ATLANTA Darion “Spoon” Weatherspoon is a tough-as-nails defensive back for the Clark Atlanta University Panthers football team. But there’s something else about this 20-year-old Las Vegas native, which puts him in a league all by himself. Darion is the first and only CAU football player and, as far as we can tell, the nation’s only HBCU football player currently majoring in fashion design. He’s just as good with a needle and sewing machine as he is with a football and a pair of cleats. And he’s known among his teammates and classmates for his extraordinarily dapper wardrobe.
“As a child my mom always made me dress sharp,” said Darion, with a proud grin. “She wouldn’t let me wear shorts or sweatpants in public.” Those lessons from his childhood are definitely paying off now.
He is one of hundreds of CAU students now majoring in fashion. “We have seen significant growth in the fashion merchandising and design major, according to Professor Christopher Hickey, interim chair of the Dept. of Art at CAU. Five years ago there were 170 fashion majors at CAU. Today nearly 220 students are studying in the field. Hickey attributes the steady growth pattern to reality TV shows about the fashion industry. And it helps that Atlanta is considered a major fashion hub, a huge draw for prospective students.
Hickey wasn’t surprised to learn Darion is considered the only HBCU football player majoring in fashion design. He said not many black colleges and universities offer a fashion major. But that might soon change as more HBCUs recognize the growing popularity of the program. “It fits into President Johnson’s mantra of education to employment,” Hickey continued.
Darion is a tailor’s apprentice at Gary Franzen Custom Clothing back in his hometown. And even though he didn’t pick up a needle and thread until he was 17, Darion said he knew at an early age he wanted to design suits. “As a young boy I developed a fascination with suits and I wanted to wear them all the time,” he said.
His career goal to own and operate a custom tailor shop used to be the source of many good-spirited jokes among his Panthers football teammates. Some of his fellow athletes didn’t think fashion design was masculine enough. Then they realized how serious he is about it, and how lucrative a career it is. “They told me whatever I do, be the best at it,” Darion explained. Now his friends look to him for style tips, and even to request custom creations.
Besides being the next big name in the world of luxury suits, Darion maintains a 3.5 GPA. He is also a social media guru. In his spare time, he manages the Twitter account for the CAU Center for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, not to mention his own robust personal account.
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“I believe every young man should dress like a respectable man,” Darion concluded. “My aim is to inspire other young men to dress like me and remain a gentleman at all times.”