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The NBA just might have the most fashionable athletes in professional sports. They attend Fashion Week, launch clothing lines, and hobnob with Anna Wintour. Sometimes, they wear silk shorts to press conferences. In recognition of how dapper its players are, the league even launched a style award.
But if your name isn’t Steph, Russell, LeBron, or Dwyane, finding clothing when you’re an athlete well over 6 feet tall can be a challenge. That’s where designer Andrew Jang of the luxury clothing brand Adriaen Black comes in. Through his line, launched in 2016, Jang outfits professional athletes in apparel — be it business, formal, or casual — custom-made for their exceptional proportions.
Although he learned to sew as a child by taking pairs of pants apart and putting them back together, Jang fell into designing by accident. He planned to be a dentist but switched gears a decade ago when a couple at a party noticed how well-dressed he was and asked him to work as a stylist.
Before long, Jang’s first client started referring other people to him, a large chunk of whom were sports agents and athletes. He soon began designing pieces for clients as well. And when Skal Labissière wore a custom Adriaen Black suit to the 2016 NBA draft, Jang’s work received national attention. Today, the designer has dressed hundreds of players and Adriaen Black bills itself as “the only clothing brand originally created to work specifically with professional athletes.”
Racked spoke with Jang* to find out what it’s like to dress a guy who’s 7 feet tall or literally built like a quarterback.
You’ve met hundreds of NBA players, but when you encounter the ones who aren’t superstars, or who are new to the league, how do they dress? What sorts of problems do they have finding clothing that works for them?
You have a 20-year-old kid who never had the opportunity to have a suit, and now they need a suit guy. They would either not have a suit or they wouldn’t have a nice suit. Some guys would borrow each other’s suits or they would try to buy something off the rack, and it wouldn’t work. Some of them would just wear, like, sweats.
Others would go to custom shops, but their clothes would be sent off to China to get made and they would never be done right. They’d have to do seven or eight alterations, and these athletes don’t have the time to come back to one city that many times in one month.
What’s it like to dress a guy who’s, say, 5-foot-10 versus one who’s 6-foot-8?
My first 30 clients ranged from short to tall. My first guy was 7 feet tall. In all honesty, ratios or proportions are still the same. You might be 7 feet tall and have the torso of a 5-foot guy. Guys who are built bigger, like football players, I like to make more tailored suits for because it makes them look thinner. Guys who are super tall, I like to find a nice division in the legs to make them look a little shorter.
I also like to play with textures and patterns and colors. You’ve got to break up the texture on a tall guy or it almost looks like they’re wearing a snuggie. They have proportional issues. I like to build suits in layers because it makes them look less awkward.
Are there any styles the players are really feeling now?
Since last year, it’s just been the Euro cut, which is a slim fit that translates over to casual as well. A lot of my guys are really into the satin track jacket, distressed letterman’s jackets, beat-up-looking bomber jackets.
They also like bold colors. I have a guy in an orange suit, another in a red suit, one in a purple suit, but they all want the same tapered look that kind of hugs their body. I’m also seeing more of a mix of super-clean lines, basic T-shirts, beat-up jeans, and a nice pair of sneakers.
The NBA is filled with trendsetters like Russell Westbrook. Do you think today’s players, whether they’re famous or not, feel more pressure to really embrace fashion and develop a unique sense of style?
They follow likes on Instagram and Twitter just like a normal person does. There is that social pressure when it comes to fashion. They’re finding their individuality in style a little bit faster than I think [the older generation did]. We grew up with JC Penney, Old Navy, and Walmart. There’s not a single bit of creativity in wearing those clothes.
You mentioned wanting to make taller guys look shorter and wider guys look thinner. Obviously, these athletes make millions of dollars off their physiques, but do they have insecurities about these things?
Yes, there’s a little bit. Some of the taller guys, they don’t want to look stupid and the bigger guys do want to look thinner. But the vanity thing applies to all of us. We all want to be thought of as being good-looking.
Do you work with players’ stylists to come up with some of your custom-made looks, or are they mostly your vision?
Very few of them have stylists. They usually don’t work with them. For the most part, I become the de facto stylist. I get to know who they are really well, and they’ll reach out to me because they have a wedding or event to go to or they’ll want a whole new wardrobe to update last year’s wardrobe.
I know these guys are millionaires, but what are your rates for custom clothing?
A lot of places will charge athletes $4,000 for a custom suit, but I’ll only charge $2,000 for it. For casual clothes, it will be $200 for a T-shirt, $700 for a pair of jeans, $300 for a hoodie. These aren’t that far from the prices you’ll see if you walk into a Saks Fifth Avenue. Even when [an athlete] is dropping $30,000 grand for a new wardrobe, he’ll still get 20, sometimes 30, pieces of clothing.
You might get in trouble for answering this question, but who are the NBA players you think have the best style?
I like the non-crazy weird pajama looks of Russell Westbrook. I think he does inherently have a lot of style. Trevor Booker [of the Indiana Pacers] — he’s cool as hell. In fact, the whole Indiana Pacers are — Victor Oladipo, Glenn Robinson III. George Hill [of the Cleveland Cavaliers] he’s more down to earth. He’ll wear jeans and T-shirts, and Marc Gasol [of the Memphis Grizzlies] from Spain.
The funniest thing about you is that you’ve made a career out of dressing pro athletes, but you have no interest in sports. Is that changing? Are you going to the NBA Finals?
I still don’t go to the Super Bowl, and I had tickets. I have tickets to the finals, but I’m not going. For me, those are seats someone else would appreciate more. But I have gotten to know a lot of my players a little more. I’m more aware of trying to catch what’s going on with them on social media, but I don’t think I would be able to sit through a whole game.
*Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.