Tuff Crowd Is the Best Athlete-Created Clothing Line in Pro Sports

The former NBA star is finding success in fashion

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Andrew Toth/Getty Images

Brandon Jennings has always defied convention to traverse a path true to his instincts. Throughout his pro career, which included nearly a decade in the NBA and stops in Italy and China, Jennings became a beloved figure for his larger-than-life personality and foundational path to success. Much of the same can be said of his budding streetwear label, Tuff Crowd. Its rising stature in streetwear is far from traditional. Yet finding success through traditional avenues has never been Jennings’ thing. 

That mindset began to show itself more than a decade ago when the Compton native was among the first prep stars to play basketball professionally overseas in lieu of the traditional one-and-done tour in the NCAA. Jennings was quickly marked by many as an amateur athlete gone rogue, when in fact he was a confident young trailblazer maneuvering a flawed system. His move followed the advice of another freethinker, Sonny Vaccaro, a fierce combatant of the NCAA and its hard stance of not paying its athletes. Jennings ventured to Italy fresh out of high school and later to China between spells in the NBA. That international exposure would prove influential to Tuff Crowd, informing a minimalistic aesthetic often seen throughout Europe with a dash of Eastern flamboyance. 

Jennings’ long-term post-hoops strategy, the mysterious and smartly restrained Tuff Crowd, is largely akin to his singular and very strategic entry into the NBA. Albeit unconventional, diving into fashion wouldn’t be for Jennings if he did so by ceding power to the industry itself. To our knowledge, he hasn’t taken on any investors or paid through the nose for advertising or sponsors. Much of Tuff Crowd’s charm has been formed through its edgy Instagram page that offers a crash course in guerrilla marketing.

Still, it’s easy for some to distill Jennings’ label as just another attempt from a basketball player to generate a secondary revenue stream or gain a foothold in a global market with the fame afforded from a pro career. What places Tuff Crowd left of that sentiment is what bubbles beneath the surface. Sure, some of the NBA’s most stylish players like Kelly Oubre Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Trevor Ariza and even celebrities like Chris Brown are wearing the brand—a marketing victory that no full-page magazine ad or well-positioned billboard can match—but more pointedly, the messaging of the consequential label speaks to Jennings’ personal complexities. Athletes and entertainers are gifted clothing daily, almost all of which they never wear. They’re choosing to wear Tuff Crowd not just because it’s thoughtful and raw, but because Jennings is someone they can identify with. His vulnerability bleeds through the line, exposing widely felt struggles with sustained mental health, self-love and positivity.

As one would expect from a basketball player’s foray into streetwear, much of Tuff Crowd to this point has been centered around T-shirts, shorts and sweats. Nearly uniform in monochromatic black and white tones, an inherent West Coast feel leaps from the earliest collections. Jennings’ roots are embedded within the line similar to the adjacent Honor the Gift, another player-generated label from California native Russell Westbrook. What the two lines have in common they equally house in distinction. Westbrook’s label is indicative of his bravado and flash on and off the court. All the same, Tuff Crowd mirrors Jennings’ street savvy and the full weight of Compton he so effortlessly embodies. 

Jennings continues to thrive through defiance. Tuff Crowd proves his way is always a road well taken.

Related: These Are the Greatest NBA Offseason Outfits

Related: These 5 NBA Stars Need Signature Shoes ASAP

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