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Jim Boeheim’s tailor isn’t mad about the Syracuse head coach’s shift from sport coats to quarter-zips. He isn’t mad that Boeheim probably won’t be buying specially-made sport coats lined with photos of the Carrier Dome or the Boeheim family to wear on gamedays. And he isn’t mad that he’ll no longer be able to see his handiwork displayed whenever he turns on a Syracuse game on TV.
“Right now, he’s a little bit more comfortable on the court,” said Boeheim’s tailor, Peter A. Roberti of Adrian Jules in Rochester, explaining that he wouldn’t try to convince Boeheim to switch back to sport coats. “Each guy’s got their own unique style. We’re never one to push anybody in one way or the other.”
Before the beginning of the season, Boeheim stood on the podium after an exhibition game and looked down toward the navy blue quarter-zip he was wearing with the Syracuse logo on the right side of his chest and the Nike logo on the other side.
“This is what you got. This is it,” Boeheim said, referencing the more casual attire he’d be wearing for the season. Thus far, he’s stuck by that, appearing from the tunnel each game day in a quarter-zip that has varied from white to gray to navy blue. He typically wears polo shirts underneath as well as sweats or track pants.
For decades, basketball coaches have worn suits on the sidelines. But when the NBA laxed its suit-wearing mandate in the COVID-19 bubble, the results trickled down into NCAA basketball during the 2020-21 season and have continued on through this season. Boeheim said at the start of the year that the Atlantic Coast Conference’s coaches — along with the Big Ten’s — voted unanimously to stop wearing suits. As the regular season nears an end, he confirmed via Zoom that he does not miss wearing them.
“Somebody’s mad at me, but this is it,” Boeheim said with a laugh on Nov. 1, presumably referencing his tailor (who is, in fact, not actually mad at him). “It’s so much better for me. This is the way I coach at practice everyday. They’re comfortable. There’s no comparison.”
For years, Boeheim has purchased formal attire from Adrian Jules. Former Syracuse basketball players like Billy Owens and John Wallace were originally customers, and the store drew Boeheim as a result, said Peter E. Roberti, the son of the company’s founder Adriano Roberti and the father of Boeheim’s current tailor, Peter A. Roberti.
Juli Boeheim, the SU head coach’s wife, said she first saw Boeheim in an Adrian Jules suit shortly after she met him in 1994. Juli was nervous because Boeheim was going to meet her family for the first time at her sister’s wedding. But when he showed up in a blue suit that had a sheen to it and subtle pinstripes, Juli could tell Boeheim splurged on what she thinks was one of his first suit purchases.
“He was kind of still wrestling with the price tag,” Juli said with a laugh. “(But) it was a great looking suit. … It was really unique and definitely something you noticed. It wasn’t flashy but it was just so good looking. Pulled out all the stops.”
Today Coach Boeheim tossed off his jacket lined with pictures of him tossing off his jacket pic.twitter.com/OL9BKlERdB
— AlexandraMoreo (@AlexandraMoreo) January 12, 2020
There was a window of time where Peter E. lost touch with Boeheim, he said, but about a decade ago, Boeheim returned as a customer. Since, it’s primarily been Juli working with Peter A. to choose her husband’s clothes.
Both Juli and the Robertis described Boeheim’s fashion style as simplistic. His “signature” was a contrasting orange buttonhole on the sleeves of his jacket to match Syraucse’s colors, Peter A. said. There was a time when he wore three-piece suits, but SU suffered a bad loss and Boeheim didn’t want to wear suits anymore. After that, he felt “more comfy” in what Juli referred to as his “uniform”: gray pants and a navy sport coat.
“He wants to look up to date and comfortable and classic,” Peter E. said.
Boeheim used to occasionally make selections in his office with the elder Roberti. But at a certain point, he asked Juli to step in because it was difficult to select between all the fabric and color swatches, Juli said.
Every once in a while, Peter A. texted Juli that he was making the trip down to Syracuse. She’d take an inventory, and if she decided that Boeheim’s closet needed an update, the tailor would stop by the Boeheim house.
Starting during the 1995-96 season, Juli started helping her husband select what he’d wear for each particular game. Eventually, Juli selected everything he’d wear — including socks and shoes — which she said she enjoyed. For road trips, she’d pack the clothes he’d wear for the game and then unpack when he returned.
She labored over the process, selecting multiple items to lay on Boeheim’s packing table before narrowing it down. When people asked why Boeheim never wore orange ties or why Juli herself never wore orange clothing to games, she’d reply that “I don’t feel like it’s worked for us.” Juli said she doesn’t really believe some of the clothing items were lucky — instead, it was more about a “good feeling.”
It’s so much better for me. This is the way I coach at practice everyday. They’re comfortable, there’s no comparison
If Syracuse lost twice while Boeheim was wearing a certain tie, for instance, Juli wouldn’t select it again. That process went all the way down to the socks, though Juli said her husband knew nothing about it.
“It was all me,” Juli said. “I would never bother him with that stuff. He wouldn’t want to know.”
In the early 2010s, the Robertis showed Boeheim some options of sport coats with photos stitched in the lining, one of their first of that style. They showed Boeheim one lined with photos of a record-setting Carrier Dome crowd and he loved it. Juli didn’t know that type of clothing was even possible, but from there, she began to brainstorm other photo-lining ideas. Later, they got one with Boeheim’s No. 35 (that Buddy Boeheim now wears), one with a family photo from the first time Cornell played Syracuse and more.
“You can get a garment anywhere, but when you’re doing this and you’re making it more customized, it’s like there’s more revision,” Peter E. said. “It’s a part of the client that you’re putting into his clothing, so it says exactly what he wants it to say, and it’s a part of his lifestyle.”
Perhaps the most popular one was the jacket lined with photos of Boeheim throwing his jacket. Boeheim’s been tossing his sport coat since the 2014 game in Cameron Indoor Stadium at then-No. 5 Duke where he half ripped off his jacket as he ran down the court in rage.
Since, he continued what turned into a closely-monitored trend, removing his sport coat at a point of “complete frustration,” Juli said. At first, Juli said it made her cringe (she worried whether he would hit someone when he threw it). But over time, she felt that a part of it was Boeheim trying to fire up the Dome crowd, Juli said. Once, he told Juli that “I even threw the jacket and it didn’t work this time” after the streak of jacket tosses leading to victories was snapped.
Feimo Zhu | Contributing Illustrator
Peter A. said that, as a tailor, watching a custom-made coat thrown made him “tingle a little bit,” but the moments were memorable. Clothing is meant to be fun, he said, and it was cool that the jacket toss became something that was added to Boeheim’s story.
“In the spur of the moment of whatever it is, I think it’s a good thing,” Peter E. said. “We probably haven’t been around it, but I’m sure guys have done a lot worse things with their coats.”
SU’s director of basketball operations Peter Corasaniti now sends Juli a text after deciding what the coaches will be wearing on game day since it’s important that they all match. Juli still lays out the quarter-zip and pants on Boeheim’s packing table, but she jokes with Corasaniti that he stole her job.
Boeheim hasn’t bought anything from Adrian Jules in over a year, Juli said, but there’s still off-the-court occasions where he dresses formally. The Robertis know that if Boeheim ever needs to update his wardrobe, he’ll reach out.
Back in November, Boeheim said he’d be willing to “do what Derrick Coleman does” and pay a lump sum for the whole season if the league planned to fine him every time he didn’t wear a suit. Coleman, a former SU forward, wrote the New Jersey Nets a blank check so they could fill in the amount to charge him at the end of the season for refusing to wear a jacket and tie during road games.
Luckily for Boeheim, it hasn’t come to that.
“He just likes quarter-zips, and that’s the way it should be,” Juli said.
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