January is a horrible time to start a new job in Brooklyn. The temperatures drop into the low double digits. The wind stings your face. City dwellers ransack every Trader Joe’s in anticipation of storms. But James Harden, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to school in Arizona, is enjoying his first New York winter, having been traded from the Houston Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets last month. Sitting in his apartment, waiting for the storm to pass, he texted his stylist Kesha McLeod: “It’s pretty cool.”
Harden’s trade to the Nets has led to all sorts of new experiences and challenges for the former MVP: there is the snow, and the more pressing task of learning to gel with his two new All-NBA teammates. There is also the matter of fits. “I had to change my whole wardrobe,” Harden told ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols. “It’s freezing!” McLeod clarifies that Harden really meant everything: he’s stocking up on boots, gloves, hats, a big Brooklyn-ready coat. “We have a lot of fashion coats,” she says. “We have a lot of, Oh-this-is-cute-to-wear-here coats, but no real coats.”
Helpfully, he’s not starting totally from scratch. “He does have some really sick pieces just from years past,” McLeod says. You may remember the Coach parka Harden wore a few seasons ago: shearling exterior with a fur lining on the hood. Combined with his signature beard Harden looked like a character out of The Revenant. At the time we called the jacket a “personal furnace with sleeves,” which might be why he wore it while forgoing socks. In Brooklyn, he no longer has that luxury. “It’s embracing those key pieces that he knew he never had and building that up,” McLeod says.
But the trade is having wardrobe implications beyond simply unlocking new levels of layering. McLeod says one of the biggest changes to result from Harden’s move from Houston to Brooklyn is his mood. The first couple of weeks of the season, it was apparent that Harden no longer wanted to be a member of the Rockets. That fact was evident in his play—and, if you knew where to look, in his outfits. “You get the person who’s actually a human being like, ‘I don’t want to put this on. I don’t want to get dressed for a team I don’t want to be a part of,’” McLeod says. And sure enough, the outfits Harden wore during the early stretch of the season with Houston were limited mostly to sweatsuits, sometimes with a coat.
In Brooklyn, though, Harden has stopped mailing in his play—and stopped mailing in his fits, too. “Once you feel good, your clothes look better,” says McLeod. “You want to get dressed. Unfortunately we can’t go out and celebrate anything, but you want to be up and you want to show off.” You can check the tape: for his debut in Brooklyn, Harden wore Balenciaga boots, ripped jeans, a funky plaid shirt with ruffles toward the bottom—and, of course, a huge puffer jacket with a fur-trim hood. The smart money says he was wearing socks, too.