Q&A With NBA Stylist Courtney Mays

With an all-star roster of clients like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Kevin Love, and styling gigs for ad campaigns and photoshoots, Courtney Mays is one of the top stylists in the game right now. We were fortunate to have a chance to sit down with her and discuss her career, her fashion sense, and some killer style advice you can use right now.

So tell us a little bit about how you got started.
After graduating from The University of Michigan I moved to New York City and ended up working for fashion designer Tracy Reese. I was exposed to the fashion business very quickly working in the retail, marketing and merchandising sides of the business; however I wasn’t really sure what area of business I wanted to focus on. I was introduced to styling as an intern, working under women that styled not only entertainers but also athletes (including LeBron James, Jamie Foxx, etc.) and was an assistant for six years before setting off on my own. Chris Paul was my first client under TPMC and from there I gradually built my business over time.

What does your day-to-day work day look like?
It’s always busy and no day is the same, which is exciting and challenging. A lot of it really depends on my client’s calendar’s, so, right now we are in the middle of the NBA season and I’m helping my guys dress for their games, travel and press appearances. Also, we just passed awards season so I was focused on finding looks for the red carpets and special events. A lot of days I spend pulling clothes from various shopping sources and press showrooms and other days I’m on set with a steamer in one hand and clothes all over the place creating editorial images or ad campaign characters. It’s always a mix of everyday dressing and higher-profile projects so I get to work on a pretty broad range of styles, from my client’s casual day-in, day-out to black tie.

What’s your overall style sense, how does this translate to your clients?
Overall I definitely focus on keeping my guys classic and timeless. I love suiting but I am also a huge fan of the athleisure look. I’m always drawn to timeless looks with just a hint of modern sensibility. James Dean and Sammy Davis Jr. will never go out of style! Its always fun to play with whats current and fashion-forward, but ultimately I think classic menswear is the foundation. I’m big on mixing high and low, and finding unique pieces and brands that not everyone has seen. It’s easy to hit a bunch of high-end brands with an endless budget, but for me that’s not as interesting as helping my clients mix a variety of designers and price points and creating something new. Ultimately each guy has their own unique vibe and it’s important to incorporate that into their image. For example, Chris is pretty daring and loves mixing classic suiting with more athletic-influenced pieces, especially his Jordans. Kevin is a diehard suit guy, and loves dressing up, so it’s all about finding the things they like and helping them elevate it to define their own personal style.

So what are a few things us regular guys can learn from you?
Regardless of your size or shape, it’s all about fit first and foremost. Achieving a great fit is always the first rule in elevating your look. So after finding pieces that are the right size, becoming friends with a great tailor is paramount. I have my guys tailor everything, and I mean everything. From suits to sweatpants, everything gets sent in for alterations, it makes a huge, huge difference. Sometimes you don’t even need to go out and buy new things, a bit of tailoring can remix your entire look. I have one client and we started out with just tailoring his existing wardrobe, it completely changed how he saw himself and absolutely how he dressed. So spend a little bit of money on re-working the fit of some of your favorite things rather than buying something new. Also, find a signature or a style uniform. Figure out what you love, what fits well and work on making it your own. That sort of thing is really going to help you develop what’s “personal” about personal style.

What are a few of your favorite practical tips?
1. I always like to safety pin the pocket square on the inside. So fold it how you want it to look, stuff it in, then add a safety pin on the inside of the jacket to keep it in place. That’s my MacGyver move.

2. Spend some time finding a few good thrift/vintage options (online too), it’s a great way to find some amazing, one-of-a-kind pieces that are very affordable. It takes some effort but once you find that dope hole in the wall spot, or cool flea market, it’s going to pay off.

3. Details, I’m all about the details. It’s the quickest (and most affordable) way to do something cool, plus it’s easy to change up. A cool pocket square, a fun sock, a lapel pin, even a new pair of sunglasses; don’t be afraid to experiment. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to do everything all at once, try one or two things at a time.

4. Perfect the uniform. Simplifying your wardrobe makes getting dressed every morning quick and simple. If you know that two button grey suit and classic white or blue shirt works well for you, buy a few. Make the pocket square, tie, or sock different everyday to mix it up.

5. Explore a few “of-the-moment” trends. Don’t be scared! Get that windowpane sport coat. Try that Chelsea boot. Throw on an overcoat. Just don’t buy the version that will break the bank and don’t try and do everything all at once.

6. Your favorite plaid or pinstripe suit can absolutely be worn multiple ways. Wear the pants with a low top sneaker and sweatshirt; the jacket with a slim jean and white collared shirt. Don’t be afraid to break up your suiting. Just send all the pieces to the dry cleaner at the same time to maintain the fabric.