With no stage to walk across and no red carpet, style at last night’s NFL draft ranged from “very casual” (various takes on the white T-shirt) to “maybe too casual” (Henry Ruggs’s bathrobe). If nothing else, it was informative; thanks to Joe Burrow, we all know the area code for central Ohio.
If there was a winner, it would have to be Tua Tagovailoa. Though he basically won by default (he was the only top-20 pick to dress up), Tagovailoa would have been tough to beat at even the most fashionable gathering. His brown-and-blue buffalo check three-piece was sophisticated and smooth, but the real treat was inside, on the lining. The Alabama QB opened the jacket on camera, but it was hard to make out the detail: a collage of photos of both sets of grandparents wearing Crimson Tide gear.
Tagovailoa’s suit came from Richards Bespoke in Nashville, where he was working out ahead of the draft. He visited the shop with his family in January and picked out the pattern with owner Stephen Richards Jr. They found a lining with elephants and palm trees that seemed perfect for a kid from Hawaii who played for Bama, and decided to use it for the back of the vest. When Richards told him they could do a custom lining with photos of his grandparents, Tagovailoa “ate that up immediately,” says Richards. “He looks at me and he kind of says, Be quiet. He started whispering to me because everybody downstairs could hear us. He wanted it to be a surprise to his parents.”
Richards got to work, but in the intervening three months several things changed. The draft became virtual, and he heard from Tagovailoa’s camp that he wouldn’t be wearing the suit after all, because GQ wanted to photograph him—but only wearing a different company’s duds. Still, Richards drove the suit down to Tagovailoa in Alabama on Wednesday so he could give it to him before he left to join whichever team drafted him.
Then last night Richards got a text. “Probably 20 minutes before the draft, I get a picture from his agent, and he’s wearing the suit sitting in his chair,” says Richards. “I was like, Is he wearing it tonight? And he was like, Yeah, he’s stoked about it. Loves the fit, loves the story of the lining on the inside and wanted to wear it for the night. I can’t even describe it. I’ve been doing this for about five years now and I started the company, bootstrapped it from the beginning. So to see something like that on a national stage.... It was, that was one of the best surprises I’ve ever had.”
There is a downside, though. Richards had been planning to make himself a buffalo check suit before Tagovailoa picked the pattern. That won’t be happening. “I’ve got a policy,” says Richards. “I don’t make what I have made other clients for myself.”