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Tyrese Haliburton shares his fashion journey with aspiring designers
Different, simple and sustainable are three keys for the Pacers guard. He spent one evening with fashion design students at IU and chose one lucky student to outfit him for a game.
BLOOMINGTON — Tyrese Haliburton was back on a college campus for one Wednesday night. The Pacers guard had only spent two years at Iowa State University, leaving in 2020 after a breakout sophomore season to become an NBA lottery pick.
He was invited to Indiana University not for his basketball intellect or notoriety, but instead to be on a five-person panel called “Fashion Within Sports,” hosted by fashion consultant Dan Solomon, Haliburton’s go-to guy for fashion and lifestyle (and a 2017 IU grad).
“He has come a long way in fashion and now it’s really one of his passions,” said Jade Jones, Haliburton’s longtime girlfriend. “Outside of basketball, he’s either online shopping or gaming in his free time. Literally before we go to sleep, he’s online shopping.”
On this night, he was speaking to a different audience. Not about basketball or the Indiana Pacers, but rather detailing to students in The Retail Studies Organization his inspiration and expression through clothing.
Haliburton, 23, has been fascinated with fashion for as long as he can remember. “As soon as I got tall enough to wear my dad’s clothes,” he said. “In middle school, I used to sneak down there every morning throw on his outfits. It’s always been important to me to look nice.”
And now, more than ever, there are opportunities that can take off. Just on social media alone. Capturing players entrances into the arena are no longer reserved for the playoffs or big games, it’s a nightly occurrence. Not all enjoy it, but it allows for those who do to show off a look, potentially get attention and brand deals.
Haliburton is becoming an icon in this space, Solomon said, and because of their relationship, he wanted him involved on this night.
So back on Feb. 1, Haliburton made the hour-long drive south from Indianapolis to be part of a diverse panel that also included two others who, like Solomon, went to IU. Any excuse to get back to Bloomington is a good one.
Inside the Whittenberger Auditorium at Indiana University’s Memorial Union, at least a hundred students were engaged and took notes as Solomon hosted a wide-ranging discussion on fashion, brands, styles and influencers.
The others involved:
Dave Spahn, Haliburton’s agent at CAA
Ashley Feagan, co-head of client marketing & management at CAA
Luke Cosby, co-founder of Purple Brand
John Guidry, CEO/CO-FO of BLK PR
“It was really fun, really cool to share my experiences and be around other like-minded people,” Haliburton said. “And cool to share my knowledge of what’s going on. I think the students got a good inside look on my life and how my fashion as evolved. But also how it is in the NBA with people wanting to style you.”
As a fashion consultant, Solomon does everything for his clients from personal shopping, styling and brand consulting. He works with over 100 athletes and supplies them with whatever they need. Recently, his speciality has been dressing 7-footers — larger athletes who truly cannot shop off the rack.
And Solomon called Haliburton “one of the the most fashionable guys in the league.”
Solomon hosts pop-up shops at big events — branded Solo Suites — like at NBA All-Star Weekend and Summer League, and it serves as a one-stop shop for these athletes to make purchases in a comfortable environment.
In fact, Haliburton was in New York last June and he spoke with the rookie class the morning before the draft. On the previous night, as I reported on here, Haliburton was at one of Solomon’s pop-up suites with Bennedict Mathurin, who told him to reach out to coach Rick Carlisle to make sure he was a Pacer too.
The Pacers were enamored with Mathurin and drafted him sixth overall. And the rest is history.
In Bloomington, Haliburton was introduced as a “future All-Star” by Solomon — and then on the very next day, the NBA officially announced that he had been voted in, for the first time, by head coaches across the NBA.
And so in Salt Lake City, making his All-Star debut, Haliburton had something special planned.
“Nice little pants with the beads on them,” he said. “I thought that was cool. I couldn’t walk too fast because then the beads were flying everywhere. But I thought it was a good look with just a plain white tee up top, didn’t want to take away from the pants. That was the statement. I thought I had a good little fit.”
His Evolving Taste
Don’t be afraid to be different.
That’s Haliburton’s mindset. He describes his style as “a classic, vintage style look.” And he used to wear shorts often; specifically short shorts. But not much anymore.
Haliburton told the students of a story from his rookie season about how one of his brothers used to have access to his bank account. Well, that brother told mom when Tyrese spent $350 on a pair of Eric Emanuel shorts.
That didn’t go over well because “my mom is the cheapest lady,” Haliburton said.
“My dad loves it. He loves the creativity, he loves me stepping outside the box. My mom hates it, she just wants me to wear sweatsuits all the time. I promised her just no skirt; so as long as I don’t wear a skirt, I’m good with my mom.”
As a rookie in 2020, he signed on to be a Nike athlete.
“I’ve always wanted to have my own color of Nike shoes,” he said. “And with them doing stuff with Kobe now, that would be the dream, for sure, because I’m just so basic off the court. You’re gonna catch me in Doc Martens or some Prada loafers.”
That’s also led to some debates at home. I asked Jones if she’s disagreed or ever told him to not wear a specific outfit.
“Lately, he has been wearing the loafer shoes a lot and I’m like, ‘OK, you need to give them a break,’ she said, smiling. “Because he used to be so into sneakers; he used to love wearing sneakers. And now it’s the Prada loafers or the dress shoes with every outfit. So I’m like you should switch it up sometimes. It’s still a good option, a safe option.”
He used to be predictable and wear the same style to games: vintage t-shirts, nice jeans and some sneakers. Then he had a long phone convention with Solomon before this season, noted how he appreciated what Tyler, The Creator was wearing and the fashion sense of Jacob Elordi from the hit HBO show “Euphoria.”
“My fashion has definitely taken a turn this year, big time,” Haliburton said. “I have a problem with dressing like everybody else. So if I see somebody who wears the same t-shirt as me, somebody who wears the same pants as me, I usually get rid of those. I like to be different, I’ve always been that way my whole life.”
“The power of social media is real,” Haliburton acknowledged.
And it goes both ways. In this context, he was discussing where he finds his inspiration and how it’s most often on Instagram.
“I think it’s just finding like-minded people, things that I like and just mixing it up every day,” he said. “It’s important to me to mix it up and not caring what my teammates think sometimes. Buddy is always on me about my fashion even though he wears the same thing every game.”
Hield, who is like his big brother, does not approve.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I tell him all the time you look like cartoon characters out there. I’m trying to find them, match them and put a puzzle together of who he looks like.
“He tries to dress, but there’s no swagger. Just trying stuff, just trying to get attention.”
Haliburton, who singled out the style of teammates Oshae Brissett and James Johnson, chirped back: “Buddy is middle tier. Buddy is decent but repetitive.”
For the 2022-23 season, Haliburton also had two other goals: shifting toward simplicity and sustainability.
He’ll still splurge occasionally on big-money items, of course, but his favorite part of fashion is not having to spend so much and finding simple items that are more affordable.
“I changed my fashion to a lot more sustainability,” he noted. “That’s the thing that’s annoying about the NBA, you wear something once and if you wear it again, people will say something about it. But it’s expensive. I mean golly. I’m trying to wear more things that I can wear multiple times.”
Tyrese is a Brand
Feagan discussed the bigger picture of just how important fashion has become to professional athletes. She works with them on their ventures off the court.
“These guys are global superstars,” she said. “They don’t wear helmets and they’re well known around the world. I think for fashion, specifically, they’re not just let in, like first row at a fashion show, unless you truly put that effort in to purchase the clothes and do the work, invest in yourself and be authentic.
“You’re just not going to be accepted into the fashion space. And when we’re in recruiting meetings, we have a fashion group now at CAA. I’d say it’s a huge part of recruiting now. Every single guy is into fashion that’s come through in the past five years.”
Feagan also passed along advice that is critical for anyone working in or pursuing a job in the entertainment field.
“Working in fashion, sports and entertainment is a lifestyle, not a job,” Feagan emphasized. “Athletes don’t know weekends or time zones or holidays. You’re always on call. We want to be available to support them and help them build their careers and be the best that they can be.”
Spahn, meanwhile, specializes in client contracts. Agents work closely with clients to maximize their talents and career earnings.
The IU grad, who as a teenager was a reporter running a high school scouting service, became an agent at 25 and now represents players like Haliburton, Josh Hart and Luke Kennard.
“The thing that Tyrese has done a really good job with, as good as anyone I’ve seen lately … is Tyrese understands that he’s a brand,” Spahn said. “When Tyrese goes into a room, the room is different. When he walks through the pregame tunnels, what he’s wearing people talk about.”
“The Tyrese brand — he’s very aware of the fact that he is now a totally different stratosphere person and celebrity than he was even a couple years ago. I think Ty’s done a really good job of understanding that and taking that to the next level of, OK, let’s be conscious about what is the image that I’m portraying to the world. Whether it’s with my fashion, what I post online, what I say to the media, how I act.
“He’s done an amazing job of realizing that without changing who he is as a person. But also saying, ‘OK, how can I elevate my brand and continue to build on where I want to be?’ He’s only in the third year of his career, he’s still scratching the surface of who he is as a player.”
The Tunnel is a Runway
That’s what Solomon said, also noting how many brand deals are done with athletes to get exposure in mutually beneficial deals.
And Haliburton takes full advantage.
“It takes him all day to think of what he’s gonna wear the night of the game and then it takes him an hour up in the closet going through exactly what he wants,” Jones said. “It actually is like a whole day of thinking and processing what he’s gonna wear to a game.
“Like he said, the media has really influenced the way that he is dressing. He’ll find something that he really likes and then he’ll go and try to recreate it himself in his different way, with his own little twists on it.”
Those entrances before games, which are now always captured by team and NBA photographers, only last about 30 seconds. So it doesn’t always have to be comfortable.
“After the season, when I’m done with my tunnel walks, only comfort from then on,” he joked.
Haliburton thinks about everything, including not walking in with his game sneakers in hand. That messes up his outfits. So he designated assistant equipment manager Cole Petraits to carry those from his car.
“I think it’s cool that he gets to express himself and he’s known in the fashion world,” Jones continued. “He’s come a long way from his college fashion. At Iowa State, it was literally team wear, basic shorts and throw on whatever shoes he could find.”
Making a Dream Come True
After the panel talked at the front of the auditorium for about 80 minutes, they broke up into small groups. And about a dozen students were fortunate to individually present a potential outfit that Haliburton would wear to a game.
“That was really cool,” he said, “really eye-opening and interesting to see the creativity of people.”
Emma Taylor, a sophomore fashion design major, was one of the first called upon to meet with Haliburton and Solomon.
“I might have looked like I was happy, but I was very nervous on the inside,” she said. “Going up to them, it was an amazing opportunity and I was happy to be there. They were very engaged in what I had to present and were very willing to talk about my ideas.”
Taylor is from Rising Sun, a small town in southeast Indiana, and she created an outfit based off a trend board. She went through Haliburton’s Instagram to see his previous tunnel fits and compiled it all on one page.
“It’s very flowy, relaxed fit,” she said of his style. “A ton of cargo pockets, it’s a very like Y2K look with a modern twist.
“I noticed recently he’s been wearing more muted colors, beige and grays, and that’s something he’s comfortable in. But then I also noticed in the summer time, he wore a lot of purple and he looks really good in purple. And then the beanie, of course, because I wanted to include stuff he was comfortable in and at the same time, I can make it stand out and it would be different from stuff he had worn previously.”
Taylor was alerted about a month ago that her design was chosen, now it was her responsibility to bring it to life. She remembers being on spring break in Chicago with her roommate when she got the call — and she got right to work.
“We went to some fabric stores and looked at a lot of stuff,” she said. “I found a fabric, but it wasn’t the right color so I had to dye it — and I had never dyed fabric before. But thankfully I kept in close contact with my professor. With all of this going on and classes, it was a lot to juggle. I definitely felt like I was in overtime.”
Taylor is excited to be at Gainbridge Fieldhouse for the Pacers game against the New York Knicks on April 5. The highlight, however, will be seeing Haliburton walk in wearing the outfit she designed and produced, playing a small part in the All-Star guard’s game night routine.
“They’ve been amazing throughout this whole process, reaching out and telling me how everything is going to work because I’m very new to this and this is the first project I’ve really taken on with designing something for a client,” she said.
Haliburton's insight and advice is sure to be helpful to aspiring designers who are looking to break into the fashion industry. With his unique style and creativity, he’s a role model for young designers everywhere.
It was a successful event for over a hundred students on this Wednesday night in Bloomington, and an experience Taylor is forever grateful for. And it potentially sets her up for future success.
Because how many people, never mind a college student, can say they designed and outfitted an All-Star and whose work was exposed to thousands on social media?
Note: After the panel and breakout session, Haliburton and Solomon took a photo with Indiana basketball players Tamar Bates, Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway