It’s common to hear the phrase “ball is life” when it comes to sports.
From Twitter profiles to tee-shirts, it’s a great slogan for amateur and professional athletes alike. And while it’s important to be a well rounded person, when you have a limited window to create generational wealth with your skills, that should probably be your primary focus.
But what about life after ball? Most NFL careers are short and, sooner or later, players need to reckon with life after football.
The New York Giants made waves by releasing a great set of classic uniforms this week. I decided to take the opportunity to chat with Giants great Carl Banks about his work bringing back classic Starter jackets.
This isn’t Banks’ first foray into the fashion world, and in fact his first release came all the way back in 1985, his second year in the NFL.
“I actually developed my first collection my second year,” he said. “I started working on it my rookie year and my second year I developed a big and tall outerwear line and launched it. I would say by 1989, I believe, I was in full swing with all the team-licensed sports apparel and outerwear. It started as big and tall outerwear and it expanded, and it’s been going well ever since.”
Banks has since started his own fashion company, G iii Sports by Carl Banks and has since partnered with the brand Starter.
Banks said, “I founded G iii sports and wore Starter as a player. G iii is a publicly traded company and I needed someone to help scale my business. We’ve gotten together and now we’re rockin’ and rollin’.”
“People have a real connection to Starter clothing,” he added. “It’s really bridged the gap between culture and sports. It was in every TV show of the 80’s and 90’s, and it’s appearing in TV shows today.”
Banks noted that early on he was inspired by soccer star David Beckham, whose career started in 1992, and he quickly became an international celebrity.
He said, “I was inspired by sports fashion icon David Beckham, who originated the idea of the sideline as a runway and brought the way the NFL looked and the way fans expressed their fandom to a whole ‘nother level.”
“I wore Starter when I played and I was one of their brand ambassadors,” Banks said. “I wanted to recreate a moment from the movie ‘Coming To America’, when they were wearing Jets and Mets jackets.”
The connection between football and fashion for Banks goes further than just being a brand ambassador for Starter. He’s brought the lessons he learned from his time on the field to the business world.
He said, “Having a championship mindset, being on a championship team, you have to look at every opportunity to get better and adjust so you can have success. And being a captain of a team, you know, it helps navigate that.”
Entrepreneurs always have to face adversity, and Banks is no different. He saw plenty of doubters when he decided to position G iii Sports to bring back the Starter brand.
“I talked to the title holder and the brand [Starter] was pretty dormant,” Banks said. “It was being sold in Walmart, and people didn’t think I would be able to reestablish the brand on a major level. But I knew the affinity people had for the brand and that when we established it as a brand that’s back it really took off.”
He doesn’t, however, think that his experiences playing for Super Bowl teams is unique to him. Banks says that young athletes can take the lessons taught by sports and apply them to their own passions.
He said, “I tell athletes at every stage of their career that sports have so many lessons that you can carry with you. Myself, playing at the highest level, dealing with adversity, playing under duress, making decisions under duress are lessons useful in any walk of life.”