Jay Bilas, 44, is used to people commenting on his 6-foot-8 physique. He doesn't mind. Bilas played four years of basketball at Duke University, signed with the NBA Dallas Mavericks and played in professional leagues in Italy and Spain. In 1990, Bilas returned to Duke as an assistant coach for Mike Krzyzewski, and graduated from Duke School of Law in 1992. You can catch the lawyer and college basketball analyst on ESPN. Lynn Trenning, Special to the Observer
Q. Were your parents stylish?
My dad was a essentially a blue-collar worker. He worked in the television repair business and owned his own store and went to work wearing a golf shirt and a pair of pants. …It was more to honor an occasion, or other people, not to call attention to themselves.
Q: You played professional basketball in Italy and Spain. Did you learn anything about fashion there?
I learned that nothing over there fit me. I learned that they live better than we do. My perception after living there is that they live less time at home, and more time out enjoying people.
Q: Did you shop for yourself?
When I became an assistant that was the first time I got a suit tailored, because when you are my size it's hard to find things off the rack. My friend told me once you do this you'll never go back. He was right.
Q: What did you have to learn about fashion in order to dress to be on television?
You'll have people who work in television tell you not to wear a white shirt and I violate that rule constantly. All you have to do is turn on the television set and you can tell no one is telling us what to do.
Q: Describe your look in three words?
Very ill considered.
Q: How does your sense of style help you do your job?
I don't know that it does. I'm sure I violate every rule that you're supposed to use. When I wear a pocket square I just fold it in a square, and wear it in case I have to wipe my brow because the lights get hot. I don't really know the rule of stripes. The only thing I do is I like suede shoes.
Q: Who is your favorite designer, and why?
I have a tailor that makes suits for me. He shows me cloth swatches and I'll pick what I like and he'll make a suit. He is here in Charlotte with Tom James Company.
Q: I see you wear cufflinks.
The ones I like the best are these knit ones, two balls with elastic in-between. They are really cool and easy to deal with.
Q: How do you choose your ties?
Whatever I see that catches my eye. I can't tell you what I look for in a tie but I know it when I see it. Very rarely do a get a tie that I like as a gift.
Q: What hair products do you use?
I used to have a lot of hair, and rarely got it cut. The saddest part is now I have hardly any and I get it cut all the time. But there is freedom associated with that. I don't have to worry about it.
Q: What jeans fit you best?
Levis. Usually I have to get them online. Department stores rarely carry 36 length.
Q: What do you require in a briefcase?
I carry a Tumi bag that has been beat to hell. My mom bought me a nice leather briefcase that I used the first time I was a lawyer, but when I had to be a lawyer instead of just look like one I needed a real bag.
Q: Do you depend on anyone for fashion advice?
My wife will tell me if I look stupid. My mom, I used to always hear if she didn't like my tie. She'd say “That's not a good color for you.” I'd say, “I really didn't think about it, Mom,” and she'd say, “Well, think about it.”
Q: Tell me about your watch.
It's a watch that my dad wore and I bought the same watch. …It's a Patek Phillippe. …I told him I want to buy a similar watch. So we found one, and we got a good deal, but when we were about to pull the trigger I decided to wait and my dad said, ‘You know what? You'll have that watch the rest of your life, and the money you are going to save now you are going to blow,' and he was right. I bought it later at a substantial increase in price, but I've never regretted it.
Q: What was your biggest splurge?
Every time I have a suit made, the bill astounds me (usually around $2,000), and I don't think that will ever change. But I have suits made 10 years ago that I still wear.
Q: What can't you believe you once wore?
I had an olive green suit that I had made in college that was really bad. It looked good when they were laying it out with a blue tie, but I never really liked it, and I wore it way too much because I bought it. I have it in a locker at ESPN.