If you’ve been watching D-Wade evolve over the past few years, you’ve noticed that he’s been stepping up his style game. What we dig most is the way he takes a simple suit to bolder, more personal places with a few trademark styling moves. Just how did the Miami Heat superstar become one of the game’s most stylish players?
Recently I looked back at photos of the 2003 NBA draft, and frankly, Dwyane Wade’s oversize navy suit could have been worse. The underrated 21-year-old from Marquette University looked conservative and unassuming—like a kid trying not to make too much noise. But in the past three years, the seven-time All-Star and 2006 NBA Finals MVP has cranked up the volume both on and off the court. His style especially has grown more experimental, flamboyant even. Still, I never saw this revelation coming: “Three years ago I was like, ‘Man, I kind of want to paint my toenails black,’ ” Wade tells me. We’re on-set at a Manhattan photo studio right now his feet are covered by striped Paul Smith socks and size 14 Jordans. “At first I thought, ‘Nah, I can’t do that. They’re going to kill me.’ But eventually I decided to try it.” He went to Miami’s Mondrian hotel and asked a shocked pedicurist to give him the Marilyn Manson treatment. “Later I was on vacation in the Bahamas with LeBron,” Wade says, laughing, “and when he saw my toes he was like, ‘Something is seriously wrong with you.’ But eventually Bron was like, ‘You know what? You’re crazy, but that’s just you.’ When I first got into the league, I tried to fit in. Now I don’t care.”
Do not, however, confuse Wade not caring what people think about his style with Wade not caring about style. In June he made a splashy Fashion Week debut in Milan, sitting front row at Versace and Dsquared2, and his press-conference looks have evolved into the ballsiest ensembles in the increasingly style-obsessed NBA. “I’m on a team with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and they both dress well,” Wade says. “It gets competitive. If I don’t bring my A game, they’re going to outshine me.”
So how does Wade put his looks together? With the help of his stylist, Calyann Barnett. Barnett’s star client loves getting dressed but hates shopping—he can’t exactly roll up to the Miami Bloomingdale’s—so she sends photos to his iPad and fills up his new 800-square-foot closet. Like any good stylist, she constantly pushes him to evolve. “When we first started working together, she was just trying to get the baggy jeans off me,” Wade says. “I used to wear 2X and 3X shirts. Now I’m in a large.” I ask if he took some heat when his fits first started to get a little more “Euro,” to use his word. “Yeah, at first people were talking about me,” he says. “But now everyone is wearing their clothes more fitted.” Ultimately Wade’s effort to take his style to a higher plane is rooted in his number one priority: winning. “I’ve played for the Miami Heat my whole career under Pat Riley,” Wade says. “Mr. GQ himself. So when I pick out my outfits before a game, I’m already feeling confident. And some of that swagger stays with me when I take the court.”