a “pre-draft tailoring experience” where they would be given a fine suit and the use of an in-house tailor and stylist at Sean John’s 5th Avenue flagship store. Conversion Sports and Entertainment ran the event which also included a chauffeured Rolls Royce Phantom and a bevy of other goodies.  From my last count, the Sean John roster included seven players, all first round draft picks. Diddy didn’t get to go number one, but he did get arguably the best player in the draft in Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh who went second overall to the Detroit Lions. Other players included Eric Berry (#5), Russell Okung (#6)Joe Haden (#7), CJ Spiller (#9), Derrick Morgan (#16)Demaryius Thomas (#22) and Dan Williams (#26).  

Sean John picked out a three-piece suit for Ndamukong Suh. They kept it modern for the Nebraska boy by mixing in a gingham shirt and yellow tie. Not bad. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

 

This initiative is a great look for Sean John for a number of reasons. They’re reaching out to one of the most powerful and flush demographics in the United Sates – professional athletes. These players will be soon cashing in on their talent (and not their universities) and building brand loyalty could really pay off in the long run. Also, this is one of the first occasions for these college players to receive a gift in a public, grand scale without having to worry about jeopardizing their amateur status. Once they declare for the draft, everything is fair game. Sean John swooped in by telling the players that they were rewarding their fine play with a fine suit and showing them a slice of the good life. It’s like equating NFL talent with what I’m sure Sean John hopes is NFL style. The other athletes, who perhaps turned down Sean John’s invite, see their fellow draftees chauffeured in luxury and catered to by a media mogul may think twice about going to Sean John in the future. Look at all the Louis Vuitton and Beats by Dre in dressing rooms – could the Sean John suit be the new coveted item? Maybe not, but the attired athletes in their brand will exist in the archives for ages.  

2009 NFL Draft 1st round pick Mark Sanchez cashed in on his good looks and NFL notoriety by posing for GQ magazine with all-American model Hilary Rhoda. Proof of how easy athletes can transition from player to model.

 

Down the line, Sean John could also tap into these young men for advertising as using athletes as the model and muse seems to becoming the norm in men’s fashion. Cristiano Ronaldo stripped down for Emporio Armani, Tiger Woods was a Tag Heuer man – could Suh be the face of Sean John big and tall? It’s not a far-fetched idea. Sean John is doing what their CEO does so well – network to improve his net worth. Diddy would never have come this far without friends and powerful connections – from the Notorious B.I.G. to Anna Wintour, the man makes his Rolodex spin with his connections and hard work. It’s only  fitting that he models his clothing line with the same work ethic. Sean John also used their blog and Twitter to feature vignettes and behind the scenes photos on the athletes on their Sean John experience. In the age of social media where so many players are taking to Twitter and becoming more accessible than ever, it’s fitting to have Sean John let the fans into equation, without even giving them an invite.  

One of my favourite photos from the draft is Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan being fitted by tailor Sharon E. Clarke while checking his phone. The kids are always connected! (AP Photo/David Goldman)

 

Some friends who are more sports fans than fashion mavens asked why would these athletes who will soon be making first round money be wearing a brand that is more known downtown than uptown – isn’t Sean John a lesser quality product? Although I agree that some of Sean John’s suits are not as fashion forward as brands like Z Zegna, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, J. Lindberg, or Dior Homme, but are more standard American sportswear. Players that bring size and strength on their frame are not easy to fit into skinny cut suits from a high fashion house even with a tailor’s help. Also, like most major fashion brands, Sean John licenses their product to a manufacturer that specializes in suit construction. Peerless Clothing has a factory in Montreal that cranks out 25,000 suits a week for brands like Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Chaps, Ralph Lauren, and of course, Sean John – all New York base brands. When you buy their suits, you’re really paying for the name and styling and not their manufacturing and customization.  

Demaryius Thomas was one of my picks for best dressed as his look his understated, flattering and fits well. Bradford and CJ Spiller were also strong.

 

Finally, as a stylist, it’s a bit disappointing to see a big company taking over the styling for so many young players who could be potential clients. However, I applaud their use of a tailor on site and suit customization. Buying off the rack will rarely work any man – not just professional athletes. It’s worth the time and effort to have a suit to tailored so it fits to perfection than just spending all your money on just a name. Fit is the most important thing to keep in mind while shopping and is accessible at every price and size. Sean John may not offer such luxury to all shoppers, but a personal shopper and a tailor can turn their suit into your suit with a few tips and a little work. And while fashion disasters on draft day are memorable, it’s nice to see these young men looking ready for their next big step – the contract and then finally, the playing field. Good luck, young fellas.

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Double Trouble: Sir Charles and Stan Van

On TNT last Thursday, Charles Barkley brought out his usual mock neck best to the panel. You’d think he’d dress up for the occasion, considering the extra hour-long show to début the NBA All-Star Reserves.

Kenny, Ernie and the always stylish Chris Webber all wore proper, well-fitting suits. The fabric prints and layering are debatable for some, but at least they weren’t wearing a Hanes t-shirt under an oversized, ill-fitting grey jacket. The whole thing just felt a little Miami Vice to me….minus the polyester (god I hope, because when a big man sweats in unnatural fibre…). TUURRRRRIBLE!

I could chastise Barkley for his awful choice of attire more….but frankly, he’s been doing it for some time. Ever since the Round Mound of Rebound let his waist get bigger than his head, he’s been opting out of the collared shirt and fitted suit get up most of the time. Yes, we all gain weight and Barkley should never be Rajon Rondo thin, but the clothes can give you shape! Sir Charles, you are TNT royalty, why wouldn’t you want to fit the part? It takes a little more work or even, just a very diligent well paid stylist and tailor to give you the shape you want. Suits are made to give you  shape, not try and make you look bigger with an oversized jacket. A good fabric won’t add shine to reflect light and make you look bigger or cling to you in less than desirable spots. The mock top completely cuts off any length to your neck as well, so you get the snowman effect. You become round mounds on top of bigger mounds, and not a human proper shape. And who wants to resemble Frosty the snowman instead of a real live man? (And no, I’m not talking about Frosty ala Clipse).

I was shocked when Barkley was hosting SNL for the second time this past January and he wore *gasp* a real suit AND (slightly dated) tie! It’s a wonder what working with a good stylist will do for you. He looked taller, leaner and younger than he has in years. Though, being in commercials next to modern NBA gods like Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard wouldn’t really enhance your self-image.

The game that TNT was featuring last Thursday was the Boston Celtics visiting the Orlando Magic. Despite Craig Sager’s best blatant attempt at shock value in a suit, it  was Van Gundy’s attire that disturbed me more….HE WAS MATCHING CHARLES BARKLEY! Perhaps all this time SVG has not  been impersonating Ron Jeremy and his famous pornstache, but Sir Charles instead. The only difference was that Stan Van was wearing a black mock neck polo (but done up tight to the neck) and the same ill-fitting grey jacket. Stan, like Charles, used to wear suit and ties and slightly more appropriate outfits. But he has become the sideline model for mock neck shirts and bulky jackets, and sometimes worse, turtle necks! Turtle necks are a husky man’s worse nightmare as it not only cuts of the neck and any length but also gives zero shape, structure of definition. More often than not, the wearer looks like a blob rather than a respected NBA head coach.

Sir Charles and Mr. Van Gundy, I beg of you, review your wardrobes! You’re in HD now so NOTHING is hidden. Embrace your shape and learn to make it work for you, not against you and a widescreen.

And as a quick side note, Kurt Warner wore his own version of the black polo and grey jacket during his retirement press conference. But for some reason, it seemed to work. Maybe it’s because he’s a retiree in Arizona and that outfit seems to scream casual golf course. But mostly, it was because it FITS. Gentlemen, please know your size, not just in your pants but around them as well.

High fives & booty taps,

Megan

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