After two years of hybrid formal dressing at home and at the draft venue, this year’s crop of talent went all out in custom tailoring, including suits by Dolce & Gabbana, and a number of luxury designer footwear labels, such as Louis Vuitton and Alexander McQueen.
More notable than the labels is how each top pick created their own style moment with deep back-stories and nods to culture, family and alma maters.
BJ Gray of Grayscale and Ian Pierno designed New York Jets draft pick Garrett Wilson’s two-toned suit that the athlete paired with Prada boots. Designer Adonis Jennings put together meaningful bespoke suits for Ikem Ekwonu, the North Carolina State offensive tackle who was picked sixth in the draft by the Carolina Panthers, and Michigan defensive end Aiden Hutchinson, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions.
Ekwonu wore a white double-breasted tuxedo with subtle monochrome pattern and green and white striped cuffs and lapel nodding to his Nigerian roots, and Hutchinson wore a black tuxedo, also with a subtle pattern and an interior lining that had manifestations he journaled over the past five years. The two players also sported Hublot watches.
Hutchinson’s fellow Detroit Lions draft pick Jameson Williams stepped out in Louis Vuitton trainers to match his Alabama crimson suit; Kayvon Thibodeaux, the New York Giants-drafted defensive end from the Oregon Ducks, sported a black Dolce & Gabbana suit with ruby crystals, and New York Jets pick Jermaine Johnson 2nd wore a gold, patterned tuxedo jacket.
This year, the players stood out mostly with their accessories. Washington Huskies player Kyler Gordon wore McQueen sneakers, and University of Cincinnati corner Ahmad Garner, who also joined the Jets, went double duty with his viral sauce chain and jewelry and spiked Christian Louboutin sneakers.
Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle from Mississippi State Charles Cross went for hype in Travis Scott x Fragment Air Jordan 1 sneakers and, according to stylist and creative director Kesha McLeod, Cross’ suit by athletes’ favorite designer Waraire Boswell came together in 72 hours.
“I met Charles by a chance meeting a few weeks ago and he showed me the suit he was wearing” to the draft, McLeod said. “Days later, he found out the suit he had was going to fall through and he needed another suit.”
McLeod, who has clients such as Serena Williams and P.J. Tucker, called Boswell and tailor Soyoung Shin to work on the new suit that Cross wore on the red carpet, a black and white gingham plaid style with blue accents to match his sneakers. He also wore a black mamba pin from Jason of Beverly Hills, Chanel pearls and a Rolex Presidential watch.
“It’s important to have an amazing tailor who understands suit construction,” McLeod said. “We had three-hour fittings on FaceTime and went over every detail. Charles is a great kid and he understood men’s suiting. Sometimes you have to educate guys, but he practiced getting up, putting the hat on. It helped with the fitting and we adjusted the armhole or the biceps because we knew how he was moving on the stage.”
McLeod believes the draft was very tailored, but draftees played it safe this year, opting for details inside of the suits. But all in all, the next generation of players knows what they want even at a relatively young age.
“With designer sneakers ranging in sizes now, sometimes as high as 13 and 17, the styles are readily available to this generation,” she said. “They’re able to get what they want and social media is influencing everyone. They know what they want.”
And the media is giving more attention to the draft as well, according to McLeod.
“I met with a style editor who doesn’t cover sports at all but said she has the Met Gala, the Billboard Awards and the NFL Draft and for her to mention the draft as a style pivotal moment means the world is watching.”