In March, while the Miami Heat were in the thick of basketball season, a fashion-themed outing was more than anyone would expect from players gearing up for the NBA playoffs. Yet, as a member on one of the league’s most fashionable teams, one player in particular was spotted just off the catwalk at Miami’s Express Yourself runway show.
Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, was dressed straight out of a GQ spread, sporting an embroidered navy button down, tailored khaki pants and caramel colored sunglasses. The only thing missing was his signature accessory—a tie. This was not a normal oversight—the Miami forward has now turned his favorite garment into his next business venture.
Mr. Nice Ties, as the collection is called, is a collaboration with Canadian accessories brand Armstrong and Wilson and consists of ties and bowties designed by the NBA giant—he’s literally 6-foot-11—who has to have most of his clothes custom made and who defines his own personal style as “classic.”
“I don’t take too many risks,” Bosh tells The Daily Beast. “I always love dressing up in a suit, but I think simplicity is always the best-looking thing. I don’t go too crazy with the colors and the style. I just like to wear something nice, neat, and fitted.”
His collection reflects this statement. The fabrics are lux. The colors are muted. And the wildest pattern is a subtle gray on gray cross-hatching. “I was really trying to make something as an expression of myself. I love ties and this was something that I really wanted to get into.”
The inspiration holds a very significant meaning for Bosh. As a child, he remembers watching his father, “a very sharp dresser,” add the final touches to his suits—a tie. The moment he was finally able to loop a knot by himself was a milestone, his first step to becoming a man. His ability to translate that fleeting moment into a tangible design that others can wear has been a meaningful experience.
Recently, the NBA has turned a gazing eye toward the fashion industry, being accepted in many of its elite circles with players being embraced for their personal styles. In July, Russell Westbrook, who plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder, announced a collaboration with high-end retailer Barney’s New York. Before him, Carmelo Anthony was front-and-center at Marc Jacobs during New York Fashion Week last September while Westbrook made the rounds at Rag & Bone, Altuzarra, and Opening Ceremony, often seated next to the reigning fashion queen, Anna Wintour. Leading the pack, Lebron James became the third male (and first African-American male) ever to cover American Vogue in April of 2008.
With this newfound acceptance in an industry relatively void of hyper-masculine sports figures, more and more players are trying their creative hands in the textile trade, launching collaborations and even attempting to build full-fledged brands. Bosh is only the latest to do so.
“I think it is very exciting for guys to have a creative outlet and to continue to broaden the horizon of what an athlete can do,” he says. “I think it’s really cool for the fashion community for being accepting of everybody and allowing guys to dive into it…to create and collaborate and make some cool things.”
The fashion world isn’t the only industry with an expanding mindset. In April of last year, Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the game. “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay,” he wrote in a column for Sports Illustrated. “I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation.”
Collins’ announcement was mostly met with praise and acceptance. Everyone from fellow teammates and athletes to former President Bill Clinton showed public support.
“Somebody had to break the ice,” Bosh, whose own sexuality has been questioned in recent years, says. “People that live a certain lifestyle should be able to participate in this game that we all love.” The metaphorical closet door has been opened, proving just how rapidly the sport is growing and changing with the times.
Another change came for the San Antonio Spurs after the team hired the league’s first full-time female assistant coach, Becky Hammon. A former Olympic athlete and celebrated basketball player, Hammon’s hire marked a huge milestone for the (literally) male-dominated league. It was an unexpected addition to the NBA…and for Bosh.
“I really didn’t see that one coming,” he said of the coach known for her high basketball IQ. “She’s one of the staples of women’s basketball. To have the Spurs be really open-minded and hire her because she is a good basketball mind, it just shows you how the game is growing.”
While Hammon has pushed boundaries within the profession, other WNBA players haven’t had the same luck, especially when it comes to building their own brands off the court like their male counterparts. Tennis player Serena Williams and professional skier Lindsay Vonn have proven the possibility, yet women in the WNBA still struggle with life off the court.
Tulsa Shock’s Skylar Diggins is one of the few players who has been able to break through the mold of women who “holler, scream, sweat, and aren’t posing when they play,” as the league’s official stylist, Rachel Johnson, told Racked. Diggins has been featured in high-end fashion publications and recently became the first female athlete to sign with Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by Jay-Z that represents the likes of Rihanna, Rita Ora, and Kylie Mingoue.
Bosh thinks it comes down to popularity. “I think the WNBA will continue to strengthen and become more and more popular the longer it’s around,” he said of the league founded in 1996. “The platform that they have will continue to grow. When it does, they will be able to implement more of their ideas” and be taken more seriously for the brands they wish to build.
And just as the NBA and WNBA continue to develop as open-minded sports leagues, Bosh plans to develop even further as a designer. “I want to continue making ties and learning the business,” he said. “As we continue to get better, we want to polish it up and refine our product. Hopefully, the people will like it.”