Few things have been mocked quite like the NBA dress code for players put in by former commissioner David Stern.
Stern had hired a Republican consultant to help make the NBA “more red state friendly.” Which sounded a lot like code for making the game less hip-hop, less urban, and less black. It’s a perception in some quarters that the league has tried to battle since the 1970s but mostly rose above because of the transcendent stardom of Magic Johnson/Larry Bird then Michael Jordan. But with those stars gone and the league transitioning a little, Stern leaned on his new consultant. (If you think that has changed in the league, go read Bruce Levenson’s email again.)
One thing to come out of it: A dress code for players as they showed up for games. Players now had to stick with what you’d call a “business casual” attire: no more baggy jeans and T-shirts. No more hip-hop look. That code is still in place.
Dwyane Wade — now a fashion plate and a guy with his own line of ties — credits the dress code for changing and improving his personal style, something he said in an interview with the Associated Press.
“It was like, `OK, now we got to really dress up and we can’t just throw on a sweat suit,”‘ he said. “Then it became a competition amongst guys and now you really got into it more and you started to really understand the clothes you put on your body, the materials you’re starting to wear, so then you become even more of a fan of it….
“Obviously sometimes we push the envelope, and I think it’s because we’re athletes,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re not looked at as guys who should wear certain things. Being flamboyant is being OK.”
I don’t think you can overestimate the competition part here — professional athletes are competitive at everything. On the court, playing cards on the plane, driving cars, you name it and they try to best each other. Clothing became part of that — “we have to dress up more, so now I’m going to look better than any of you.” Not everyone plays the game (Chris Kaman, we’re looking at you) but plenty do.
That leads to some… let’s say interesting fashion choices at times. But it kind of works for them, in part because they are young and rich. Like a lot of aspects of life, if you wear (or have) something that seems ridiculous on the surface but it was expensive and made by a famed designer then worn by the athletic and attractive, somehow it becomes okay. Even trendy. At least that’s my explanation for what Russell Westbrook or Nick Young pull out fashion wise sometimes — if I wore some of those shirts I’d be up for understandable derision. But on them it kind of works. Same with glasses without glass.
Wade’s style is a little more classic than that, and he’s one of the league’s clothing stars. He’s talked fashion in GQ.
And I guess we can thank Stern for that.
(Hat tip to Mr. Fashion Eric Freeman of Yahoo Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie)