The Big Reveal

Hillcrest basketball’s bespoke suits are all about team pride, learning

If it looks like the Hillcrest boys basketball team has a little more, well, swagger when they get off the bus and head into a fieldhouse these days, it’s probably because they’ve taken the concept of suiting up to the next level.

This year, the team is dressing in suits custom made for each player by Reveal Suits, complete with a lining festooned with the school’s logo — but to get them on the kids, it started with a desire by head coach Kelan Jones to elevate his program, and make prepare his team for what happens after high school, too.

“There’s a sense of confidence in knowing that you are wearing a suit that is sized for you, and you’re easily identifiable as to what school you belong to,” he said. ‘It’s also a conversation piece, and it gives an opportunity to speak about the program, what it involves, what it requires, what it demands, and people want to be a part of that because they’re so intrigued by your look.”

But in addition to confidence, he said, it prepares them for that time when they might play college ball, and are required to dress up.

“I’m building a program, inside and out,” Jones said. “When they leave me, they’re going to college, and they’re expected to dress a certain way, right? Get on the buses for traveling, being in interviews, meetings, things like that. That’s what we’re trying to establish here — professionalism.”

Jones said he thinks the experience of designing and fitting a suit is something that will serve his players well for years to come. 

“When they leave me, they’re going to college, and they’re expected to dress a certain way, right? Get on the buses for traveling, being in interviews, meetings, things like that. That’s what we’re trying to establish here — professionalism.”

Kelan Jones

“They now know their chest size, they know their neck size. They know their arm length — all things they never looked at,” he said. “They’re learning something they probably didn’t have an opportunity to learn, and because of this experience, they were able to learn it a little bit earlier than some.”

Jones said that alumni wanted to do something for the kids, and he liked what Reveal Suits and owner Carlton Dixon were doing on the collegiate and professional sports level. 

“He just had a vision for his young men looking sharp and professional on game day,” Dixon said. “He was able to get the necessary support from the school to pull it off.”

Dixon said they took the boys through the process of being fitted for a suit, and they could help design the suit, choosing their lapels, buttons, and more. 

“You know, we were just talking as we were about to dismiss, and this player raised his hand and said, ‘I just want to thank you because I feel so sophisticated right now,’” he said. “And he had just picked out the suit — he hadn’t even received it yet.”

And thanks to the pandemic, Dixon’s company has even built an app to do virtual custom fittings, which means schools from anywhere across the country could have the same experience.

“So we can get 18 measurements with two pictures from your smartphone,” he said.

Dixon said that he is already fielding phone calls from other high schools inquiring about suits. Jones said he hopes that the basketball team is only the first of many Hillcrest teams to get the experience.

“If I can start with the boys basketball team, we’re hoping to expand it so we have more students, not just basketball, but more students to be able to dress up in a professional manner,” he said.

Our conversation with Hillcrest basketball coach Kelan Jones and Reveal Suits CEO Carlton Dixon follows.

PN: So we see this kind of thing in the collegiate and pro level, but how did it come about for Hillcrest?

Dixon: Reveal Suits has been around since 2017, and we started primarily in the collegiate spaces — it is our primary niche. We have over 90 licenses for different colleges.

And that’s kind of been our bread-and-butter for the most part. But Coach Jones got hired over at Hillcrest and has been a longtime friend of mine, and he just had a vision for his young men looking sharp, professional, on their game day.

He was like, “You know, I want them to have the same feeling that the college guys have.” And he was able to get the necessary support from the school to pull it off. We put a few things together, and were able to come up with some great packages for them.

A couple of months later, we were on campus doing the fitting and you could just see from their expressions that they felt cool wearing them. We let them look through some of our design selections, and some wanted a one-button front. Others got a two-button front. Some wanted a single slit in the back, some wanted a double. We took them through that experience.

Jones: I saw what Carlton was doing with athletics in general — football, basketball, Hall of Fame, and I thought it would be a good look. The only place that they weren’t was on the amateur level — high school. I saw the quality of what they were producing and knew it would be a good look.

I met up with a couple of alumni who wanted to provide something like that for kids – they didn’t know where to start, they just wanted to help get the kids in a more professional setting.

If I can start with the boys basketball team, we’re hoping to expand it so we have more students, not just basketball, but more students to be able to dress up in a professional manner.

PN: For most boys, that first suit comes off the rack, and might not fit really well. Some may have never had an occasion to wear a suit at all. What was the reaction to getting something bespoke?

Dixon: You know, we were just talking as we were about to dismiss, and this player raised his hand and said, ‘I just want to thank you because I feel so sophisticated right now.’ And he had just picked out the suit — he hadn’t even received it yet.

I’m glad that they got that — that it was the feeling they got from the experience because that was the intent.

And that’s where I give all the credit to Coach Jones — he just had that vision, and it was perfectly laid out, and it was even more so when they revealed the pictures of them in their suits and see the looks on those guys faces — they had confidence, and you can even see it in their faces in the pictures. It speaks volumes.

Jones: It was a very good experience — they were able to design their own suits, to understand the history of suits, and really understand how to personalize a suit to their liking. The length of the pants and jacket. What type of cut do they want, how many buttons, how do they want the lapel to be. It was a very good experience for them, and they got to take ownership and feel good about the suit that they design and get to wear.

They now know their chest size, they know their neck size. They know their arm length — all things they never looked at. They’re learning something they probably didn’t have an opportunity to learn, and because of this experience, they were able to learn it a little bit earlier than some.

PN: Carlton mentioned that confidence, but what did you notice?

Jones: There’s a sense of confidence in knowing you are wearing a suit that is sized for you. The suit did give them a sense of confidence, in knowing that for one, it puts eyes on you — you’re easily identifiable as to who you belong to, what school you’re with. It’s also a conversation piece — it gives an opportunity to speak on the program, what it involves, what it requires, what it demands, and people want to be a part of that because they’re intrigued by your look.

I’m building a program, inside and out. When they leave me, they’re going to college, and they’re expected to dress a certain way, right? Get on the buses for traveling, being in interviews, meetings, things like that. That’s what we’re trying to establish here — professionalism.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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