There is only one Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer and New York Knicks legend remains a one-of-a-kind force in the world of broadcasting thanks to his bold, trademark fashion sense which has taken on a life of its own in the age of social media. It’s even carved out its own place on the MSG website — Clyde’s Closet — which documents his unique take on the simple suit-and-tie before each game, including Friday night’s Knicks/Warriors game.
The Big Lead caught up with Frazier by phone earlier this week to talk about fashion, the state of the Knicks and the future of Carmelo Anthony.
TBL: It’s been a terrible winter in the Northeast, so how hard is it not to ruin shoes walking the sidewalks of New York?
WF: I’ve been lucky and haven’t really had to be out in it. We’ve been on the road. I try to get to a corner where I don’t have to mess up my shoes. The good thing about animal shoes, is I have the gator, I have the sting ray, I have the eel, so all of those things live in water. It’s not devastating for them to get wet. To clean the eel you use soap and water. A guy asked how I clean it, just wipe ’em down with soap and water.
TBL: How many pairs of shoes do you currently own?
WF: Right now 60-70 pairs. Eel, gator, Ostrich, Cayman skin. I would have more but the guy stopped making them. I’ve been saving money not having to buy new ones.
TBL: In a given day, how much time do you spend on your clothes and fashion in general?
Today it took me maybe half an hour. When I’m lying in bed, I have a closet where I hang the suits on hangers. I get a shirt, a tie, a pocket handkerchief, that’s how it all evolves. A lot of times I’ll put something up there in the room and I wake up and I’m like, ‘man, that’s terrible.’
Today I have a plaid jacket, a tie, some purple pants, the ostrich boots, a purple pocket square. Today it took me half an hour. Sometimes it takes less.
When I find a good suit and combination I don’t change it and leave that tie with that suit. It saves me time in the future. A lot of times if I wear something and I don’t keep it together I don’t remember what I wore. Keep it simple. A good combination with that suit is how I roll.
TBL: Is there anything you don’t like or won’t wear?
WF: I never know. In the offseason, between 7th and 8th (Avenue) in the 30s and 40s I walk in and out of fabric stores. In and out, in and out. Sometimes I don’t buy anything for weeks. I have so many suits that I need something unique to turn me on. Sometimes I might take a few swatches. That’s how I do most of my shopping in the offseason, walking in different stores. Sometimes it takes me 3-4 hours, but I still might not find things for weeks. Finally I go in the store and I’ll see something I like. It takes a lot of time. Like anything to be good at it you have to put in time. It’s not just going to happen. When people see my outfit, realize I put in lots of time. I’ve been doing this since I was a rookie in 1967. I’ve been into fashion and styling.
A lot of today’s players have stylists. People always ask me who puts you in that? I’m my own stylist, you know. I do this all myself. My shoes, my ties, my belt. Everything is done by me. I take pride in my creativitiy. I like unusual colors. Kind of put together things people think will not work is what I try to put together. My father was a good dresser, so genetically I got it from him. My brother is also into clothes. Ironically, my son is not into clothes. He doesn’t have the knack. When he was little he’d see me. He was always like ‘dad I like that scarf, I like that’ when he grew up he wasn’t into fashion and style.
TBL: Does Walt Clyde Frazier ever sit around in sweatpants and t-shirt?
WF: When I go to the Virgin Islands in St. Croix. That’s all I wear, shorts and t-shirts. That’s why I’m there. First time I visited the island I liked the casual atmosphere. It’s very laid back. That’s one of the reasons I tried to live there. When I’m there I’m into my gardening, working around the house. I never dress up there. I never wear a suit or tie. The only thing I wear is slacks and shirts. It’s a casual lifestyle down there.
TBL: Do any of today’s player’s fashion style impress you?
WF: They compare me to (Russell) Westbrook. I think (Dwyane) Wade has a little creativity. The Knicks, Melo, Amar’e, Shumpert. The thing about basketball players is that they’re like models. They’re tall and slim. No matter what they wear they’re going to look good. You put them in a suit and they’ll look sharp. To me it’s the combination of how they put it together. A lot of guys have the nice suits but they don’t have the shoes. For me it’s head to toe. That’s why they call me Clyde because I started with the wide brim hats, I had the suits. I had the mink coats. I had the gator shoes. So my whole thing is from head to toe. A lot of guys don’t do that. They don’t have the shoes or the ties.
I don’t say I’m maniacal. I used to be maniacal. Playing I was a real clotheshorse. Now I just like to dress up because I’m in the public eye on TV every other night. I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be with the shoes and shirts. I used to get the fabric for the shirts. I designed them and go with the suits. I used to be really into it. Today I just get a lapel and a spread collar shirt. I don’t design the buttons anymore. It was a labor of love back in the day. To me when you feel good you look good and vice versa. That’s why I do it.
TBL: Any thoughts on the Knicks season? Can they make a run for one of the last playoff spots in the East?
WF: They’ve got to figure it out. The problem is the fourth quarter. Like most losing teams they falter down the stretch. They’re not winning the games they should be winning. The erratic play of the Eastern Conference teams, nobody is stepping up. they can still get it together.
TBL: Carmelo Anthony, do you think he’ll re-sign with the Knicks in the summer?
WF: I think he’s coming back. Where’s he going to go? People said Chicago. I don’t think that’s a good fit for him. They’re more of a team. They don’t want one guy dominating the scoring. I don’t think that’s a good fit for Melo. LA? You never know if he has aspirations for Hollywood. You never know with different players. Those would be the only two teams I’d think he’d consider. I think he’ll stay in New York.
After 2015 (the Knicks) have a lot of money. Amar’e is off. Bargnani, I think, is off. (Anthony’s) a good businessman. People tell me that. The other thing is money. He’ll leave a lot of money on the table leaving New York. People say he has a lot of money but so does Bill Gates. Everybody still wants to make money. You can’t make enough money. To walk away from 20-30 million to leave New York to go someplace else? When he considers everything he’s going to stay with the Knicks.
TBL: Between Twitter and cell phones and cameras, how many times a day do people want to take a picture with you?
WF: I actually seek it. I go to the Delta Club (in Madison Square Garden). That’s where all the fans are. A lot of the people go to Suite 200 where the celebrities are, it’s more laid back. I like to deal with the fans. I’ve always had this love affair with the fans. I go to the Delta Club to meet and greet and talk basketball. I have my restuarant, Clyde’s Wine and Dine. I did that because I enjoy talking to the fans. You can’t get into meeting and greeting for money. It’s not going to work. You have to really like people and what you’re doing. At this stage of my life I’m still grateful people remember me. they pay so much respect to me for being a Knick player but as a person. they support my restaurant because of that. I feel compelled to give back because of that.
TBL: Have you ever met a fan who’s a better dresser than you?
WF: They try. They know they can’t out-dress the master. It’s what I do. The only limitation is my imagination. I’m my own stylist. They can’t duplicate my head. I’ve got too many years on them. I’ve got a lot of experience that’s what I roll with.