Meet Brandon Williams, NBA Stylist Behind Jeff Green’s ‘Hoodie God’ Transformation
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- You may not know Brandon Williams by name, but if you watch the runway shows that NBA arena entrances have become, you probably know him by his work already.
For nearly a decade, Brandon has built a burgeoning career as not only a stylist, but also a brand consultant for professional athletes, including Washington Wizards forward Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets forward Ed Davis, Minnesota Timberwolves wing Andrew Wiggins, Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, and former NBA veteran Matt Barnes.
Jeff, in particular, started working with Brandon during the 2017-18 season, when the former was with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two knew each other through Mike—when Jeff played in Memphis between January 2015 and February 2016—and kept in touch through Instagram. But they didn’t become style partners until Jeff joined LeBron James and all the eyeballs that follow the superstar every night.
“I love fashion, but you can only love it to how much you know, and what I knew was little compared to what [Brandon] does,” Jeff recently tells CloseUp360 in his penthouse suite in Washington, D.C. “And now, he’s helping me with that growth, with putting me in fits that further tells my story, tells who I am and what I love. That’s the relationship you want to build when you have a stylist or a friend.”
CloseUp360 sat down with Brandon during a two-day trip to style Jeff in D.C. to talk about their connection, his approach to fashion, how clothing can be used to create a personal narrative, and more.
(The interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
Brandon Williams and Jeff Green share a laugh while sorting through clothes in the NBA veteran's apartment in Washington, D.C. (Johan Chiriboga)
CloseUp360: How would you describe Jeff Green’s style?
Brandon Williams: Jeff definitely has key things that kind of make a Jeff Green look. He's rooted in the athleisure vibe, which is luxury sweats and really loose, but tailored blazers or bomber jackets—things that you can kind of like mix in with the sweatpants and sneakers. Everything is sporty with Jeff. I have to fight tooth and nail to get him super dapper, dressed up. Even his suits, he loves to wear Nike Cortez with. That's just his look, and I think it's a good one for him.
I call him the “Hoodie God” because he stays with a hoodie. His natural habitat is in a hoodie—literally. He may have been born in one because he's always in one. A soon as he runs out of looks for the month, he is 1,000 percent going for a hoodie. So I live with it. I don't argue, but Air Jordans, hoodies—those are all Jeff Green staples.
CU360: What was it that you and Jeff connected on?
BW: The uniqueness of each client relationship comes down to likability. And it comes down to the camaraderie that's built and seeing how we both came together on the idea that was literally nothing two years ago. Everyone knows Jeff or any basketball player. Fast forward, so now people are really starting to expect a certain level of presence with Jeff's style. And from that point on, now we've created exactly what we were going after. He gets to tell the world what he wants. Because we've been behind the scenes together working for some time, now the world is coming to see that work at play. I think that creates a bond and creates a sense of trust between both of us. He took a chance on me and he believed in me and I'm helping prove results. So I think that's the bond. And it's pure respect for all the things he's gone through.
CU360: What is it about Jeff that made you want to work with him?
BW: I really wanted to work with Jeff because I believe in the story. I’ve always been a fan. I'm a basketball fanatic and purist, so I know the game. I played it myself, grew up on it. From a fan's perspective, I always liked Jeff Green from all the way in OKC to Boston to Memphis. I thought he was the missing link to Memphis getting over the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. I’ve just always been a fan. And then just to know the adversity that he overcame. You can kind of get a real feel for someone's character over a consistent time of being around him, and seeing him in the way he is with his family, the way his teammates talk about him.
That's the kind of guy I want to work with because, blatantly speaking, he doesn't need some other dude telling him how to dress or to be better. He has money and all the resources in the world. So I take extreme pride in somebody of his character and somebody of his stature to be, like, “Yo, help me get to the next level in this particular area of expertise.” As time has gone on, I've wanted to work with him even more because I think that he's starting to get it even more than he did in the first conversation. So now I'm hooked. I'm, like, “All right, cool. We're full steam ahead.”
Brandon and Jeff talk fashion inside the hallway of Jeff's residence in D.C. (Johan Chiriboga)
CU360: Is there a way to tell that story through style?
BW: I think there's definitely a way to tell a specific story to style by just making it as authentic as possible. The way I work, if it's a great t-shirt and a pair of busted jeans or whatever, it's fashion at its most basic elements. If that makes my client feel the most comfortable, I'm going to make that choice every single time just because, at the end of the day, the reason why we're doing it is not to play dress up. The reason why we're doing it is so that in the moments Jeff is going to be in, he needs to feel his utmost comfortable and utmost confident, so that he can portray his own truth as authentic and as vibrant as possible so that the world gets it.
Every single night, he gets a chance to do something great. He's a person that millions of people get to see on a weekly basis and we can't all say that. So I take a back seat and allow him to be himself in those moments, and making sure that he feels as confident as possible in those moments because you just never know when he's gonna have his best game of his whole entire career. So if I can help that come to light, that's what I go for.
CU360: Have you noticed that he wants to be more bold because he's back in front of his hometown?
BW: I think that him being back in Washington and being in front of his hometown is helping fuel the fire that he's had to bring to life this alternative version of Jeff Green, which we just got to see the basketball player for years. When you don't have an alternative narrative, you live and die by the only one people see. If you're playing good, you're playing good. If you're not, you're not. But now because he's home, there's so many different elements that you can attach to. Piquing people's interest in having more eyes on him, having that style, having that image and that respect and rapport with the fans and the people he grew up with, it just brings more opportunity. So I think he now feels the responsibility to that. You got to remember, Jeff has been in the league awhile. I think he's got a lot of good years left, for sure, but he's definitely a family man. He's got two kids, a wife. He's definitely starting to think about, “Where am I going, after this?” And so that's his ownership stake in this whole thing—is trying to build a platform, lay the groundwork for what's next.
CU360: So what kind of fashion mindset does he have now?
BW: Last year, he really wasn't wearing looks every single game. He was wearing looks on bigger games or when he felt like it. But as soon as the weather got trash in Cleveland, he was in sweatsuits. That's super typical for him. But this year, because of the response he's been getting and more people expecting him to be dressed better, he's been, I think, a little more self-conscious about making sure that he comes with it—and that's a good thing. So you want somebody who's conscious of that. You want somebody who's going to be thinking, like, “Alright, how am I going to be perceived if I show up in a sweatsuit versus like this outfit?”
Their connection extends beyond fashion and branding. The two are also close friends. (Johan Chiriboga)
CU360: How did that switch happen for him?
BW: I tried to lay it out for him as clear as possible, like, “This is the steps, these are the markers and trackers that you're going to experience as having a stylist in particular like me.” Once people get trained to expecting a certain kind of look from you, then then you're going to start to feel that expectancy as well, not just me. That expectancy came from people really responding to the imagery and a depiction of his outfits, his look. It’s been a really welcome response. Last year, he was on the Cavs with LeBron and, at one point, Dwyane Wade and Jordan Clarkson at one point. J.R. Smith as well. These are all people within that whole NBA style voice to do a lot, so that puts some headlights on him. And now he's with Washington, so there's this expectancy.
CU360: How have you noticed that he feels different as he walks down the NBA runway?
BW: Yeah, he's different. He was settled into, like, “Oh, I'm not going to do too much. No, I don't want to do too much"—until now. He understands that people expect him to be fly. Fans expect Jeff Green to look a certain kind of way and he's way more confident in it. He's takes more risks. He gave me a set of rules this year of what he didn't want to do and I was, like, “I got you, Chief.” He's extremely invested in this and I think that is such a good thing compared to the first year we worked together, which he was tiptoeing around. But now he's fully submerged. He's with it.
CU360: Give us a rule or two.
BW: Last year, one of my things was trying to reconstruct his framework in terms of how he thought about fit. I think guys get that wrong. We think we wear extra large and we really wear a medium, but that's how we're built as guys. When we come up, we want to be comfortable. Anything that presents the opposite of comfort is where we're going. We're straying away from that. But with Jeff, I did slim his fits down a lot last year. I don't think he was ready for that as much as I was. But now this year, he was, like, “Look bro, I'm not wearing super, super, super tight pants. I'm just going to be comfortable, but we can find a balance. So I'll meet you halfway, but I'm not going to wear no super uncomfortable pants or shirts. Everything has to fit well, but it cannot be too small.” I was, like, “Okay, I got you, bro.”
CU360: Everything started for him really last season in Cleveland?
BW: That was our first time working together. I've known Jeff since he was in Memphis with Mike Conley and he kind of saw the work that was done with Mike. Jeff's always had a clean aesthetic. He likes what he likes. He has the most underrated closet, I think, in the NBA probably. He's an extreme sneakerhead. He is one that doesn't spare any expense when it comes to fine tailoring, as far as suiting is concerned. And so just when we came together, it was more about him figuring out what his resources actually were to kind of make his whole style and image come to life—which I think is a cool thing.
CU360: Because he was in the spotlight more with LeBron and the Cavs, with increased national TV games showing pregame fashion, that had a big impact on him?
BW: Absolutely. I think that even last year, LeBron always has that one guy that he's walking with paired up almost simultaneously every single game, and a lot of the times it was Jeff or J.R., so he got a lot of shine in that way. But even before he went to Cleveland, we had talked over the phone and just explored what the possibilities were for him if this took off, you know, the possibilities of him getting press or getting PR, kind of extending what people know of him already as far as narrative.
You know Jeff Green: extreme talent, a great teammate, overcame a huge obstacle in his professional and personal life, and now is on the court, doing extremely well. But what's the other narrative? What are the other things that he's interested in? And so I think he never really got a chance. He was so focused on getting back and making sure that his career was solidified that he never really got a chance to focus on the other part, which is creating that narrative, managing that image, building whatever persona that he feels is going to be beneficial for him moving forward.
CU360: Did he have goals in branding or personal marketing with that new narrative in mind?
BW: I think his goals in branding weren't really identified. He's a humble dude, so not even understanding what the magnitude of his opportunities could be. That was a conversation. And so giving him basically a menu of, “This is what could happen if we really do this style thing right.” And I think that, for a lot of guys, is the value in it. We talked about branding. We talked about what could happen if he was on a team that won a championship, how the success personally would contribute to the branding opportunities. It all has to do with a lot of things: marketing and markets that players are in and who they're next to as well. So just having that whole conversation is very important.
CU360: You mentioned that menu. What's in that?
BW: I think every athlete is given a Bible of rules and expectancies dictated by what's been done by their predecessors, and if you're not well-versed in what those options are then you might not be going towards anything. It might just become stagnant. We had a really good conversation initially on what the opportunity could be if we did it right, as far as his image goes—being somebody looked at as an influencer of style and pretty much breaking down the limitations to his storytelling ability, like, “Jeff, what do you want to talk about? What do you care about? Where do you think you are in this phase of your career? How can this style narrative help open up a conversation about that interest?” That was really the basis of what we spoke about.
Brandon is more than a stylist. He also works closely with his clients on their branding and overall image. (Johan Chiriboga)
CU360: How do you work with Jeff and your clients to be active on social media with presenting themselves?
BW: When you have a client, you’ve got to understand what makes this thing show proof of concept. If nobody sees what you're doing, nobody sees these outfits, nobody sees your style, then it doesn't matter. It never happened. Connecting with the team that the client is on, making sure that content gets distributed properly to me and Jeff, understanding what the process is, too. He makes sure that I have photos, as well as the team makes sure I have photos and he understands the importance of that, which is great. And that's been the main thing that has allowed Jeff to grow in this space—is those photos.
I usually post the photos because I serve as more of the vehicle where this is more fashion accounts and blogs, and things to pay attention to my account, and he knows that. So he doesn't like to makeover himself, especially in the season. It's more about the team, more about his family, the other components. But how we work together is that his audience already knows him as a basketball player. It's already built. But you take somebody like myself, who has inroads to other audiences, and now I'm introducing him as Jeff Green, a style influencer.
Now, they become converted because of the interest in the way social media and marketing works. Now, I'm going to click on, “Oh, Jeff Green, who's that? I like this outfit, I like those pants. We clicked on Jeff Green. Oh, he plays for the Washington Wizards? Oh shoot. Oh, he has these other looks." So now it opens up this person who would have never known who Jeff Green is, and he would have never had an opportunity to show them if we wouldn't have the style narrative.
CU360: A lot of rookies come into the league wanting to get into fashion. How does that compare to what a veteran like Jeff wanted?
BW: I've seen it from its very beginning stage where now younger guys that are coming have a skewed perception of what a stylist is because everybody's mama, brother, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, whatever, is a stylist. But the point of a stylist—just like a public relations person or a strength coach—is to bring value and to actually add to what's going on, and not survive off of the second-hand smoke of the persona for the athlete is. And so most younger guys coming into the league, they think it's about the clothes, right? “I just want to be fly.”
But a guy like Jeff, because of where he is in his career, is asking a more detailed question and wants a more detailed answer, like, "What was the purpose of all of this?” It's not just for show. There's something, there's a means to an end. It's not just about getting dressed up. I prefer personally to have that kind of conversation over the conversation of “I just want to be fly” because it's really not a contest. I think the level of taste should be showcased. And that's the caveat. I'm just trying to be 100 percent authentic, and I try to give that to my clients as well and instill a really strong sense of self. And I think that is what helps them progress at a more rapid rate than someone who doesn't have a me.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.