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Tuesday, November 16, 2010
LeBron James' stylist offers tips

By Lena Tillett
Special to Page 2

LeBron James and Chris Bosh may have gone to Miami to seek a championship, but wardrobe stylist Rachel Johnson always dressed them for the part. Johnson is a "lifestylist" with the Thomas Faison Agency, and has styled LeBron James, now in his eighth year, since the beginning of his career. Along the way, she picked up some other franchise players like Amaré Stoudemire, Chris Paul and Chris Bosh. Page 2 spoke with Johnson about her experience styling NBA players and how fans with much lower budgets can keep up.

How did you begin styling NBA athletes?

I started styling NBA players about 7 years ago. That was the generation influenced by Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley -- the Allen Iverson generation -- so their style was influenced by them. That included huge suits, all the buttons, and lots of interesting fabrics and colors. Even though the men thought they were hot and well-dressed they didn't really understand the world of fashion. They had never been allowed in that arena. They didn't sit front row at fashion shows.

Rachel Johnson is a "lifestylist" for NBA players like LeBron James.

What changed?

An influx of players came in whose influence came from a mainstream source rather than who the veteran was on their team. LeBron's generation -- D-Wade and Stoudemire, wanted to be more entertainment-looking. They also were the first generation to employ stylists. They found someone like me who studied fashion whom they found through their favorite entertainers because I used to style guys like Puff and Jay-Z and Pharrell.

How did the NBA's dress code affect anything?

The dress code! That's another reason that they started employing stylists. This was a pivotal turning point that changed the face of style in the NBA. Then it started being a competition. These guys compete for a living and it translates into literally everything they do.

How did they get deeper into high fashion?

LeBron getting on the cover of Vogue and cover of GQ opened up many designers' eyes. It kind of started with him. He developed a relationship with Vogue's Anna Wintour, which immediately gives you credibility. When LeBron walked on the Vogue set they were like, "Wow, he is fine." They see how well built he is and his swagger and modern appeal and realize he brings the same appeal as your favorite actor. They see how the clothes fit those bodies and think, "We get it."

Working with Chris Bosh and LeBron who are on the same team, how do you keep them from looking the same?

My clients have very different personalities and different goals and are working to reach different kinds of audiences. I help build images for these guys so it's not just about putting them in a nice outfit. All the looks are very strategic and very on purpose. I partner with marketing agents, publicists and different members of their team and we map out plans. Those goals help me determine the style. They have different directions that they are going in -- short-term and long-term.

What are their individual styles?

Bosh wants to be known as a gentleman at all times so his styling is very suited and serious. It's very buttoned all the way to the top button with the tie knotted. LeBron's style, because he moved to Miami in hot weather and because he's paved his way already, is a more Italian playboy kind of look. Sexy but relaxed, effortless, confident, more color and more playful.

How can guys with much lower budgets look like them?

It's all about the tailored suit. You can get a great suit tailored at a local dry cleaner for $99 and look as good as them. It's all about pairing and fit which can be mimicked on any level. A slim tie is in and plaid or gingham shirts. Classics -- like a cool black leather jacket or jean jacket. You can get these clothes from an H&M or Zara. Men, accessorizing! They authenticate these looks. A great watch! It's about the look of things not the name brand at all. There's a classic Timex watch in Target that will never ever die and it's like 20 dollars. You can put that on and stand next to any basketball player.

Who will be the best-dressed NBA team this year?

The Heat! Are you kidding me? They will be battling each other!

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