A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Rise of the Blank Slates II: Ruminations on the NBA's Style Etiquette Presentation for Rookies

The Best Dressed Player in the NBA - Regis Philbin would certainly approve.

Building upon our previous discussion of the inherent paradox whereby certain individuals who happen to play professional basketball in the NBA apparently also have entire outfits mailed to them by a stylist - certainly no crime in and of itself - something of a conundrum begins to take shape when so-called "men's style" magazines such as Esquire then market said NBA players as so-called "style icons" (you can see our original post on the rise of the blank slates here). Certainly, if you want to consider the stylist an "icon" in that field, have at it. But to say that a grown man who has his clothing packaged and mailed to his home address - bringing new meaning to the term ready-to-wear - is also following in the steps of Cary Grant, Gianni Agnelli, or the Duke of Windsor? It all seems a bit much.

Lest you think I don't find NBA action faaantastic, this seems like a good time to point out that I have found some positive things to write about when it comes to the NBA and the somewhat unique position that its players, coaches, etc. hold in the world of men's style. This past season, Coach Jason Kidd wore Isaia suits to notable effect, and Miami's former Big Three often express a keen sense of appreciation for classic men's style (see here and here). However, it seems that when preparing the next generation of "style icons," the NBA would perhaps do well to consider style etiquette as prescribed by a magazine  with a more timeless ethos when considering what classic style is and can be. In the end, the difference will be a player that still appears well-dressed 5, 10, or even 20 years from now, as opposed to one that will look fashionable but outdated in 6 months time. For simplicity's sake, think of the varying style advice one might receive from The Rake, as opposed to Esquire or GQ.

So, with all of that in mind, a brief review of some of the points made by an NBA fashion consultant, a GQ "executive stylist"  and others, as live tweeted by Sarah Lyall of the New York Times.

The Good:

Every NBA gentleman should have a peacoat, a baseball jacket, a raincoat and an overcoat in his closet, apparently.

I'm not sure about the baseball jacket, but a peacoat, a raincoat, and an overcoat is pretty sound advice. Of course, there are probably 8-10 types of coats that could be classified as "overcoats" (polo coat, raglan coat, a chesterfield, etc.), so you'll probably need some follow-up on this one. But its good as far as it goes.

If you can't articulate how you want your clothes to look, cut a picture out of a magazine.

At first, I thought this was setting someone up to walk into a tailor's premises and look like a moron. Or that perhaps this was the type of advice that a female stylist would give, equating an image of a well-dressed man in a magazine with a young lady walking into a hair salon and saying she wants her hair done like Angelina Jolie in a photo from Us Weekly.

However, its  not a terrible idea. And I have heard of people bringing in stills from a film and saying he would like a coat done this way or that. Of course, the key here would be the magazine, wouldn't it? Show up at your tailor's with The Rake or Men's Ex and you're probably in good hands.

Sportspeople should have good relationships with their tailors. 

Another vague piece of "advice" that is true as far as it goes.Of course, everyone should aspire to a good relationship with his/her tailor. However, so much of the other advice offered to these young men seems designed to almost ensure that one does not have much more than a paying relationship as a famous customer with the tailor (ie "No, I'm pretty sure I can wear the black pants with the blue blazer" or "I just want to dress the cargo pants up and I'm good to go" - see below under The Ugly).

"This is extremely important. Every one of you must have a navy suit, must have a black suit, must have a gray suit."

This is actually decent advice. If you're building a wardrobe from the ground up, purchasing suits in staple colors such as gray and navy is a good idea. From there, you can work on pairings accessories such as black or brown shoes, blue or white shirts, ties, etc. As far as the black suit goes, leave that for morticians and the Broadway version of Reservoir Dogs opening at the Roundabout Theatre this fall.

The Just Plain Bad

There are four dress shirts that every gentleman must have in his closet.

Honestly, after a plain white shirt and a plain blue shirt, I have no idea what the other two "must have" shirts would be.

You can wear the navy blazer with the black pants.

I suppose anything is possible but you really shouldn't.

There are many ways of dressing up a cargo pant.

I'd love to hear just one.

It is good to wear an expensive watch. Along the same vein, the GQ editor pointed out that when NBA gentlemen leave the house, they should throw on an expensive watch and maybe a signature fragrance.

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering his newly enriched audience, the GQ man seems to be confusing price with quality (although I really doubt he's actually confused about what he's doing). What is expensive is probably relative, which will be confusing to a young man who up until a few months ago was not a person of means. To that young man, a Donald Trump watch might be considered expensive. As would the vintage 1947 Longines, or the brand new Breitling or Patek Phillippe. Which one is the right one for him? Alas, he'll never know because they're all expensive, so any one will do. Unfortunately for him, he's probably only familiar with the Donald Trump brand.

The Downright Ugly

If you don't say something when someone's pants are hanging off your behind, that person might be the person who ends up robbing and killing you. 

I'm not even sure where to begin with this one. It sounds highly offensive and racist, but hey, maybe that's just me. If the owner who told his goomah to keep the black men she was sleeping with out of his arena was banned for life, I'm not sure what kind of punishment this sort of statement should merit. But then again, if no one batted an eye when the style expert sounded off, then it wasn't offensive.

If you come to an interview with your pants hanging off you behind, you probably won't get a good post-NBA job. 

Ouch. Allen Iverson called and wants his post-playing career opportunities back.

Do not use the same Irish Spring soap under your arms that you use on your face.

I assume the stylist meant to say that you should only use Irish Spring's Aloe Vera version on your face. The original version is just fine for under the arms and private parts.

At one point, GQ's "executive stylist" apparently stated rather definitively that "NBA players are style icons." Perhaps what he meant to say is that some NBA players are aspiring style icons. A certain income does not a style icon make. But the worst part of this mentality is that the players are ultimately being deprived of the enjoyable experience of learning how to dress classically for all occasions. There seems to be a mentality - which is certainly strange to see from a stylist from a magazine like GQ - that putting together an outfit comprised of color and fabric combinations borne from trial and error and experimentation is something to be assigned to an assistant, or to be gleaned from a review of your notes of what GQ's stylist had to say on the subject. That does sound like a terrible way to become acquainted with the nuances of how to dress - I probably wouldn't want to be bothered either.

At another point, Shabazz Napier of the Miami Heat apparently asked, "Do we need to buy lots of stuff or just basic items?" A great question, but one fears that he was given an answer like "just make sure the watch is expensive," or "just make sure that you have a pair of cargo pants and you're all set," or the instance classic, "Just take the pants from the black suit and the jacket from the navy suit and bam." Wouldn't it be more interesting and informative for Mr. Napier to be introduced to different cuts of suits and shirt collars and let him experiment and ultimately decide what works for him? Instead of deciding for him and then shipping the supposedly perfect outfit to him via overnight mail?  The stylist is essentially taking all of the joy out of the process of learning how to dress well, and is probably being compensated very well to do so, with the young man entering into the Faustian bargain of being dressed by another adult at the age of 25 while ironically being labeled a "style icon" by said stylist and his/her marketing partners. The young man may or may not become a style icon, but he may just end up being a young man with a flair for style who doesn't actually need to be dressed by someone else - terrible news, indeed, for the men (and women) behind the supposed new style icons of the NBA.

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