How a 25-year-old former faculty baseball participant turned a number one designer for girls's sports activities stars

  • John Thomas is an up-and-coming designer who has made waves on this planet of girls’s sports activities.
  • The 25-year-old has created items for WNBA superstars, Olympic medalists, and training legends.
  • Thomas informed Insider about his fast ascent and his journey from faculty baseball to the design studio.

John Thomas is shortly changing into the popular designer of girls’s sports activities’ largest stars.

The 25-year-old designer behind “JT Made That” makes clothes — most notably varsity jackets — which have discovered their option to WNBA Drafts and All-Star Video games, the backs of Olympic medalists, and on the small display screen by the use of prominent sportscasters. Thomas has outfitted among the largest names in ladies’s sports activities, from Sue Chook and Alex Morgan to greater than 30 of the top coaches on this yr’s record-setting NCAA event.

However the former faculty baseball participant’s fast rise on this planet of girls’s sports activities hasn’t been a matter of happenstance. He is been diligent about honing his craft, intentional about investing his time in ladies in sports activities, and unwavering in his dedication to connecting with the suitable folks to make all of it occur. 

Thomas (right) with Diamond Miller, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2023 WNBA Draft.

Thomas (proper) and Diamond Miller, the No. 2 total choose of the 2023 WNBA Draft.

Courtesy of John Thomas

Thomas realized in faculty that he was able to commerce a life on the baseball diamond for a life within the design studio

When he first arrived on the College of Southern California’s lush, inexperienced campus within the coronary heart of Los Angeles, Thomas hoped to construct up his already-impressive baseball chops and embark on a profession within the professionals. He suited up for the Trojans that first season and, after hitting .222 over 21 video games, spent the next summer time chasing that dream all the best way to a baseball workforce in Alaska.

It was throughout a stint in one in every of “these actually distant cities the place all you’ve got is baseball” when the LA native “realized that baseball is not one thing I wish to do after college.”

He had some soul-searching to do relating to what, precisely, it was that he did wish to pursue after faculty. Thomas had lengthy been into clothes; he recalled his fascination with the “ridiculous outfits” then-Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder star Russell Westbrook wore all through the 2012 NBA Playoffs.

But it surely took assembly and, shortly thereafter, working beneath NBA player-turned-fashion designer Patrick Christopher for Thomas to understand his calling: the intersection of sports activities and style.

“I met him my sophomore yr and that summer time shadowed him, and that is when it actually began,” Thomas stated.

The ‘2 pandemics’ of 2020 marked a turning level for Thomas

However mere months earlier than he was set to step into the “actual world,” the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and shut every little thing down.

Thomas’ actual ardour — the why behind his work — emerged when the sudden halt pressured him to sit down along with his personal ideas and feelings as an alternative of enjoying what was alleged to be his closing season at USC.

He struggled to proceed on with college, baseball, and style because the “two pandemics [of] COVID and racism” hung over every little thing like a darkish cloud.

“It turned onerous for me to grasp why profitable or shedding a university baseball recreation mattered,” Thomas stated. “You’d be on the subject, you run across the bases probably the most instances, you win the sport. Then you definitely go house and also you see Jacob Blake received shot seven instances within the again.”

wnba jacob blake strike

WNBA gamers take part in an indication after the taking pictures of Jacob Blake.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Pictures

Throughout the sports activities world, gamers, groups, and leagues have been grappling over whether or not to play on.

The WNBA was “on the forefront” of these discussions, as per traditional. And that wasn’t misplaced on Thomas, who discovered a brand new affinity for the league and its gamers years after rising up as a fan of the Los Angeles Sparks.

“I actually recognized with the best way that the WNBA dealt with issues in that their platform and the way they use it to push what’s extra essential than basketball all the time felt extra essential than the video games,” Thomas stated. “Particularly within the bubble or the ‘Wubble,’ all of these issues that occurred that summer time when it comes to activism, the WNBA was on the forefront.”

He cited that 2020 marketing campaign, when the WNBA’s 144 gamers flocked to Bradenton, Florida, to play inside a strict quarantine campus. The athletes devoted that season to Breonna Taylor — the 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed in her house after a trio of Louisville officers botched a no-knock warrant — by sporting her full identify beneath their very own surnames on their jerseys, sporting “Black Lives Matter,” “Say Her Title,” “VOTE!,” and “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor” T-Shirts throughout warmups, and talking out towards the shortage of fees in her high-profile case.

“They’re simply leaders,” Thomas stated. “Who would not wish to be related to actual leaders? I imply, whenever you take a look at Tasha Cloud sitting out that season and forfeiting her wage, you take a look at Maya Moore giving up her profession, you take a look at every little thing that Nneka Ogwumike has executed — these are the those that I wished to be related to.”

“And people are the those that, extra particularly, I wished to speculate my time in.”

wnba breonna taylor

WNBA gamers pay tribute to Breonna Taylor forward of a 2020 recreation.

AP Picture/Chris O’Meara

Thomas laid the groundwork for a fruitful sports activities style profession on the 2021 WNBA All-Star Recreation

Due to his work with Christopher, Thomas knew a lot concerning the design course of. What he did not know was the best way to ingratiate himself into the league he so admired.

“I knew no one within the WNBA; knew no media, no gamers, no coaches, no brokers, no one,” Thomas stated. “I went to [the 2021 WNBA All-Star] recreation on my own, drove to Vegas, and simply stated ‘I am gonna be as social as I can. I am gonna attempt to make as many pals as I can in someday.’”

A kind of soon-to-be pals was Ari Chambers, the do-it-all power behind HighlightHER, the long-lasting catchphrase “The WNBA is so essential,” and numerous different initiatives throughout ladies’s basketball and sports activities at giant. Thomas despatched her a message on Instagram to introduce himself.

“Earlier than I ever met JT, he DMed me and simply actually wished to work with ladies’s sports activities,” Chambers informed Insider. “He was very intentional and express about eager to work with ladies’s sports activities specifically.”


As soon as Thomas went to Las Vegas, he met Chambers and her agent, Erin Kane. After watching the sport from his seat and assembly a couple of gamers, Thomas was able to drive again to Los Angeles.

As a substitute, he bumped into Diamond DeShields. He launched himself, and inside minutes, the then-Chicago Sky star had invited Thomas to hitch her and some pals out in town later that night.

It was a suggestion Thomas would’ve been silly to refuse.

“So I discovered myself out in Vegas with two guys who performed for the Bulls after which 15 WNBA gamers — that was the group,” he stated. “I knew no one, and I had simply met Diamond, so I did not even know her.”

The expertise examined Thomas socially. However the gamers made an effort to incorporate him, he stated, they usually “couldn’t have been friendlier.”

Diamond DeShields.

Diamond DeShields was essential to Thomas’ entry into the WNBA.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports activities

He thought he did not have something to supply them from a style standpoint on the time. However he had a imaginative and prescient and plenty of ardour, based on Chambers.

“JT is not anyone you possibly can ignore,” she stated. “He is persistent; he is constant; he is very, very targeted on his mission of constructing ladies within the sports activities realm really feel seen, amplified, and empowered.”

In a yr, Thomas went from designing giveaways to curating items for the WNBA’s All-Stars

As soon as Thomas had a handful of contacts in and across the league, he knew it was time to kick off his model and discover   a staple piece to set him aside.

At first, he remembered shoppers reaching out for “clothes that wanted to suit very well to look good.” However with out their particular measurements — or the means to go to every consumer in-person — it was tough for Thomas to execute on these requests.

He appeared to avoid challenge by creating a bit that was appropriate for a wide range of sizes and physique sorts. 

That is when former WNBA star Renee Montgomery — now a sports activities broadcaster and half proprietor of the Atlanta Dream — reached out with an ask that doubled as an answer. She received a customized varsity jacket, and Thomas received his signature product.


“The varsity jacket, match clever, may be very forgiving,” Thomas stated. “I might do a small, medium, or giant. They’d all technically match, they might simply match totally different.”

“It additionally wanted to be one thing that individuals might see a number of instances in a row, in a brief span of time, and understand it is from the identical particular person,” he added. “And so I believe the jacket checks all these containers.”

Shortly thereafter, Thomas began making jackets for most of the pals he’d made that fateful evening in Las Vegas. He’d present up, give them the garment without charge, and say “If you wish to put on it, that’d be nice. If you wish to submit it, that is even higher.”

Chambers — the recipient of a type of early giveaways — remembers being struck by Thomas’ consideration to element.

“I began seeing him at each ladies’s sports activities or ladies’s basketball tent pole occasion, and he handed me a customized jacket that he had made me unprovoked, simply random, and knew my sizes,” she stated. “He simply actually pays consideration to folks’s private model and makes every little thing customized to them, and I believe that is actually cool.”

John Thomas and Taylor Rooks pose with one of his custom varsity jackets.

Thomas (left) and broadcaster Taylor Rooks pose with one in every of his customized varsity jackets.

Courtesy of John Thomas

Quickly, he was getting paid requests from gamers he did not have private relationships with.

WNBA gamers, NCAA Division-I ladies’s basketball coaches, sports activities media personalities, and a few big-name ladies’s sports activities stars outdoors of basketball — together with Alex Morgan and Chloe Kim — have all donned his varsity jackets.

By July 2022, when it got here time for the WNBA All-Star Recreation in Chicago, Thomas was a identified entity within the ladies’s sports activities house. What got here subsequent was, maybe, probably the most surreal second of his younger profession up to now.

Thomas labored with the league to create jackets for every of the All-Stars. He offered them to every participant in-person, and shared the stage with New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu throughout a press convention.

“I did the interview with Sabrina and there was some occasion afterwards and I simply needed to skip it;  I wanted to only go and sit in my lodge and simply ensure that I used to be acknowledging what had gone down that day and the way I felt,” Thomas stated. 

John Thomas poses with A'ja Wilson.

Thomas (left) poses with 2022 WNBA All-Star captain A’ja Wilson.

Courtesy of John Thomas

His subsequent aim is to turn into a ‘inventive director’ for a workforce

Even with WNBA superstars and Olympic legends sporting his work, Thomas does not really feel like he is made it simply but.

Subsequent, he needs to copy a development that is emerged on the lads’s facet of sports activities, the place a number of main franchises have introduced in style designers to function inventive administrators for his or her manufacturers.

The Bulls employed Chicago native Don C — creator of Simply Don — to create merchandise for his or her in-house retail label. The New York Knicks introduced in Ronnie Fieg of Kith for as their first-ever inventive director, whereas the Phoenix Coyotes referred to as in Rhude founder Rhuigi Villaseñor as a inventive strategist.

“So in case you see the place I am going, I wish to try this for a ladies’s workforce,” Thomas stated. “I believe it is a place that is wanted.”



Chambers stated she’s not shocked to see Thomas succeed.

“It is anticipated; anyone who’s that decided; anyone who’s that gifted; anyone who’s that properly related and makes positive he stays current has no alternative however to shine,” Chambers stated.

“All people needs a JT Made That jacket now, so his impression and his affect and his legacy is constructing proper now throughout the house,” she added. “However he is obligatory. He is essential to the mixture of sports activities and style. He is obligatory for the tradition. He is actually liked right here and his impression is already so robust.”