I've been watching the NBA Playoffs during the last few weeks. Apart from the action on the court, the stylistic sideshow has been interesting, to say the least. Here, then, are a few notes, thoughts and random asides regarding the sartorial tsunami that has threatened to overtake the action on the hardwood.
(1) On the catwalk, on the catwalk, I do my little turn on the catwalk . . .
Once upon time, the NBA began the tradition whereby NBA superstars were shown entering the stadium and making their way to their respective locker rooms. My earliest memory of this tradition was of watching one Larry Joe Bird arrive at the Boston Garden, clad in his tight work out shirts and extra small hooded sweatshirt, black Converse weapons laced up and ready to go. If memory serves me correctly, the outfit was topped off with a mesh trucker's hat.
Oh, how times have changed.
When the league announced a dress code would be implemented a few years ago, it was not in response to players like Bird showing up as if, you know, he had been or was about to play basketball. The new rules were in direct response to the baggy pants and throwback jersey look. While some attempts to dress "properly" are still falling woefully short, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the overall sense of style across the NBA has not improved dramatically in the last 5 years. The sheer number of players who have moved away from the 5-button "Kings of Comedy" -era monstrosity to "traditional" suiting would seem to be evidence enough of a general trend in the right direction.
This natural progression has culminated in the NBA's version of a Paris fashion show runway - the pre-game arrival and televised strut, as it were, from the team bus or custom Maserati to the locker room. TNT, ABC, and ESPN will literally cut away from live action in another game or, even better, employ a split screen technique so the viewer can watch the playoff action while tracking his or her favorite player as said athlete prances around the bowels of [place name of corporate entity here] arena.
In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, here are a few examples.
Extra points to Kobe Bryant for the George Raft-like three-piece suit with peak lapels.
I'm not a big fan of the monochromatic tie/suit combination, but he is showing some cuff
and the subdued pocket square in white is a nice touch. Extra, extra kudos for the elegant travel bag.
I'm not sure who this is, but extra points for looking beyond the camera while doing his thing.
The Nike dufflebag needs to go, but I'm a sucker for a three-piece so it's all good.
(2) NBA Action is Faaantastic! (Or, how I learned to stop worrying and dress like a maniac)
Lest we think there isn't room for improvement amongst some of the NBA's upper echelon players . . .
Not to flog a dead horse, but I think some of these outfits can best be explained away as misguided attempts to be fashionable rather than stylish. Fashion changes from season to season while style is timeless - or so the saying goes. But, really, why not keep it simple: does your outfit pass what I'll call the Tardis test? Meaning, if you walked out of a red British phone booth 50 years in the past or future, would you be arrested or committed based solely on what you're wearing?
If the answer is yes, then you're outfit is in fashion my friend!
(3) Man, I Love This Game!
(Or, wait, some of these guys are actually exhibiting an evolving sense of style)
Of course, one can always take an image and critique a outfit from head to toe. But the point here isn't that NBA players are have impeccable taste and are immaculately attired at all times. Quite the contrary. The point is that some are becoming less concerned with what is currently in vogue and more concerned with classic men's style. Yes, Lebron's pants might be too long and Chris Bosh's shoes have a bit too much burnishing at the toe box. And the button placements on these shoes seem a bit too high. But these are classic two button suits - this is a major step in the right direction.
(4) Flagrant Foul (Or, the curious case of the double-breasted capri suit)
Much ado has been made in the last few days about Dwayne Wade's double-breasted capri suit, worn the other night in Chicago during his most recent pimp walk. Again, the willingness to experiment is commendable, but there are a lot of things going on here. To begin with, this doesn't appear to be a suit. The jacket looks to be a navy color while the slacks are black. Perhaps in person the colors are easier to differentiate. If that wasn't enough however (see the image below), both the jacket and pants appear to have a polka dot pattern.
In theory, I have to admit that the idea of wearing a capri suit in Miami makes some sense. If you're main concern is combating the oppressive heat, a linen capri suit is certainly an intriguing idea. But the double-breasted cut to the jacket will only make the wearer warmer, due to the extra flap of fabric at the front. So you have pants designed to make you cooler, paired with a jacket that will make you warmer. Practically speaking, this outfit just doesn't make any sense. Wade apparently wore this outfit in Chicago, so perhaps the temperatures were not a factor.
In my opinion, I thought the loafers were a bit dressy for the outfit. I think a polo suede or chestnut calf would have hit the spot. Of course, ashy ankles are always a no-no, but easily rectified. Major points to Wade for employing someone to carry his white duffflebag, in order to allow his catwalk stroll to continue unimpeded.
In case you didn't know, I love this game.
[Watch Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neal make fun of Wade here.]