A Campus In Style: NBA’s high fashion culture
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 22:02
The NBA has always produced some of the biggest superstars in sports. Jordan, Shaq, Magic, Bird, Lebron, Kobe and Dr. J are just a few of the household names that the NBA has produced in the past 30 years. I’d even argue that among team sports, the NBA also produces the most marketable and media-friendly stars. The nature of the game and the small structure of teams allows each player to construct their own individual persona, both on and off the court. So why have current NBA players taken this spotlight and opportunity to mean that they can dress as ridiculously as they want?
If you’ve paid any attention to basketball in the last 5 years or so, you’ll have noticed that player apparel off the court has continually gotten tighter, more expensive, and more “experimental.” This new fashion identity was kickstarted mainly by players like Dwayne Wade, Russell Westbrook, Tyson Chandler, James Harden, and Lebron James. Whether arriving to the arena before games begin or during a post-game press conference, this new wave of NBA talent has been caught sporting red framed glasses, combat boots, capri pants, denim vests, and leather sweatpants among other garments. What started this affinity for high fashion and new trends among the NBA elite?
David Stern, then and current commissioner of the NBA, was never a huge fan of “hip-hop” culture. To be fair, he is very traditional in his values and his ideal image for the NBA. Stern is very concerned with the NBA’s publicity and keeping it as professional as possible (The Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004 definitely didn’t help any). In 2005, Stern imposed a dress code for all players, stating that they must be in business or conservative attire, before, during (if injured), and after games. Any violators of this dress code are subject to a fine by the league. So no boots, no jerseys, no hats, no jewelry, and no sneakers, all of which were a huge part of the style of many players during that time. The player who proved to be most integral to this controversy was Allen Iverson, who had very strong words for the commissioner. “The dress code is not who I am and doesn’t allow me to express myself,” Iverson said.
NBA players needed to break out of the boring business suits that Stern had backed them into wearing, so naturally they found alternative ways to express themselves. As sports and entertainment culture are closely intertwined, NBA players were drawn to higher, “flashier” fashion choices. Players in the NBA began to resemble musicians such as Kanye West in their style choices. From Kevin Durant wearing a spiked Givenchy t-shirt to Lebron James wearing a pair of En Noir leather sweatpants, NBA players have become inspired by other fashion-forward celebrities to craft their own style. People have gone on record to say that Knicks center Tyson Chandler’s style as resembling both Willow Smith and a spoken word poet. Whether hit or miss, players have found a way to circumvent David Stern’s stranglehold on the league’s image by experimenting with high-fashion. Who knows how much longer polka-dot suit jackets will remain a staple in the league for superstar players, but one thing’s for sure: reporter Craig Sager will always treat his courtside apparel choices like it’s Halloween.