On NBA draft night in 1995, Jalen Rose famously — or infamously, depending on your perspective — wore a bright red pinstriped suit and paisley tie. It was only the beginning, as draft night fashion has merely gotten bigger, brighter and bolder and professional stylists have become an essential part of most prospects’ pre-draft entourage. Ditto Thursday’s NBA draft.
“I think now, because of how fashion has changed with athletes and how social media has played such a role in educating these guys about fashion, they know what they want because they are trying to look like somebody else who has done it before,” said Boushra AlChabaoun, designer and stylist at Elevee Custom Clothing. “Then they want to add their own thing to it. They are a lot more involved and are a lot more open to being risk-takers.”
AlChabaoun has been working with Elevee, a luxury brand that creates custom, hand-tailored wardrobes for athletes and high-profile clients, since she was 19 and it was just a start-up. Elevee is now responsible for many of the looks seen during the NFL and NBA drafts, and what those stars wear on the covers of magazines such as Sports Illustrated and GQ. AlChabaoun dresses many elite athletes, including James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and she is responsible for outfitting 11 players in this year’s NBA draft, including Marvin Bagley III, Mikal Bridges, Lonnie Walker IV and Zhaire Smith.
AlChabaoun starts meeting with draft prospects May 1, first dressing them at the NBA combine. Throughout May and June, AlChabaoun and her clients discuss style and what could be worn on draft night.
To give them insight on looks, AlChabaoun shows them images of outfits that range from conservative to trendy to hipster. AlChabaoun admitted this doesn’t always work.
“A lot of the times, they don’t even know where they fall; they’ve only been in basketball shorts and T-shirts,” she said. “But then they see this picture and go, ‘Oh, I always wished I could do this.’ ”
Draft day is one of the most hectic days for AlChabaoun. Always trying to get the biggest hotel room in whatever hotel the draft class is staying in, AlChabaoun has the players come to her room starting at 1 p.m. to get ready. Pretty soon, it’s show time.
“Every single guy in this class was like, ‘I want cropped pants,’ and I’m like, ‘There is a certain person who can pull off a capri; it’s not for everyone,’ ” AlChabaoun said. “But I’m not really understanding it. Some guys can pull it off, I get that, but I don’t completely get it with the suit all the time. There is a time and place.”
Another look that she warned could be seen on draft night, much to AlChabaoun’s dismay, is the short suit. The style made an appearance at last year’s NBA Awards when Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green showed up in black shorts and a turquoise suit jacket. More recently, LeBron James rocked the short suit look before Game 1 of the NBA Finals earlier this month.
“It’s excruciating,” AlChabaoun said about the short suit look. “If they are not built like a model, it’s unacceptable.”
While AlChabaoun will not personally be putting any short suits in the green room or on the draft stage, she said she took some risks this year with her clients. She was particularly interested in seeing the reaction to Miami’s Walker, whom she put in a cream, double-breasted suit.
“I’m excited to see if we are going to get good reviews or bad reviews,” she said. “We took a chance, and I am hoping that the responses are good. We will see.”
Draft live updates:
As the first round of the draft comes to a close, so does any crazy, over-the-top fashion. But that does not mean the players aren’t as good or the outfits aren’t as strong. Dzanan Musa, who went to the Brooklyn Nets with the 29th pick, opted for a reddish-maroon suit — a classic that will never really go out of style. Seems like a good way to balance out a series of looks that some hope will never make an appearance at the NBA draft again (looking at you, suit shorts).
Before the draft began, AlChabaoun questioned whether viewers would love or hate the outfit she styled for Lonnie Walker. Well, after Walker was selected with the 18th pick, the results are in . . . and the Twittersphere seems to be on board. Walker sported an all-white ensemble (featuring a double breasted jacket), baby pink button down, round specks and quite the hair style.
On the green carpet, Walker told NBA TV’s Trey Kerby: “I’m a different kind of kid. You can tell by the hair and how I hold myself. We were trying to figure what colors not too many people wear. So I’m wearing cream white from Elevee and suede baby calf Edward Green shoes.”
When asked whether he was the best dressed at the draft, Walker said “definitely top three.”
Love the confidence. And also, the way he wears a hat.
If there was one statement piece of the night, it had to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s floral suit. Not only did the suit feature the floral pattern, his button down did as well. He tied it all together with a turquoise tie. Some thought his look was pure fire, while others found it reminiscent of curtains. You choose where you land on that spectrum.
Jaren Jackson Jr. went for the double whammy of pastel pink and velvet. He topped it off with skulls on his shoes. He was loving his look, but the same can’t be said for everyone else.
Shoes are supposed to complete an outfit. Some of tonight’s draft picks definitely took that into consideration. Trae Young decided on a pair of suede loafers with the words “be different” written on the sides. Marvin Bagley III and Colin Sexton rocked some red bottoms, wearing Louboutin spikes ($1,300 a pair)
Much like last year, a surprise in the lining of suits was a big trend. No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III, who rocked a sparkly suit on the outside, opened his jacket to reveal the interior, which featured . . . himself?
Deandre Ayton was the draft’s No. 1 pick. When it came to his outfit choice, he opted to go for a quieter outfit. Sans floral, studded shoes and cropped pants, Ayton sported a blue suit with a very subtle plaid print.
He saved the extra for inside his coat, which sported the flag of the Bahamas, his home country.
Inspired by Wakanda and King T’Challa himself, Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. wasted no time making his mark on the NBA. But it wasn’t just him rolling up in Vibranium. His mother, Kylia, and father, Wendell Sr., complemented their son’s look with their very own “Black Panther” looks, making them to most coordinated group of the evening.
Carter even did the “Wakanda forever” salute when he was introduced before the draft began, so you know he’s staying on theme.
Amid the pageantry and the celebrations for young basketball players getting their first shots as pros, each prospect’s specific style carries plenty of weight, too. Thursday is the night for soon-to-be rookies to show off beyond what they’re capable of during games in the form of fashion, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
In that regard, look no further than Oklahoma guard and projected lottery pick Trae Young. AlChabaoun may not be a fan of the short suit look, but Young sure is. Inspired by LeBron James and Draymond Green, Young told NBA TV’s Trey Kerby “I looked back in history and didn’t see anyone wearing them to the draft and was like: ‘Man, I want to do that his year. Make some history.’ ”
Of course, this being another year of the draft in the age of NBA Twitter, the jokesters made their presence felt rather swiftly.