The silver linings of NBA players’ draft day suits
Designers bring stories of passion, pride and pain to the inside of jackets
Dozens of pink, breast cancer awareness ribbon logos. A photo collage of friends and family. An all-caps shout-out to your rural hometown.
That’s how De’Aaron Fox, Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk adorned the linings of their suit jackets during this year’s NBA draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Fultz, the freshman point guard from the University of Washington, was chosen by the Philadelphia 76ers as the first draft pick. The inside of his custom-designed gray pinstripe jacket featured a silk lining decorated with photos of his family and friends. The words “#F2G FAITHFUL TO THE GRIND” were Fultz’s pledge of personal responsibility.
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) June 22, 2017
The silver (suit jacket) lining trend “has been going on for quite some time,” said Los Angeles-based menswear designer Boushra AlChabaoun, who works for Elevee Custom Clothing and helped style Kentucky teammates Fox’s and Monk’s J.C. Penney suits. Fox went to the Sacramento Kings and Monk to the Charlotte Hornets.
She also designed the suits for this year’s draft class members John Collins, OG Anunoby and Dwayne Bacon. “Some guys request their country’s flag inside the lining, or if their mother passed away, they want to do something as a tribute in the lining.”
Fox’s shout-out was to his mother’s and aunt’s battles with breast cancer. Monk’s tribute to his hometown of Lepanto, Arkansas, had the “THE WOODZ” stitched in.
“With all of the technology available, you can print anything that you want directly onto fabric,” AlChabaoun said of the large inkjet printers that lay color ink directly onto silk-and-polyester blend fabric used in Elevee’s suit jacket linings.
The specialty-themed jacket lining trend really began showing up with Houston Rockets point guard James Harden’s NBA draft class in 2009.
“That’s when fashion started changing, when guys in the NBA actually started wearing fitted, two-button suits,” AlChabaoun said. “The athletes started catching up and learning about fashion because of social media. It’s changed fashion 100 percent because you could easily get educated in a hurry. Now professional athletes are posting pictures of their teammates and people they admire in the league because of the way they dress.”
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) June 22, 2017
Custom menswear designer Jhoanna Alba deserves credit for recognizing the untapped creative potential of jacket linings. Alba sewed Nerlens Noel’s University of Kentucky basketball jersey into his jacket for the 2013 NBA draft, and hired artist Kristina Webb to hand-paint a tribute to Marcus Smart’s mother and deceased brother onto his jacket lining for the 2014 draft.
This year, Alba dressed Dennis Smith Jr., Bam Adebayo, Mathias Lessort and Jawun Evans for the entire NBA draft week, including the official NBA photo shoot, the first official news conference and the televised draft night spectacle. Alba also delivered the wardrobes for the athletes’ parents and families.
Alba and her team met with the players and family members for the first time at the NBA combine for fittings and design appointments. They also research their client’s Instagram photos for clues about color, fabric and suit styles, and present them with a “look book” of ideas that could work for draft day suits.
“The whole point of draft night is to remember where you came from as you transition from college to pro,” said Alba, whose company ALBA has created custom suits for more than 1,100 pro athletes. “These young guys want to let their special suit speak for itself, but the lining can really tell their story. It can really be anything – a favorite quote, a flag, the name of your dog, whatever they want.”