Friday, November 30, 2012

Style Maven: Tyson Chandler

“‘The Body Issue’ is a chance for the ‘average person’ take a good look at athletes bodies and why we are able to do the things we do…. I think a lot of people are curious about it… I wanted people to look at my body and see why I’m able to do the things I do on the court. Also, it’s a very artistic shoot, and seeing that in past issues made me want to do it.”
Last year New York Knicks player, Amar'e Stoudemire was a subject of attention for Vogue when he was one of 2011's features in the annual ESPN Body issue. This year, the same can be said of this month's #IMFblog Style Maven, Tyson Chandler, who has become more acquainted with Vogue throughout the 2012 year. Reading, International Editor-at-Large, Hamish Bowles', article about his experience practicing with the Stoudemier and Knicks was laudable considering I can relate to Bowles "mutual incompatibility" with sports. Having played basketball since age eight, dabbling in a wide range of sports from gymnastics to track to football all my childhood, I would say I have a better understanding of sports than the famed fashion editor turned clueless Knicks-player-for-a-day, yet I too find I have the most passion and interest in things such as hemline lengths and seasonal color trends. Interestingly enough, as Bowles so exquisitely described, basketball can be just as much a graceful spectacle as fashion is. Stoudemier compared the NBA to "a land of giants", but says “When you put your fashion on—you know, your tailor-made suits or bow ties and fedoras—you feel like you’re swagger,” he says. “You feel elegant and rich.” Stoudemire collaborated with designer, Rachel Roy on a women’s capsule collection for Macy’s, and it was reported that he is in the midst of creating a menswear line. This must be why we have seen a wave of athletes fraternizing with Anna Wintour and making it into the pages of Vogue, including, Tyson Chandler, who was featured in this December issue of Vogue. It’s funny because as I read his profile in Vogue, his wife, Kimberly, explained to readers that, "The deal with Tyson is he grew up on the farm and on the street, but there is an elegance to him," and this got me to thinking—what exactly is the "elegance" of a man?

Chandler has stood out to me for some time now. Sans his performance coverage in sports news with the Mavericks and Knicks (not to mention his participation on the men's US Basketball team at this year's Olympics), he has stood out in entertainment news, especially fashion, which turns out to be a personal interest to him artistically. Complex Magazine named him one of this summer's “10 Most Stylish Celebrities of the Summer” saying this: “Tyson Chandler is one of the resident risk takers on this list, and should be applauded for that. The New York Knicks player and Olympic gold medalist is always willing to explore different trends. Sometimes they’re trends that other 7’1″ 240 lb. guys wouldn't even think of trying. So even if you’re not feeling his gothic look or his capes, you've got to give him props.” When I saw him in pictures at this year's MET Costume Gala wearing a distinguished looking navy blue suit ensemble, with black lapels, perfectly fit for his seven foot one frame, he channeled that James Bond "cool" I described in my recent Character Building post (especially considering blue suits are a classic 007 signature). At New York Fashion Week past season, he sat front row with his wife at the Boy. by Band of Outsiders, Alexander Wang, Altuzarra Spring 2013 collections and has gotten mixed reviews for his own daring, and off-kilter but suave style at public events. Hearing his wife describe her man as elegant may conjure up images of say a graceful male ballerina, or a dandy fashion editor such as Hamish Bowles, but Chandler is quite clearly neither of the above. Coming from more humble beginnings, growing up on a farm where his grandfather was a key influence of his own manhood and work ethic, in my fashion, Chandler represents the elegance of a man I feel all men are able to attain, if only we put in that 100% commitment to achieve it. Even though chandler doesn't work in fashion or anything like that, in my fashion, his elegance is exuded through his confidence to be himself, with a "not-going-to-let-ME-down" attitude.

Reading more of the Chandler's profile in Vogue we learn that the pair have been married for seven years and have two daughters, and one son. "Kimberly describes her style as "sexy conservative." "I like fashion-forward risky pieces that are not too revealing," she says. "The only attention I need is from my husband. I don't need it from everybody else, and that's what you get wearing something like that." Not coincidentally, Tyson admires understated designs: "I love that on a woman--when she's not trying too hard, but she's showing off her natural curves." Kimberly appears on Vogue's Best Dressed of 2012 list online this month. Tyson on the other hand has received the opposite response to his sartorial decisions, especially from critics in sports. Chandler told WWD, “Probably the most dramatic pieces in my wardrobe would be capes,” the center reportedly said. “I wouldn’t consider myself Goth, but I love Gothic pieces,” he continued. Sports bloggers consider this statement to be quite laughable. At his photo exhibition entitled "A Year In A New York Minute" at recently held at Canoe Studios in NYC, his outfit set bloggers ablaze as he wore a pair of substantially short trousers with a black blazer and black boots. Stephen Jackson of the San Antonio Spurs posted a photo on Twitter with the caption: “This is why I don’t hang with NBA cats. That ain’t trill. And if you mad check it.” referred to him as looking like a "gigantic Amish Hispster" during fashion week amongst the recent drove of athletes in recent years who are attending the collections more frequently such as, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, J.R. Smith, Rajon Rondo, Chris Bosh, and even Knicks coach Mike Woodson. In my fashion, I think its wonderful that these basketball players are unabashed to explore industries outside of sports, especially an industry as far flung as fashion. Both Stoudemier and Chandler mentioned in interviews that they are aware that sports fans and peers would surly joke them for expressing a heavy interest in fashion and the arts, but is it silly for someone to want to expand their mind past their norm? Chandler is also an avid painter and photographer as well, mentioning that he loves different aspects of art, and "can appreciate when a photo can be done correctly” [source]. In my fashion, it is silly to restrict yourself to a single box of interest and not be open to new horizons. 

Chandler was 16 when he hit his full height, and his proportions forced him into a mass-market look. But his first NBA contract allowed him to break out a bit, and now that he’s landed in one of the world’s fashion capitals, he’s following his whims. In New York, “everything is accessible,” he says. “When I’m in other cities, you can’t just pop up at Rick Owens….You can’t just go down to Tom Ford.” WWD

Veteran NBA player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, has a book out entitled, "What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors". In an upbeat format, with co-author, Raymond Obstfeld, Jabbar narrates through the history of African American inventors for a young audience in which the basis of the book is to exhibit that, “There’s more to our history than slavery, jazz, sports, and civil rights marches.” Basketball has been popularly associated with black males, but in my fashion, people like Chandler and Stoudemier are pioneering more open-mindedness of male acceptance towards the tough world of elegance, even for jocks. As I mention in my Menswear Fashion Recaps, the men’s market is growing at a faster rate than previously before, so it would make sense for even the most "trill" of men to have some knowledge of the burgeoning industry for there is sure to be positive gains in its investment. His interest in fashion really speaks for the direction of fashion in term of how stifling strict gender roles can be, and that men can go as far as exploring the fashion industry without losing touch of ones sense of manhood. Who’s to say Chandler isn't on to something dynamic with his style? Obviously he is if Vogue is taking notice of him. 

From Left: Attending 2012 MET Costume Gala, Awarded 2011-2012 Defensive Player of the Year, On the court at the 2012 London Olympics, On the shoreline of the Far Rockaway section of New York

Chandler's off-the-court demeanor is an "art-loving hipster with a beard and a passion for photography and friends." 
2012 has been a spotlight year for Chandler. On the court, in June, he won 2011-2012 Defensive Player of the Year at the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and became a Gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics with the US Basketball Team. Quite impressive for someone who was also named Complex Magazine’s 50 Most Stylish New Yorkers Right Now at number 30, and has found a mentor in Andy Warhol protégé, Ari Marcopoulos who he collaborated with for his “A Year in a New York Minute”. Currently Tyson and his wife put together a campaign to assist with the Sandy relief called “Rebound for Rockaway/Rebound for New York” helping to collect funds and items. Aside from being the big man in the paint, he happens to exhibit his manhood in a way that is probably not so obvious with his fashion choices. I support Chandler and his unconventional style pieces because I myself have a certain affinity for capes and large fedora hats as a man of 6'2" stature. Capes were worn by gentlemen in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, especially by dandy’s such as Oscar Wilde. In my fashion, capes are also very mysterious and avant-garde, which says something deep and unique about the person who wears them. In a New York Post interview he spoke on his basketball upbringing. He recalls the pressure people tried to put on him for his height and ability to play basketball well saying, “I’m surprised as a young man I was able to handle that, and not get caught up in the hype, not get caught up with everybody tugging and pulling and wanting to just hop on the gravy thinking they can pick the future so that they wanted to be around when things got good.” He continues, “I think that’s the reason why I play the way I do ’cause I don’t believe hype. I don’t believe it’s just that simple that I come here and we win a championship.” He goes on about how he had always been glorified for his talent, but when he was booed for the first time because of his poor performance, he realized something pivotal that made him as strong as he is today: “I couldn't understand how somebody could turn on somebody who’s working and doing the best that they can possibly do… and now, I really only play for me…So I try to give it everything every time I step out there. I’m not gonna let me down.” This is the a "not-going-to-let-ME-down" attitude I spoke about that I feel makes a man elegant.

Tattoo on right side of body: "Be strong and courageous do not be terrified do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Ty II." 
Essentially, in my fashion, what makes an elegant man is one who doesn't believe and feed into the hype that is generated about themselves, and to keep doing you to become better than you were the day before. Chandler said in his New York Post interview, "I always keep a sense of urgency that, "I need to get better, I need to get better, I'm not good enough...I'm not going to let me down." I think this is the type of attitude Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks of when I recall his quote, "A man's sense of manhood comes from within." I think this type of not-going-to-let-me-down-attitude is what projects in the men we find most attractive and is what brings out a man's infectious elegance.

What do you tell yourself when you feel like you can't train any further?
TC: I think about my competition. I imagine a fierce person training really hard, out there right now doing more than me, and if I quit, I'm giving them an edge. I think about the top centers in the league, and the top teams I'm going to go against.

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