Brooks Proctor, 39, always knew he wanted to combine his love of sport and fashion. He just didn’t know how to do it. Today, he is the founder of PKLR, a pickleball apparel brand based in Los Angeles that he started in late 2018 after seeing a void in the market and wondering, “Why can’t you look dope while you play?”
We caught up with Proctor just before the holiday season to learn how he discovered the sport and what his hopes are for his clothing line and new collection.
PROCTOR ARRIVED IN LOS ANGELES in 2006 from his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, where he did a stint as an art teacher. At the time, he was teaching robotics and coaching basketball at private high schools. “My students all think I could have been in the NBA,” he says adding, “but I’m five-foot-eleven and 165 pounds soaking wet.” Still, the kids he continues to teach weren’t entirely wrong: He has an all-star lineup of friends and is a private basketball coach, with such notable clients as former and current NBA stars Earl Watson, Baron Davis, Matt Barnes, Ryan Hollins, and Chris Paul, as well as J. Cole, Marlon Wayans, and Drake.
GROWING UP IN A FAMILY of seven kids, money was tight. So to outfit himself stylishly, Proctor shopped in thrift stores and borrowed from friends’ closets. That improvising paid off when as an adult he taught himself to use a sewing machine and started a line of streetwear in 2011 called Square Bear. Without that experience, Proctor says he might not have recognized the opportunity around pickleball.
“I LOVE PLAYING,” Proctor says of pickleball, which he started playing in March 2018. He was quickly hooked on the community aspect. “I go down and sit at the Santa Monica courts and have never met anyone I don’t like.” He noticed, however, that it was such a new sport no one really knew what to wear to play—or how to show their affinity for the sport off the court. “A lot of the clothing was very wacky. A pickle playing pickleball. That’s not really my swag,” he remembers thinking. “I asked myself, ‘What can I bring to the culture of the game?’”
A lot of the clothing was very wacky. I asked myself ‘What Can I bring to the culture of the game?’”
IN NOVEMBER 2019, Proctor took about 30 pieces he had designed with a palette of just black, white, and a pop of green to a tournament. “I was just trying to make things cool,” he says. The enthusiastic response convinced Proctor that he had a winner. He first focused on off-court apparel, hoping to jump-start conversations about a sport that was still unknown to many, and he recently released a new collection sporting the phrase If You Know, You Know, reflecting the evolution of the sport. Next, he says, he’s looking to design moisture-wicking shirts, wrist bands, and skirts.
PROCTOR CALLS HIMSELF “a Midwest boy who has never met a stranger” and hopes his line reflects his friendly, inclusive demeanor. “My brand is for everyone, man, so load up your cart!” he says, adding that he “believes in the vision” behind PKLR and is confident “this thing is going to be a success.”
PROCTOR IS DIPLOMATIC when responding to whether basketball or pickleball is his favorite sport.“Basketball is my first love,” he says, before adding, “But pickleball has become my mistress overnight.”
Proctor’s new collection includes products with the phrase If You Know, You Know, reflecting the sport’s evolution