SUITING UP FOR THE NFL DRAFT WITH C.J. CUSTOM CLOTHIERS
On NFL Draft day, all eyes are on the league’s next crop of stars as they take the stage to pose with their new team jerseys. For these future NFL players, suiting up on Sundays will be easy. But away from the field, many have yet to develop a clear sense of style. Dressing the part is a part of the game and the draft marks the fashion debut for these newcomers. Finding the right balance between flashy and classy in draft day attire can be a challenge for athletes, so they enlist the styling services of Clarence Jones, owner of C.J. Custom Clothiers.
Jones has been in the custom clothing field for over 19 years, with a business built on developing relationships. He got his start working with Memphis-based tailors Niko Perkins and Troy Watkins, who sparked his interest in custom suits. He also cites Barbara Bates with helping him to get off the ground. Bates was working out of Chicago with celebrity clientele such as Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Harvey. Through his connection with Bates, Jones fitted shirts for Harvey. Today his client roster includes a range of athletes like pro footballers Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions and Robert Quinn of the St. Louis Rams.
Jones also has plenty of experience dressing rookies for the draft. He’s built a business with younger players who are entering the pros and seeking style direction. Many have never worn a custom suit before visiting with him, making the wardrobe selection process quite extensive. It involves Jones meeting with clients, educating them on styles best suited for their frame, selecting fabrics, coordinating colors, and taking measurements. Orders are completed after three or four weeks, and Jones hand delivers the custom threads to each client, to ensure a proper fit and make necessary adjustments. Jones can be credited with styling two of last year’s best-dressed draftees, Patrick Peterson, currently with the Arizona Cardinals, and Von Miller, who plays for the Denver Broncos. Peterson’s standout sartorial style led to additional clientele for Jones for this year’s draft.
“For this year’s draft I’m dressing 3 players: Melvin Ingram from South Carolina, Michael Brockers from LSU and Michael Floyd from Notre Dame,” he told A Glam Slam.
To see his styling on display, tune in to the NFL Draft on the NFL Network or NFL.com, beginning on April 26th at 8 p.m. ET (Rounds 2-3: Friday, April 27th, 7 p.m. ET and Rounds 4-7: Saturday, April 28th, noon ET). For those looking to inquire about Jones’ services, he can be reached at: 901-378-8273 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A Glam Slam spoke to Clarence in greater detail about dressing for the draft. Check it out below.
(Patrick Peterson and Von Miller at the 2011 NFL Draft)
You’ve dressed several players for the NFL Draft and many of these guys have never owned custom suits before. How do you convince them to come on board and how does the process work?
Getting the player is based on relationships that I have formed in the past. A lot of agents would see me at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combines, various different events and then give me an opportunity, sit down and talk to me, and ask me about the different players that I’ve made clothes for. Last year, for the Home Depot Awards, I did Patrick Peterson’s suits. When I made his suits for the Home Depot Awards it sparked people’s interest, like with Michael Brockers.
I went to Dallas and I sat him down for a whole hour before I got him fitted because a lot of these guys have never had custom-made suits so they’re not understanding the custom process. I sit with them and explain why they’re getting a custom suit, so it could fit them properly and more importantly, it’s for the interviews. With Michael, he had a particular color that he liked in mind and I said I want to do something different. He said Patrick Peterson was well-dressed last year and thought I could do wonders for him too. I picked out a great pinstripe suit for the draft and a navy blue suit for interviews. He wore the navy blue with the red pinstripes on ESPN last week. Then I got him another suit that he wore to the Carolina Panthers. Once we got through that process, I got him a couple other suits. I don’t ship anything in the mail, everything is hand delivered because I want to make sure everything fits well. He was so excited with the way he looked.
Are there any trends we can expect to see at this year’s draft?
Mostly fitted, European cut suits. No pleats in the pants, a more tapered look.
What are some of your draft day fashion faux pas? Is there anything players should avoid wearing?
The suit for guys to avoid on draft day is tuxedo style looking suits. I just think that’s terrible for a player to walk out and look like he’s got a tuxedo on. A solid suit with trimming like a tuxedo, to me, that’s not a very nice looking suit. For most guys, I would put more emphasis on stripes for the draft instead of more solid suits. When you’re meeting with the Commissioner and you’re in the public eye, you want something that has a little pizazz to it.
Which suits from last year’s draft were most memorable for you?
Last year I’d say Patrick Peterson looked very good, Von Miller looked nice too. I thought Cam Newton looked very nice in his draft day suit last year. I was very pleased with the way his suit looked.
Of the players you’ve worked with, do any stand out as having a particularly good sense of style?
Patrick Peterson was easy to dress because he already had a good fashion sense. He’s very instrumental in the process, he gives a lot of feedback.
Are athletes usually open to out of the box suggestions? How do you convince them to wear something outside of their comfort zone?
Usually when it’s a guy picking a suit for the draft, they’re so color-conscious because they think they look good in certain colors. A lot of them are afraid to step out so my job is to educate them on different styles and how they should look. A lot of them give me the opportunity to dress them the way I see fit for the draft and everything is color-coordinated. For this year’s draft, most of the guys that I’m dressing, they’re wearing their school colors. So Michael Brockers, he’s going to be in a light gray three-piece suit with a lavender and white stripe shirt, a lavender and gray tie, lavender pocket square and some gray and lavender socks to match.
Can you talk about the fabrics used and the price point of your custom suits?
The garments are made in Texas and fabrics come from England and Italy. We’ve also gotten fabric from Australia. I go all out for fabric. I want everyone to be different, I like novelty pieces and fabrics, something that you won’t see everyday. The guys rarely ever see the same suit or fabric from anywhere else. My suits range from $1350 to $2000 and custom shirts from $135 to $225 depending on the make of shirt.