This story is part of Image issue 6, “Energy,” an exploration of what sports style looks like in the City of Champions. See the full package here.
“When you dress, you have to see yourself,” says LA stylist Courtney Mays, recounting a time in her life when looking in the mirror wasn’t the most pleasurable experience.
The 38-year-old Cleveland native says what’s key to getting ready is taking the time to do the little things – those simple frills that cheer her up when she sees herself in the mirror, that either by adding layers of jewelry to it. usual work uniform consisting of sweatshirts, sneakers, t-shirts and blazers or applying mascara instead of running out of the house.
She began to understand the beauty of fashion when she observed her parents’ dress rituals as they dressed for outings together. The care communicated through these details – her father shining his shoes and adorning himself with accessories, her mother’s knack for making any item her own, from party dresses to remix of men’s tuxedos with a bustier and tops. pumps – left a lasting impression on Mays.
The ability to tell stories, assert a sense of self, and rewrite public narratives without saying a word, makes fashion a playground of opportunity. This in-depth understanding paired with the focus on customers who not only look great, but feeling good shines through the styling process of Mays. You can feel it when she describes creating the right vibe during fittings with candles and upbeat music, as well as viral fashion moments, like seeing her client, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul, wearing a custom varsity jacket showcasing 107 historic black colleges and universities during the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.
Here, Mays shares the fashion lessons that changed her relationship with clothing.
You are on a Saturday night in downtown LA. What are you wearing ?
I’m probably wearing a suit with a T-shirt and sneakers – and all my jewelry. Or maybe a cool oversized sweater. These leather pants that I wear over and over again, my partner is probably tired of seeing them, and those cowboy boots I found in a random vintage store. I want to wear these boots until they have holes in them. I love them so much. At the end of the day, I would probably wear pajamas. As long as I have all of my jewelry, I feel like I can go somewhere.
During your own style journey, what’s one underrated fashion tip that you realized was a game-changer?
It’s so funny. [My partner] Candice and I were just talking about that. We have what we call “the Vegas theory”. Whenever you go on a girls’ trip to Vegas, one of the first things people do is pack their glitter. I was so stressed out by it thinking I didn’t have anything suitable for Vegas, but why are we doing this to ourselves? I wouldn’t wear sequins on a normal day so why do I think because I’m going to Vegas I have to put on sequins and 9 inch heels? Let me go to Vegas and be myself in my double-breasted suit, and that’s my Vegas look. Present yourself as your most comfortable and confident self in all of these spaces, whatever that sounds like to you.
What would your best friend say about your style?
She would probably say I’m a tomboy walking her way and she would say something about my lipstick because before COVID, I literally wouldn’t go anywhere without it. My mom always wears red lipstick and nail polish. It’s part of who she is, and I started to come to terms with that. It’s something I always pay tribute to.
What is a fashion rule that is common knowledge within the industry that more people outside of the industry should embrace?
I feel like most stylists and designers mention the importance of a good tailor, but I think the average person doesn’t use it. I saw this guy at the airport the other day wearing a three piece suit. If he had just brought this costume to the dry cleaners to make a few small adjustments, he could have been so quick. A lot of people go to the store, put the clothes on their body and expect it to look like the picture. They forget that you just need a little pinch here and there for it to adjust to your body the way it should feel on you. Each garment is different. Every body is different. Taking that extra time to tailor your clothes is well worth it.
What’s the one item in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?
I have this white Margiela shirt, like a classic oversized men’s white Ashford shirt. I probably need to figure out how to get another one because I wear it so much. For so long I was just buying ASOS white shirts because they were my size. So to see something much better quality that looks good, I would have liked to buy two or three. It was a bit pricey for a white shirt, but it has become my go-to for dressing. I used to say to myself, “Mom, you only wear white shirts.” But now I fully understand. It is the essential classic. You can throw it on a tank. You can wear it with jeans. There are so many ways to wear a white shirt. It is certainly the essential of the closet.
When deciding looks for guys, from tunnel walks to the red carpet, what kinds of physical cues indicate that an outfit is a winner on a try-on?
It’s definitely that kind of one-foot-in-front position where they come true in the mirror. It always comes down to the tailor. When you put something in and you start pinning it and changing the shape to what it should look like, you start to see them realize, “Oh, now I get this going to be cool.” There is a bit like, “Ok i see you moment. “Also, if they let me take a picture, I know they like it. We used to have a client literally standing in front of the mirror for a few extra minutes. That would be hilarious. Even Antoine [Anderson] and I got this thing where I am, now do your pose. I must know that you like this outfit. When they do their little GQ pose in the mirror, I know I did a good job.
You spend a day relaxing and doing something that brings you joy. What are you wearing and what are you doing?
I really wear men’s pajamas, which I love. And I probably cook at home with Candice. We learned how to make a really good puttanesca. My family is from Louisiana, so I will fight anyone on my okra or my shrimp smother. Often times we eat while we cook, so we make hummus or pico de gallo for snacking. As long as there are fresh flowers, a good pot of okra or something on the stove, a good playlist and a glass of wine, I’m in a good position.
Or we’ve recently started going to the Hollywood Bowl a lot. It’s the best ever. We are thinking of getting a pass as we have been there four times in the past six weeks. We have what we call our Hollywood Bowl outfits. I have this John Elliott mens tracksuit that I love, and then we have these big Gucci checkered ponchos that we found in a great place on sale. It’s a little chilly at night, so that’s our cozy but rather chic look with our combat boots or sneakers – and those large, slightly tinted sunglasses. Candance stole a pair of mine, which I will never see again. It’s our Hollywood Bowl uniform. Listening to live music, having a good glass of wine, all the things that allow you to escape in this moment of clarity and rest, that’s what I like, and if there is music, I’m here.
Why is living in Los Angeles suitable for this chapter of your life?
I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 after my commute from New York City went from two to three days to two to three weeks. After telling anyone who could hear me that I never moving to LA, I officially became an LA girl! Best decision I’ve ever made besides distance from my family. LA has been a city of dreams for me. I was able to develop my professional career in a way I never imagined. It also exposed me to a lifestyle that, while cliché, changed my relationship to food, exercise, art and music, and nature. I’m a bit of, as I like to call it, “adjacent vegan”. I like a good Sunday morning bike ride on the beach or in my neighborhood. The Hollywood Bowl has become a staple and you can usually find me at a local gallery or museum. I studied art history in college and LA kind of rekindled my passion for the arts.