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NBA Stylist Courtney Mays Explains Why Kevin Love Is ‘The Ultimate Renaissance Man’

If you’ve ever geeked out over an NBA player’s tunnel fit, or gone on a social media hunt for the streetwear brands players are rocking courtside, you probably have Courtney Mays to thank.

The prodigious menswear stylist has been labeled the league’s secret weapon when it comes to fashion. She’s dressed everyone from DeAndre Jordan, to Chris Paul (Mays helped craft the latter’s HBCU statement looks during the Bubble last year), to Cavs power forward Kevin Love. She’s witnessed the way players like LeBron James have let their sense of style evolve, becoming a trendsetter off the court in the process. She’s even ushered in some of that change herself, building season-long wardrobes, collaborating on capsule collections, steering the artistic direction of players’ brands, and elevating the closets of some of the biggest names in the league.

Dime got the chance to sit down with Mays for advice on tapping into that effortlessly chic look she’s seemed to trademark. Mays broke down how one player in particular has updated his fits over the past few years, combining his love for retro Americana and traditional menswear with a playful eye towards accessories, bold prints, and mismatching textures.

Have you seen a change in how players approach their tunnel fits in the last few years?

Absolutely. There’s been a huge transition. These tunnels, what these guys have on? They have such an influence on the rest of the [fashion] world. I think what’s so interesting is you even hear some of my clients talk about the locker room, like a guy comes in who’s dressed up, and there’s this whole rah rah that goes on. So I think it builds a little bit of camaraderie, a little competition. For me, it helps to expand the platform on where these guys stand. You can use fashion as a place to talk about other issues. I also think it helps to build their businesses. You get to see what things they’re interested in off the court, just by what they have on, and that might open doors for them in other areas.

What’s Kevin Love’s signature style and has it evolved over the course of his career?

The interesting thing about Kevin that I think a lot of people don’t realize is, he is like James Bond. He’s like the ultimate Renaissance man. He has the coolest music collection. He’s a connoisseur of food and wine. He loves vintage cars. He’s really into art collecting. I wish people knew this about him because I’m so inspired by him. When I first started working with him, he had a closet full of Tom Ford suits and custom Gucci shoes. It was crazy. I was like, “This guy?” Now, they were a little bit baggier and longer, and very plaid, but that was what was in at the time.

I think his style sensibility has changed. He’s more interested in street style in a way that’s still classic. He’s interested in classic tailoring, sustainable fabrics, things that are going to last in his closet for the rest of his life. He’s not necessarily interested in what the hottest, latest, greatest designer fad is right now.

How do you elevate or update those classic silhouettes so that they still feel exciting?

For Kevin, there are always small details that he loves. The one thing he’s really interested in is watches. You might not necessarily see it every time, but he always has a cool gold chain, like a thin David Yurman or Bulgari chain, or even some vintage turquoise that he found in Santa Fe, just underneath his sweatshirt. It’s part of his collection, things that he’s found on his own.

We are currently on the hunt for the perfect white t-shirt. Obviously, he’s 6’9, so I have to consider the length of the shirt. I want to make sure it’s well-fitting, that it’s not too thin, something that he could wear under a suit jacket or he could wear it just on its own with a pair of jeans. I’m always interested in updating accessories, some of those David Yurman pinky rings and Signet rings.

The other thing right now is we’re working on creating the perfect white low-top sneaker, kind of similar to a Common Project.

What kind of influence is the league having on athleisure at the moment?

With athletes, they’re constantly trying to figure out how to wear a sweatsuit. My other client, Chris Paul, literally tells me every season, “I want to wear a suit, but made out of sweatsuit material.” So we’ve made a couple of them, but normally it’s like, “How can I make a sweatsuit dressed up? How do I make it a little more style-forward so doesn’t look like I just have my Cavs warm-up on?” I think combining classic tailoring with things that are more comfortable makes for a more effortless style.

Kevin has great outerwear. I envy his outerwear closet. So we’re just trying to figure out ways to style those. He is really loving the Fear of God collection that just came up, so you’ll probably start to see him wear a lot of those pieces. I think that embodies this monochromatic athleisure moment we’re having. But honestly, all of my guys, they’re coming out of this pandemic bubble. They’re still in this mindset of wanting to be comfortable, but the flip side of that is like, “We’ve been in sweats and pajamas for the past year and a half, we have to show out.” We’re all just trying to find the balance there. So, you’ll start to see either crazy outfits or you’re going to see pandemic chic.

We’ve talked about Ralph Lauren and Tom Ford, these traditional higher-end designer brands. Are there any lesser-known go-to’s, streetwear collabs, or just more accessible lines that mirror Kevin’s elevated Americana esthetic?

So I really love Aime Leon Dore. I think they do a really great job of those essential pieces, but also the special ones. I love all their sweats and their sweaters. I just discovered an LA-based brand called Yony that does a little bit of a twist on some traditional styles. So they have a twill jacket that’s sort of the shape of a cardigan, so it’s heavy but it also has a collar. It’s like a mix between a bomber and a cardigan, but there’s something that’s really nostalgic about it. They do a really great job of kind of creating a set, like instant outfits.

There’s a designer named Romeo Hunte, who is New York-based, who just did a collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger. He takes traditional silhouettes, so like your classic khaki trench coat, and then he kind of flips it on its side. So maybe the sleeve on it is a leather Moto jacket. Or it might be a blazer that has a denim jacket collar. He does these really interesting takes on clothes.

Kevin’s been rocking camo lately. How do you style bold prints like that to work for him?

The rest of the look has to sort of stay neutral or stay monochromatic, especially for Kevin. So we pick one of the greens from the camo and we work our way up with that. Whether it’s a green jacket and we just put a white t-shirt underneath it or you go with something really basic like a black overcoat. I think if you were to hand me a pair of camo pants right now, my instincts say to put a gray crew neck sweatshirt with it and a really cool, long, black overcoat, and let all of the colors be neutral.

What are some fashion choices he’s made that surprised you?

I remember when he started wearing vintage tees and he got really into this Stone Cold Steve Austin moment. He was collecting all of these cool vintage tees from these crazy dealers in New York and all across the world. I was very shocked by that because he’s so classic. He loves the Canadian tuxedo too, the denim jacket with a pair of denim pants. There was a company called Three by One that I don’t think exists anymore. We worked with them to make some really cool denim jackets that had the pockets placed in different ways. I think you’ll probably still see him do that more.

Layering plays a key role in some of his best fits. Why is that a go-to for him?

I love the mixture of textures because I think it lends to a more interesting look. I also consider the fact that he’s in Cleveland, so it’s cold. That’s kind of the best time to get dressed. You can wear the turtleneck with the jean jacket and then the overcoat on top of it to create this interesting, layered effect. If we’re going to wear a camel turtleneck and a camel overcoat, then maybe we wear a really beautiful dark denim jacket in between, just to break it up a little bit. Layering is another way to show that little bit of effortless style. I think you have to be a little bit cool to throw on a denim jacket and then throw an overcoat on top of that. That shows like, “Oh, I have a little bit of swagger.”

I often like to use his denim jackets as shirts. So we button them up all the way and then throw something else on top of it. I’m always trying to figure out how can we use those two minutes of these guys walking in to show a little bit of style.