“When you look good, you play good.” My dad used to say the night before every sports game. Putting extra effort into my outfit made me not only look forward to the game, but it made me want to play my very best. Today, professional athletes adopt this mantra as they transform arena tunnels into fashion show runways.
The arrival shot scene: well dressed athletes strutting through the tunnel’s entrance, Airpods in, en route to the locker room, illuminated by erupting camera flashes, as the media tries to keep up.
Popularized by players such as Odell Beckham Jr, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, and Sue Bird; arena walk-ins have become a staple during live broadcasts across all pro-sports leagues. Serving as their own personal runway, athletes use this opportunity to express their individuality, and personal style. In return, their fashions excite fans, engage new ones, attract sponsors, and even promote social change.
These pre-game fashion shows are not new. Centuries before our favorite athletes transformed the NBA tunnel into Paris Fashion Week, Roman Gladiators marched around the Colosseum pit, flaunting purple and gold cloaks before attempting to slaughter one another. Stylist Rachel Johnson told Sports Illustrated, “There’s always some kind of entrance that a warrior makes before he goes into battle. And it’s the same thing with the guys today.”
With the help of stylists, athletes are now hoping to land on the Best Dressed List just as much as becoming the game’s Most Valuable Player. Here are 4 personal stylists who are transforming arena tunnels into fashion show catwalks:
Brandon Williams (@brandwills)
Celebrity menswear stylist and designer, Brandon Williams understands the formula when showcasing an athlete’s personality through their style. Williams has a clientele of some of the NBA, MLB, and NFL’s most fashionable athletes. His clients include sports analyst and former Los Angeles Lakers star, Matt Barnes, Houston Rockets power forward, Jeff Green, Chicago Cubs shortstop, Dansby Swanson, and Minnesota Timberwolves point guard, Mike Conley.
In many of his looks, Williams incorporates statement pieces that aren’t flashy, yet capture your attention to appreciate the entire ensemble. In a particular look, when styling Mike Conley, Williams incorporated a tonal and monochromatic feel with white sneakers, jack kick flare jeans, and a dark shirt, layered underneath a long-sleeved plaid crop top jacket. The jacket serves as the perfect signature piece, attracting on-lookers to digest and admire Conley’s full look.
Currently, Williams has a collection with Hudson Jeans. When discussing his collection with Saks Fifth Avenue, the stylist turned designer shared the styling rule he lives by. “Clean white sneakers are always a vibe,” He told Saks Fifth Avenue. “I don’t care what shape or form, it will work with everything (in my collection) on this rack.”
Williams’ Hudson collection was named “Best Collaboration” at the Project x Rivet Awards. The collection focuses on comfort and includes wide-leg jeans that come in a variety of dark washes, cream-colored mock neck sweaters and knit pants, and also features a camel Trucker jacket and cargo pants that come in Hudson’s popular vegan leather.
Uniquely, each style name in the collection pays homage to some of Williams’ friends and family members who have supported him through the years. Items are named after his family, sister Achea, friend and Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday, and his best friends and NFL players, Nick and Lance Moore.
Vick Michel (byvickmichel)
What do Draymond Green, Jayson Tatum, and JuJu Smith have in common? They’re all clients of wardrobe stylist, Vick Michel. In an interview with Athletes In Fashion TV, Michel described his personal style as simple. “It’s classic. It’s simplified. But yet, it has a splash of edginess to it.” His ability to mix and match is the stylist’s specialty. He pairs many of his looks with simple elements alongside eye-catching signature pieces.
In this look for Jayson Tatum, Michel paired a sleek white top with a number “24” jersey design from NAHMIAS’ ‘Butterfly Beach’ collection, butterfly imprinted pants, concluded by red sneakers. The cream pants’ colorful butterfly design completes the look, reminding viewers why Tatum is one of sport’s best-dressed athletes.
In November, Michel styled JuJu Smith in a Marni lily-white oversized jacket with polka dots. The Italian padded knitted jacket has a unique enveloping high neck and zip closure with a ribbed cuff design. The piece was accessorized with a saturated pink knitted cloud bag designed by Perplex. The hand-knitted bag is made of thick tube yarn with recycled filling. Again, Michel successfully pairs items together to highlight the entire wardrobe. While the bag and sweater team up to bring the outfit to life, the light YSL pants and Converse sneakers conclude the ensemble, and serve as the perfect finishing touch.
Vick’s style is inspired by pushing limits. In an interview with Slam Online, Michel said, “You have guys who say I don’t like floral, but then I bring a floral jacket and they’re like, Oh, this is dope! What can I wear this with.” He continued, “You turn a negative into a positive. You gotta push limits the way they push your limits.”
Michel is the head of UpNxT, an agency committed to playing a positive role in the culture of fashion, wardrobe creativity, and providing luxury experiences. The agency's goal is to enhance its clientele's appearance, not only in regards to self-confidence, but also public perception.
Courtney Mays (@courtneydmays)
Fashion and sports are in Courtney Mays’ blood. Mays is the daughter of a former NFL athlete, who instilled in her the value of showing up as your best self. Mays is a stylist whose clientele consists primarily of athletes like Chris Paul, Kevin Love, and former Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird.
Bird, the now-retired WNBA legend, landed on numerous best-dressed lists during her final season with the help of Mays. After partnering with Mays in 2022, Bird began to go viral online for her heat-to-toe outfits. Mays captured Birds’ powerful androgynous style - tinted shades, eye-catching patterns and prints, structured blazers, and a rare pair of sneakers.
Bird’s pre-game fashion improved with each season in the league and reflects many aspects of Bird, like when she officially came out in 2017.
When discussing Birds’ androgynous style with Huffington Post, Mays said, “Unfortunately, I think people make the assumption that as queer women, we are supposed to assign some sort of gender to the way we dress. Just like the most stylish people don’t concern themselves with the label or the size on the tag, we don’t concern ourselves with the intended gender of the garment. If it’s cool, we wear it! Sue mastered that beautifully. As a business person and as an athlete, she is so inspiring.”
Mays’ clientele also includes actors Anthony Anderson, Winston Duke, and Chris Sullivan from This Is Us. As an advocate for diverse bodies, it’s important to Mays that guys who don’t have access to gifting and sample sizes look just as cool as those who do.
For the cover of GQ South Africa, Mays styled Black Panther actor Winston Duke in a matching Dolce & Gabbana midnight blue top and bottom featuring geometric designs. Mays stated she believes Winston’s team reached out to her because she worked with a variety of body sizes.
“Winston’s team reached out to my agency because they have been seeing that I've been working with some of “larger guys” in the industry, and I think that’s really cool,” she told the Huffington Post. She continued, “I hope that there’s a space where I can become the go-to person who can say, “Yes, come to me, for the guys that are not sample size. And we’re gonna figure this out.”
Daniel R. Jones Jr. (drjspokestyle)
Daniel R. Jones Jr. is a Dominican-born and Brooklyn-raised stylist and image curator who is known for his unique vision and interpretations across music and sports. Jones’ philosophy is that his clientele is more than just canvases, they’re brands. Brands that demand creativity, confidence, professionalism, and personal touch. Through his styling, he creates an atmosphere for them to thrive.
Jones' clientele has included Bel Air star Jabari Banks, Jackson Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk, and late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
One of Jones’ most popular looks is one he curated for Nipsey Hussle for the 2019 Roc Nation Brunch. Stars went all out for the Pre-Grammy Brunch, including Nipsey who sported a pink Casablanca Brand trench coat. Nipsey passed later that year, and many people believe the floral color scheme of the 2020 Roc Nation brunch was based on the outfits worn by both Nipsey and his long-time partner Lauren London the previous year.
Christian Kirk is Jones’ first athlete client, and the two haven’t wasted any time executing seamless looks since working together earlier this year.
In one of Kirk’s pre-game looks, Jones incorporated a sleek black suit by Grayscale and black and white loafers by G.H. Bass. The suit's vertical, white-line design introduces the classic penny loafers.
In another arrival look, Kirk wore a Zamba vest with matching shorts. Like many of Jones’ curations, the look was calm, classy, and bold.
On his way to a game in New Orleans, Kirk was styled in a simple long-sleeve Prada top, Phipps pants, and a fly sneaker. Jones proves that when it comes to fashion, sometimes less is more.
Each of these stylists understands the power of image. They may not always be the center of attention like their clients, but they command attention through their work. They are storytellers who understand that style can be a platform to speak on larger issues, whether that’s through activism or enhancing self-confidence. Through their work, the convergence of style and sports in the tunnels of arenas will continue to flourish.