Monday, 20 January 2020

Even NASCAR Drivers Need a Stylist – The New York Times

Even NASCAR Drivers Need a Stylist – The New York Times
08 Jan

“All the stylists must still be on holiday.” “She looks like she lost her stylist.”

So went some of the Twitter asides on Sunday evening as Golden Globes watchers took to social media to variously applaud and excoriate their favorite celebrities and the clothes they chose to wear on the red carpet.

After all, it is by now common knowledge that few people making a public appearance in Hollywood decide what to wear on their own. Instead they do so with the help of a host of increasingly famous-in-their-own-right individuals, whose job it is to advise them which look is right for which awards ceremony, hence protecting them, at least in theory, from any truly embarrassing fashion-related faux pas. (I did say in theory.)

Also to help solve the physical conundrums that plague even the most worked out and well supported among us.

What is less common knowledge is that this practice has trickled down to all levels of the dressing world. It may be one of the growth sectors of the 2020s.

“Because of technology, every person’s time has become more valuable,” said Brooke Wall, a founder of the Wall Group (now owned by the behemoth sports/entertainment conglomerate Endeavor, formerly WME IMG). Ms. Wall was one of the first to see the potential in styling as an industry.

“We are drowning in so much product and so much merch, it’s hard to navigate,” she said. “Undergarments alone are complicated now! But meanwhile, everyone is taking a new photo on their phone every time they go anywhere. You need to start weaving a narrative about yourself — whether you are conservative, creative, whatever — as soon as you become publicly recognizable.”

As a result, there are stylists for every possible permutation of dresser: first ladies, basketball players, influencers on a coffee run, royals.

Even NASCAR drivers. Even not particularly well-known N.F.L. players.

Case in point: Erica Hanks, 42, who has been building a power base in Charlotte, N.C., far from the fashion capitals of New York and Los Angeles.

Ms. Hanks, a former magazine stylist with a brisk, motherly air, a fall of long brown hair and a penchant for Dries Van Noten, arrived in Charlotte in 2006 with her husband and children and sensed opportunity.

This was a year after Ms. Wall had started her company in Hollywood. And while the demand for dress help may have been born in movie land, it soon made the leap to sports.

It did not take long for basketball players’ walk from the car to the locker room to be equated with the runway. For the N.B.A. and N.F.L. drafts to become known as much for red carpet posing as for who gets picked first. For names like Russell Westbrook to start their own fashion lines, and for Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr., among others, to exploit their “Sunday best” with stylists like Rachel Johnson (Mr. Cruz) and Jason Rembert (Mr. Beckham).

And there was Ms. Hanks, in a city that was home to both the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the Carolina Panthers. Why shouldn’t other athletes, in her backyard, have a similar opportunity?

Ms. Hanks now works with clients including Trai Turner, Captain Munnerlyn and Graham Gano of the Panthers; Thomas Davis and Melvin Ingram of the Los Angeles Chargers; and the NASCAR drivers Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer. (Cam Newton, who may be the most sartorially celebrated Panther, works with Rachel Johnson.)

Ms. Hanks also just got the contract to outfit all 28 Fox Sports NASCAR announcers, most of whom are former drivers. She does have female clients, though they tend to be private individuals.

In many ways, athletes have more complicated physical challenges than actors. Because of their profession, they tend to be far from standard sizing — either much larger, in the case of N.F.L. players, or smaller, in the case of drivers.

Mr. Larson, for example, is 5-foot-6, weighs 135 and has a 28-inch waist; Mr. Turner is 6-foot-3, weighs 320 and has a 42-inch waist. They demand sizes that run from extra small to five XL.

In addition, their professional specialties come with idiosyncratic exigencies. Kickers often have one leg that is bigger than the other, Ms. Hanks said. (Mr. Gano, though he is currently on the injured list, is partial to tightfitting shoes, no matter when). Drivers tend to have one sloping shoulder — their left, because of steering into the turns on a track.

Adding to the complications, athletes spend much of their lives wearing either workout clothes or a uniform. When faced with having to define themselves by personal dress choices, they are hampered by a lack of experience and a lack of time to go out and explore for themselves.

Clint Bowyer in Zegna, with his wife, Lorra, at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards in Nashville in December.Credit…Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Kyle Larson in Saint Laurent, with his wife, Katelyn, at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards.Credit…Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Then, too, each sport has its own aesthetic. NASCAR drivers are often “very conservative,” Ms. Hanks said. When they get dressed up, as for a NASCAR gala in December, they tend to favor Saint Laurent (Mr. Larson) and Zegna (Mr. Bowyer).

When she said this, Ms. Hanks was standing in Alton Lane, a tailor in TriBeCa, trying to convince Jeff Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and current Fox announcer, to think about a more experimental lining for his on-air suit jacket. They were flipping through silks in a variety of prints, including cars and skulls.

Mr. Gordon was having none of it. He didn’t even want a pocket handkerchief.

“Please, please?” Ms. Hanks said with a sigh. Mr. Gordon shook his head. “I’m not like those N.F.L. guys,” he said. “I’m more quiet.”

“Those N.F.L. guys,” Ms. Hanks said, tend more to the Gucci, Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton and Kim Jones at Dior school of dress, all of whom have been enlisted to make special orders for her clients. The brands have been very accommodating, she said.

So what’s next? The N.H.L.? Shot-putters? Ms. Hanks doesn’t see why not.

Indeed, she and Ms. Wall agree with Karla Welch, a stylist represented by the Wall Group who also has her own production company and has begun to branch out into design collaborations, that we are increasingly moving toward a time when styling, according to Ms. Welch, “will be viewed as a service” like Wi-Fi or grocery delivery. One that everyone should theoretically have access to if they want.

(Ms. Welch is known for working with Ruth Negga, Sarah Paulson and Megan Rapinoe, whom Ms. Welch took out of her soccer kit and put into Gucci for the Glamour Women of the Year evening.)

To this end, Ms. Welch has become an owner and creative director of Wishi, an app initially created by Clea O’Hana to crowdsource fashion suggestions. It has been reinvented with Ms. Welch and now matches users with stylists for professional advice.

Subscribers can choose between basic one-off advice for a specific event and the full-service monthly subscription option, which gives stylists approved by Ms Welch access to your closet. The app has been downloaded 200,000 times since being introduced in September, according to the company.

“I want to democratize the business,” Ms. Welch said. “It’s about time, help and access.”

You can argue about what it means that we may have reached a point at which both time and faith in our own taste are at a premium, and whether it is really an advance that we are willing to outsource our personal image.

But you can’t really dispute the rationale that, in the red carpet of life, it’s nice to have help.

In any case, there will soon be plenty of reminders as to why: There are at least seven major awards ceremonies between now and the Oscars on Feb. 9, including the SAGs, the BAFTAs, the Critics’ Choice and the Grammys.

Not to mention the Super Bowl. Vroom.



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