By Larry Lee | OBSERVER Publisher
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Dallas-based fashion designer Carlton Dixon may not be an NBA hall of famer, but he shares a similar philosophy to any great athlete: it’s what’s inside that counts.
Dixon — a former athlete, coach and athletic director — is the founder of Reveal Suits and the creative force behind the official sport coats given to each member of the 2023 class of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dixon used his creativity in partnership with each inductee to design custom jackets for each of the honorees. The insides of the brightly colored jackets were lined with different images and symbols reflecting each Hall of Famer’s personal journey.
Dixon, who played basketball at the University of Texas, spoke with The OBSERVER during the enshrinement’s tip-off celebration and awards gala on August 11 about his vision for the company and how he made it come true.
Q: What made you start working on the insides of the jackets?
A: I’m a longtime sports guy. I’m a former player and I used to coach high school back in the Dallas area. I have watched the NBA Draft night and NFL Draft night too, and I was seeing guys get more creative with their suits, you know, first on the exterior, but then guys started doing some cool stuff on the interior. A couple guys started representing their college on stage. And that resonated with me. I was just like, wow, you see college representation on t-shirts and caps and sweatshirts, and what if this can be done in a suit? So there went the vision.
Q: What licenses do you have?
A: We are an official licensee of the NCAA, and we have the licenses for over 100 universities right now. And what that does is put us in a better position to obtain partnerships such as the Naismith (Basketball Hall of Fame) and the NFL Alumni Association, each of those kind of have a licensing component to it. But the college visibility is definitely what sparked everything.
Q: How did you learn to get access to the logos?
A: That was on-the-job. That was basically self teaching. Yeah, self teaching, I knew what I wanted the end result to be, but also knew that there was a process to it. I knew that there was a process to obtain the licenses for the marks and logos that we use. And so there was a lot of “YouTubing” and a lot of “Googling.” The process with the NCAA took almost a year to obtain the licensing.
Q: Do you do other sorts of apparel?
A: We do. We do full suits, blazers, dress shirts, and we’ll do polos as well when needed. But typically we stay in that business, business professional, business casual space.
Q: How did you get connected with the Basketball Hall of Fame?
A: We got a call one day in early 2021. Their contract with the previous provider had just expired. They have been keeping up with some of our activity on social media and LinkedIn, and they reached out and said that they had a desire to modernize their jackets. They wanted it to be a little bit more personal for each inductee, and they thought we fit the bill.
Q: What were some of the creative things that you did with each jacket?
A: Each one really kind of tells their journey to the Hall of Fame, right? Whether it’s, you know, a tribute to their high school in some type of way; maybe it’s an image of their high school jersey with their name on it. Logos of schools that they’ve played at collegiately — even with the coaches, you know, coaches have a long list of different teams that they’ve coached and things like that. So it was really, truly individualized for each inductee. It couldn’t have turned out better. What’s also in there are pictures of prominent moments in their career, pictures of mentors, or coaches and teammates, championship celebration. Pau Gasol had an image of his jersey retirement right in there. So really, whatever someone desires, we can make it come to life.
Q: What are some of the obstacles and challenges being a Black fashion designer and getting into this industry?
A: It’s no secret that this has been long dominated, and has been a white male industry, for the most part. And so, you know, that takes some convincing. You’ve got to work a little extra hard to get into some doors, but, you know, I’m an ex athlete, and that’s what I do. So you know, I just kind of look at it as a game.
Q: If a regular person wanted to get some of your apparel, what would they do?
A: You can go to our website (https://revealsuits.com/) and you can actually get suits there. If they’re not in our Dallas/Fort Worth market, I have probably over 100 tailors in the country that they can go to and get measured. And then we can have the suiting and styling virtually. We try not to miss anybody, regardless of where they are.