Be it during the preseason, the regular season or the off-season, Zaza Pachulia is always in fashion.

By Jon Cooper

If ever there was a case of clothes make the man, it is Hawks center Zaza Pachulia.

On the basketball court, where everyone looks pretty much the same -- there's a reason players' outfits are called uniforms -- it takes something special to establish one's individuality. Pachulia has done that with his dogged determination on the offensive and defensive glass.

Displaying that individuality off the court can be as difficult.

Pachulia has made his mark there using the same characteristics that have led to his on-court success: patience, attention to detail and commitment.

Hawks fans have seen the impact he has made in games. What they may not have seen is the fashion statement he has made in the locker room.

"When I'm dressed nicely and when I feel good, I play well and my day is going good," he said. "It's kind of crazy but it's how it is."

"I dress to feel good about myself," he added. "I'm not trying to show off and have people talk about `how nice he dresses.'"

That his teammates do so is a tribute to him.

"The best dresser? I'd probably say Zaza," said rookie Salim Stoudamire. "He's always got the Armani suits, stuff like that, with the little shoes that point up in the air."

"He dresses very nicely," agreed fellow rookie Marvin Williams. "He's a very classy guy. He carries himself with class and he dresses with class."

It's not just the rookies who belong to the Zaza fashion admiration society.

"It's not like guys put in a whole lot of time and effort. Zaza does," pointed out second-year swingman Josh Childress, who in his short NBA career has already shared a locker room with such sharp dressers as Antoine Walker and Tony Delk. "He's the only guy that does. He got the nickname "Gucci man" (Childress credited center John Edwards for the monicker) because everything has to be Armani and Gucci and he has to have the accessories."

Do not, however, get the impression that Pachulia is some kind of prima donna with one eye in the mirror at all times. He is simply dedicated. That same dedication that leads him to take charges and trade elbows with some of the planet's largest men in pursuit of offensive and defensive rebounds fuels his never-ending off-the-court pursuit of the perfect wardrobe.

"Shopping is my hobby," he said. "Shopping and fashion, it's what I love to do. If it's something nice I really don't care about the price."

His free-spending and tireless "hobby" caught the attention of Jezebel magazine, which sent a reporter to chronicle Pachulia as he made his way around Buckhead's Phipps Plaza (see page 60 of the April issue) -- not the place for those on a shoestring budget.

Amongst the stores he frequented that day were Giorgio Armani Boutique, and, of course, Gucci.

"Everything is for myself, for me to feel good," he said. "It's kind of selfish, but you only live once. So I've decided to make myself happy."

While teammates will sometimes ask Pachulia for fashion advice, none have been brave enough to accompany him on a junket to Phipps.

"No, I haven't," said Williams. "Me and Z.P., we don't really dress the same. I really like his style on him but I don't think it would look good on me."

Stoudamire laughed when asked about riding shotgun with Pachulia on a shopping spree but then admitted he would make the trip on one condition.

"If he's paying."

Jon Cooper is a freelance writer based in Atlanta