Roy Williams is a member of a select pantheon of college basketball coaches known for interesting fashion choices.
Raleigh clothing company Peter Millar is responsible for many of the Hall of Fame coach’s looks, including the colorful striped sweater he wore to a Thursday press conference ahead of Saturday’s Duke-UNC game.
When asked about the quarter-zip sweater in stripes of what appeared to be Carolina Blue, pink, white, brown, gray and a darker shade of blue, the UNC coach said “People need to get a helluva lot better things to do.”
But he took the time to talk about his affection for sweaters, especially colorful ones.
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“I like sweaters, I really do,” Williams, 67, said Thursday. “None of you suckers got on a tie.”
“I like playing golf, I like sweaters when it’s cool,” he said. “My back bothered me for several years so I wore more sweaters just to warm up my back. It’s comfortable. I like being warm. I don’t mind colors. Some guys get on me about all the pink I wear.”
Williams said he got the striped sweater in late summer and has worn it a few times. He said he has another one like it, too.
Peter Millar CEO Scott Mahoney said the striped sweater was created with Williams in mind.
“He loved a similar sweater of ours, so our design team created this and called it ‘coach’ for him,” Mahoney said in an interview with The News & Observer on Thursday.
Before each season, Mahoney said Williams sits down with a Peter Millar team to talk about his likes, dislikes and requests for game-day outfits and more. The company designs and creates some of Williams’ famous plaid sport coats, pinstripe suits and even his golf attire.
Perhaps Williams’ best-known clothing designer – also responsible for the team’s famous argyle uniforms – is Alexander Julian.
Julian’s is a Chapel Hill haberdashery founded in 1942 by UNC graduate Maurice Julian, operated by UNC graduate Missy Julian, then by UNC attendee and uniform designer himself, Alexander Julian. Alexander Julian designs are responsible for the sport coats and ties Williams wore for all three North Carolina national championships and semi-final appearances and are featured in the Carolina Basketball Museum, Julian said in an email to The News & Observer on March 6.
“I don’t even know if he knows we named the sweater for him,” Mahoney said, laughing. “That makes it even better.”
Williams does love color, though, Mahoney said.
“It’s almost like the more outlandish it is, the more he likes it – sometimes the louder the better,” he said. “He says his players like it when he wears clothes that can be a little out there.
But Williams’ competitiveness comes out in his clothing choices, Mahoney said.
“He’s very superstitious, so that’s a challenge we have.”
If the Tar Heels have a bad game, you might never see a particular plaid sports coat again, Mahoney said. But if he’s wearing one for a big win, it might become a favorite, and it might inspire future designs.
“He’s funny though,” Mahoney said. “When you sit with him, he’s just a happy guy and he’s very generous with his time. He’s a great friend of the brand and we’re happy he loves our clothing.”
As for what Williams typically gravitates toward on the fashion front, Mahoney said there are “clearly things he likes and doesn’t like.
“We’ve tried to get him in some flat front pants and that’s been a bit of a challenge,” Mahoney said, laughing.
The company is honored to partner with a coach Mahoney says shares its values.
“His passion for his players and the game really embodies the same things we value and how we treat our team here, Mahoney said. “He’s a real inspiration to us. He loves his players and his players love him.”
When asked if the coach sweater is a big seller, Mahoney said only, “It’s about to be.”
UNC faces Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
A new Twitter account was created in honor of the sweater on Thursday, @DaggumSweater.
Luke DeCock contributed to this report.