Kevin Durant and Khloe Kardashian are already rocking Chris Brickley’s Color Blind gear Now it’s time for the all-star NBA trainer to take on New York Fashion Week
Philando Castile. Terence Crutcher. Keith Lamont Scott. Terrence Sterling. In the fall of 2016, the news was filled with names of unarmed African-Americans killed by police. Chris Brickley sat in front of the television in his Manhattan apartment, all sorts of feelings bubbling beneath his tattooed skin. He thought about how differently history would be written if human beings did not divide themselves by color.
This was long before Brickley became an Instagram sensation as the hottest hoops trainer on the planet, creator of All-Star Game open runs and inventor of the legendary #HoodieMelo hashtag. Back then, Brickley was sweating in anonymity as a player development coach for the New York Knicks.
But this wasn’t basketball, these feelings Brickley was having. This was life.
He turned off his TV, went on the internet and found a font. He wrote two words, “Color Blind,” and put them on a T-shirt. He posted the image, and his feelings, on Instagram. At the time he had about 10,000 followers, a Hail Mary-heave distance from his current 454,000. But he had a lot of NBA and musician friends: Chris Brown, Juelz Santana, J.R. Smith. They started hitting him up: What’s this Color Blind thing? A shirt, a hoodie? Yo, you should run with that.
Two years later, the Color Blind streetwear brand is having a heat-check moment. Kevin Durant, Khloe Kardashian, Donovan Mitchell, Justin Bieber, Kelly Oubre and a squad of other NBA players have been sporting the shirts, hoodies, jackets and shorts. The periodic web releases sell out instantly — you can forget about copping the recent lifeguard vest, or the Obama T-shirt. On Wednesday, Brickley hosts a Color Blind pop-up event in Manhattan for New York Fashion Week.
The brand is inspired by ideals such as unity, love, equality and family. No one above no one. “Do not repay evil with evil,” one recent piece said. “On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.” But many of his pieces don’t have an overt racial message — they just channel Brickley’s own swagtastic personal style.
“Some people just strictly are into the streetwear. They might just look at it as just it’s a cool brand and they don’t really know the meaning of it. That’s fine,” said Brickley on a recent August afternoon after supervising some workouts at his home court (he lives in the attached high-rise apartment building) of Life Time Fitness in midtown Manhattan.
“I try and make the pieces look fashionable, but at the same time, it does have meaning. So if you are a fan of the clothing because of its meaning, then that’s dope too,” he said. “I kind of just leave it up to the consumer on why they want it. I don’t like pushing race on anyone.”
Some of his latest pieces feature a face that Brickley designed to represent human beings of all races and genders. “I don’t want someone to see a piece of clothing and say that person is black or white or brown,” he said. “I just want them to see the person as a whole.”
Brickley, 32, grew up as a basketball star in New Hampshire, where he averaged 28.7 points per game his senior year in high school. He played at Northeastern, transferred to Division II Southern New Hampshire University and then walked on at Louisville, where he was teammates with Chris Smith, JR Smith’s younger brother. After graduating in 2010, he grinded his way up the coaching ladder to latch on with the Knicks in 2013, where he bonded with JR Smith and Carmelo Anthony. He left the team in 2017 to train players exclusively.
Some might mistakenly think this white guy from New Hampshire is in the “race doesn’t matter” camp. No, Brickley knows how race works in America. He just wants to help change the dynamic. His authenticity, and his ability to relate to NBA megastars off the court and gain their trust, has given him the platform for fashion success.
“I don’t try to be something I’m not. I’m just myself,” Brickley said. “I grew up in New Hampshire, which is predominantly a white area. For whatever reason, at this point in my life, my life is training. Ninety percent of my friends are black NBA players because I’m around them every day, all day. Since the majority of the NBA players are black. It just happened to be like that.”
During the past few months, Brickley has started building a team to get serious about Color Blind. He plans to release joggers and more jackets later this fall, then expand into full-blown cut-and-sew items, women’s handbags and more.
“In my mind,” he said, “it’s just getting started.”