Michael Jordan Takes a Shot at Fashion, Deep in the Heart of Tuxes
Make that After Six, the formal-wear company recruited three months ago to put the Chicago Bulls" high-flying No. 23 into high style with an evening-wear line, "23 Night for Michael Jordan," due out in February. "We've never had such excitement," says Marilyn Spiegel, vice president of marketing for After Six, a firm that also put tux and tails on Miami Vice and Dynasty stars. "Michael is the '90s man."
And not a bad walking billboard. Even in the city of broad shoulders, his, at two feet across, are notable. Six-foot-six and 195 lbs., he has a 45-inch chest that tapers to a 33-inch waist. Says Joe Silverberg, coowner of Bigsby & Kruthers, the clothing store that has been dressing Jordan for five years: "His reach is incredible."
Sometimes too incredible. In a small studio on Chicago's North Side, where Jordan is posing for promotional shots, the superstar motions for a time out—foul fit. The sleeves on the pleated tuxedo shirt he is wearing do not, it seems, span the 37-inch distance from his shoulders to his wrists. Responding swiftly to the emergency, stylist Jane Collins cuts the elegant white cotton at the elbow and repositions the severed cuffs further down Michael's arms so they peck out nicely from beneath his jacket. Oh, well, what does a basketball guard know about making clothes, anyway?
More than you probably think, says Jordan. "I took home ec," declares the man who is closing in on the 15,000-point mark, which he is expected to reach faster than any NBA player except Wilt Chamberlain. "I made a shirt, and I can hem and cut out patterns. I can do all that stuff." And though chances are slim that he will ever need to put thread to needle, Michael will be involved in creating the line that bears his name, from choosing the fabrics to approving the designs. "No one should be fooled about who makes the decisions," says Silverberg. who, with his brother, Gene, recently formed the Jordan/Silverberg Apparel Group partnership, which then contracted with After Six. "He's on top of everything that's going on."
Indeed, for the 27-year-old athlete, who has mugged with Spike Lee in Nike commercials and "jumped off" cereal boxes for Wheaties, this project is more than just another endorsement. "I became very fashion-conscious when I was young," says Michael, one of five children born to James, a retired equipment supplier for General Electric, now 52, and Deloris, a retired bank customer-service representative, 49. Raised on a tight budget in Wilmington, N.C., Jordan says he "picked up on different styles, and I would always want them, but I couldn't afford them."
Well, now he can. Today he's a multimillionaire with a diamond stud earring and an eight-year, $26 million basketball contract. He is so sought after and indulged ("You get paid well." concedes Michael, "but it's s-o-o time consuming") that his greatest desire, he says, is to spend a Sunday afternoon with his wife, Juanita (who is pregnant and due in January), and son. Jeffrey, 2, at the South Side home of his mother-in-law, Dorothy Vanoy. "I sleep on the couch and eat her old-fashioned macaroni and cheese," he says. But delight in small pleasures doesn't prevent him from thinking big: Jordan also plans to launch a fragrance as well as lines of business wear and skin-care products. So far, he has no plans for a hair tonic.
—Karen S. Schneider, Judy Hevrdejs in Chicago