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The Court of Style

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Out of all sports, there is arguably none so fashion influenced and influential as professional basketball. From the suit and tie 1980’s and 1990’s, to the more hip hop inspired late 90’s and 2000’s, to our current era of high fashion/high personal expression; the past few decades the NBA has been reflection of the sartorial times.

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But why does the NBA have this intimate relationship with fashion that cannot be rivaled by the other Big 4 professional sports leagues? Two main reasons: the Stern dress code, and advertising.

At first glance, the two industries might appear to be on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but a closer look would show that the ties between them are understandable, inevitable even. It should come as no surprise that high fashion luxury brands itch to partner with these stars. Long gone are the days when only active brands like Nike, Reebok etc. sponsored the athletes. Now you are likely to see them endorsing more stylish territory: retailers and brands alike and even collaborating and wearing their own lines. Russell Westbrook has been coined the “Kate Moss of the NBA”.

NBA players have become fashion idols over the last few years, grabbing the attention of fans, magazines and even designers for their outfits. This recent swagger is a far cry for the jerseys, baggy shorts and chains basketball couture used to entail. No other sport builds superstars that fans want to be just like in the way the NBA does. Tune into a Premier League soccer game and you will see the team walking in wearing ill fitting club suits that are standard issue. The reason the NBA now has a catwalk type processjkbvjkbdvkjion into their locker rooms started mainly with the dress code David Stern set forth over ten years ago.

High fashion taps into basketball also due to the huge influence and exposure the NBA scene has. All over Instagram, and the internet at large, you can find pictures of the players walking into the arena before the game, showing what they’re wearing; that is not an accident. They’re not just doing that because it looks cool, they do that because they might get your attention. Not everyone watches the games, but who hasn’t seen some images of Russell Westbrook’s more “unique” looks. NBA players have the social media followings and influence to set trends, market, and leverage a sector the fashion industry still cant grasp… the fashion neutral (read clueless) male.

Throughout history basketball players have been making fashion statements.

60’s

Slick Watts of the Seattle Supersonics, dubbed “the man with the headband” a trend that would persist till current day.

80’s

Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls made the shaved head look a hot hair trend among men.

90’s
The 90’s were influenced by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and it was evidenced by the appearance of colorful hats and shirts buttoned all the way up to the neck, and more ridiculous sunglasses with the flip up circular lenses. During this time there was also an emergence of the power suit. Not everyone took up this look. Notably, John Stockton stuck with his short shorts and as an all time leader in assists and steals inspired many other to keep this long gown trend also. During the 90’s Dennis Rodman also loved to make a spectacle of himself from his dyed hair and outrageous antics and clothing and accessories. He inspired a generation of free thinkers, and those who sought out a way to express themselves through their attire.

2000’s
The early 2000’s signaled a heralding in of the hip hop era in both fashion and the NBA. Iconic players and fashionistas such as Allen Iverson and Jermaine O’Neal made braids, do-rags,tattoos, long chains, and baggy clothing aspirational and mainstream alike. Allen Iverson’s Timberland boots sparked numerous imitators, musical references and created a decade long love affair for the boots. Chris “Birdman” Anderson was one of many who showcased a love for tattoos as a form of wearable art and expression that we still see athletes today emmulating.

Allen Iverson. Photo: Getty Images

SHOES
The basketball shoe industry has become a multi-billion dollar a year industry. From the real start of personalized player sponsored and designed shoes in the 90’s until today it has not only been an “in thing” but a source of revenue and branding outside of their work not the court. For both players and fans, a collection of kicks has become a major hobby.

Dress code implementation
One of the biggest impacts on the NBA and their link to the fashion world was the league-wide dress code introduced by then commissioner David Stern in an October 2005 memo. As the NBA sought to clean up its image during the heyday of the hip hop clothing era this dress code forced players to reexamine the way they expressed themselves as they entered the arena, sat on the sidelines and gave interviews. David Stern created this code aiming to shed basketball of its negative reputation after an embarrassing aesthetic turnout by Team USA Basketball at the 2004 Olympics, The Malice at the Palace, and poorly watched Finals series between the Spurs and Pistons by banning jerseys, snapbacks, do-rags etc. The NBA was the first sports league to do so and it has led to the era we now find ourselves in within basketball: the era of players showcasing themselves, their branding and their opinions and expressions through their sartorial choices.

The dress code – which stated players must wear dress coats, collared shirts and pants to NBA related events off the court took a few years to settle in, but once players got used to it, they began to take their wardrobes to a whole new level. Charles Barkley and Walt Frazier both praised the dress code as a way to show the NBA’s young fans that what you wear matters, especially at your place of employment. The NBA was trying to find its identity in the post Jordan era, and David Stern was not appreciative of how his product was packaged and sold. When players go into the NBA now, it is rare to not employ at least three key personnel: a publicist, trainer, and stylist.

This dress code began the trend of Draft Day fashion as a watchable, enjoyable commentary portal. Joacim Noah’s duds hammed it up during the 2007 draft, and have inspired a slew of others behind him to get in on the action.

Joacim Noah Draft Day 2007

Once the dress code settled in, and then newcomers to the league took it to new levels; business casual requirements quickly escalated to “catwalk ready” and it was time the fashion world took notice. The fashion world can be a notoriously difficult community to crack into, and it was especially hard for players, far from sample size, to convince designers initially to work with them, and then create just for them. At first many PR firms didn’t even know who LeBron James was, despite being debated as the greatest player of all time. Then, in April 2008 LeBron James, and the NBA received a high-end makeover as Anna Wintour placed LBJ on the cover of Vogue magazine. He was the first African American man to appear on the US Vogue cover and despite the controversial nature of the photograph, it was a turning point. The Anna Wintour connection was HUGE. Suddenly the fashion world realized these athletes actually made Adonis type models. At the same time, the economic downturn in 2008 was also hugely influential. Designers were looking for new ways to open up their business, new clients, new markets, and new people to impact and the NBA athletes provided all this, and a coming social media following phenomena that would revolutionize the fashion industry.

The historic – and controversial – March 2008 edition of Vogue: the first to feature a black man on its cover

“Over the past five years, there’s definitely been a push to dress up more”, said NBA stylist Khalilah Willams Webb, who dresses clients like Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay and Brandon Bass. “There’s more competition on and off the court.”

(from left) James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Nick Young last of the Golden State Warriors. (Photos: Getty Images)

Current day
We now live in the time of everything from the basic fashion conscious to the high fashion stars embedded within the basketball community, including the rise of social media style icons such as James Harden and his signature long, thick beard he insists he will never shave. It is not uncommon to be talking about fashion and in the same breath be talking about names like Westbrook, or Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, Lavale McGee, and Dwayne Wade. All players that have been on the front covers of fashion forward publications (GQ, Vogue to name a few) and also walking the red carpet at heavy hitting fashionevents such as the Met Ball, film festivals, awards shows, or even at Fashion Week in fashion capitals Milan, Paris and New York.

Photo: AP

Luke Tadashi said earlier this year, “We’re at a time right now where it’s almost a renaissance, where players are able to express themselves, especially walking through a tunnel [before a game] so they can show you how they look off the court. It’s exciting to see.”

Many players have grabbed attention due to their signature looks. Russell Westbrook is a huge proponent of the “nerddom” style. The trend can also be seen throughout the league; influencing the style statements of Kevin Durant, LeBron James and former teammate Dwayne Wade. Unapologetically flashy, but nerdy-chic clothes paired with thick glasses is their look de rigeur. Nick Young, nicknamed “Swaggy P” for his street style meets high fashion approach is another prime example. Stoudemire built his stylish reputation from a wardrobe full of dapper suits and Kobe Bryant is the self-appointed (aduaciously so) “Valentino of the NBA” as told to GQ magazine. There is a whole culture shift in general of men paying more attention to their clothing, now more than ever, and it helps with the NBA player’s branding.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Photo: Getty Images

As the players have taken on fashion, and the fashion world leaned on the players, naturally heavily influenced are the legions of fans that show up to watch games in person at the arenas. They mimic and are guided by their favorite players in their everyday stylistic choices. From the nosebleed seats to courtside, you will find a wide variety of economic status within the crowd, however, one thing rings true no matter where your seat, fashion is king. From the celebrities who want to be seen in their own designs, or those they are paid to advertise a game provides a much seen, much talked about venue to debut a look. For even the everyday fan, a basketball experience is notably now also a style experience. Whether it is pricey red bottom heels on women on the court, or their male counterparts in Rolexs and designer suits, all the way to athleisure wear or plain khakis a hoodie of course accessorized with headphones (of course, most likely of the Beats variety) the taste in arenas is dictated, set and defined by the athletes everyone watches. It represents an intersectionality between basketball, and the viewer. To another bystander, one who doesn’t follow fashion or basketball, the headphones notated above might seem simply an accessory, but noting the brand means as fans of either or both we have in common one thing: brand awareness and thus recognition, and the further driving of sales that comes from the awareness exponentially increased when associated with the basketball culture and players. The designer collaborations with athletic brands, for example, the NBA players themselves as brand ambassadors or spokespeople or the musical stars such as Kayne West creating covetable collections that mimic the on the court apparel proves that while price and authenticity of items are not relevant, their signified meanings and implications are. Everyone wants to appear fashionable and the NBA players are shaping the conversation on what mainstream deems appropriate, acceptable, desirable and have risen as tastemakers, trendsetters, hipsters and inevitably are seen as mainstream cultures next big thing. When Kevin Durant was seen frequently wearing a backpack as part of his ensemble to press conferences he made them the must have item of the season. Sneakers are acceptable and now commonplace on black tie occasions, and red carpets after players first did it. Givenchy, a storied fashion house has even done a basketball centric collection including jerseys and cryptic basketballs.

Photo: AP

Two things are for sure: basketball and fashion are a link one cannot deny, AND no one wear a hoodie or sweatpants to an NBA game now – unless of course, they are branded.

Basketball

WTF BD – S1 | E1

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Episode 1: Ball Out

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WTF Baron Davis Season 1 has some Curb Your Enthusiasm style with a little influence from Friday. Here’s Episode 1 where @iambarondavis takes @bdotadot5 under his wing in an unusual mentorship program. More episodes coming on the @slic IGTV Channel.

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Lifestyle

Meet Jhoanna Alba: The Woman Behind Your Favorite Athlete’s Style

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In the last decade, fashion has become a dominant factor in professional sports.

Every time an athlete walks into an arena, cameras swarm like it’s a runway show, all trying to get the best shot of what outfit the top players are wearing.

And when those top athletes need their next great outfit, there is one woman they turn to:

Meet Jhoanna Alba, fashion designer for over 1,200 athletes, entertainers, and business executives.

Alba, who was born in the Philippines but has lived her entire life in Los Angeles, discovered her combined love for both fashion and sports at an early age.

“My Mom taught me to sew when I was six years old, and often I would sow as my Dad would have basketball on the TV,” Alba said, as she still considered herself as an avid sports fan.

However, as deep-rooted her love of fashion is, designing was not originally her first choice for a career.

“I originally went to school to become a Pre-School teacher, but since teaching didn’t pay much, I decided to take a job working nights at a rental tuxedo store.”

Alba would pull double shifts, teaching during the day and renting out tuxes during her nights and weekends. However, it would be during this period that her knack for Men’s fashion would develop.

After just a few months, Alba would become the youngest manager in the country of Gary’s Tux Shop chain, and eventually handle all the company’s major Beverly Hills events, including Elton John’s massive fundraisers.

Her work would not go unnoticed, as fashion designer Deion Scott relentlessly pursued her to design custom women’s clothing.

“I was hesitant at first because I loved working for Gary’s, but after six months of calling, I decided it was the best step for my career.”

At just 20 years old, Alba was now designing clothes for the top women of Los Angeles.

One client would be particularly impactful, as she would introduce Alba to a mentor who would change her life forever.

While designing dresses for Cookie Johnson, Alba would meet NBA Hall-of-Famer and Cookie’s husband, Magic Johnson, who asked her to make ten custom suits.

After being blown away by not only Alba’s fashion sense but also her work ethic, Johnson soon connected her to others in his network.

“And the rest is history,” said Alba, who still maintains both a friendship and business partnership with Johnson.

Alba quickly became one of the most sought after designers, known for creating classy custom suits at the drop of a hat.

Throughout her 20+ years in the fashion industry, Alba’s business has grown organically through word of mouth, never spending a dime on formal marketing.

With a unique client base that includes men over 7 feet tall or 300 pounds in stature, Alba enjoys the challenges of designing custom clothes of some of the worlds’ largest men.

“Normally, we’d prefer two weeks for our orders, but we can turn a suit out in less than 48 hours to have our clients ready to go for any event or game they have.”

Alba credits her fast process to owning her own production house, which includes thirty exclusive on-call tailors that are headed up by her mother.

With most clients averaging a shoe size of 16, Alba fills her shoe orders through a Columbian manufacturing plant that is known for much more than just their products.

The plant employs 40 single mothers all from abusive situations who are provided homes and taught Italian shoe craftsmanship as an invaluable skill in the workplace.

In addition, Alba is helping create a school across the street from the plant to continue the education of the employee’s children.

Alba’s clientele is not limited to sports, as she has also made suits for celebrities such as rappers Quavo and Tyga, and created the entire wardrobe for the most recent season of HBO’s TV show ‘Ballers’ staring Dwyane’ The Rock’ Johnson.

For inspiration, Alba credits the style of the 1930s for her designs, citing the simplistic but classy suits of the era.

“All of my outfits are simple at their core, but also feature a healthy amount of color and flash when the time is right.”

Alba also emphasizes each client’s personal style in her designs, analyzing their current closet beforehand and helping create a plan that helps create the best possible image for each individual.

“Each player is their own brand image, and their fashion is one of the key ways to establish this.”

Alba also takes great pride in creating the packaging for her deliveries, adding that she loves watching the reactions when clients see their new outfits for the first time.

However, what is even more impressive than Alba’s prolific fashion is the relationships she keeps with her clients.

“My clients are my favorite part of what I do,” Alba stated. “It’s all about the guys, making them look and feel their best.”

With over 1,800 contacts on her phone, Alba still finds the time to keep in touch with each client with her fool-proof strategy.

“I make sure to text every contact on my phone two things: ‘How are you’ and ‘how is your family?’. I go A through Z, and when I finally finish, I start the process all over again.”

For all the men who looked to achieve the same level of style in their own lives, Alba offers one key piece of advice.

“Keep it simple, especially if you’re on a first date.”

With clients spanning across all major sports league, Alba added she believes the NBA easily has the best fashion, citing Houston Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook as a fashion trailblazer for the league.

Over two decades, Alba has been able to help thousands of men and women look and feel their best through her sharp designs and personalized relationship strategies.

With her business continually expanding, there is no doubt she continues to influence fashion trends and make a positive impact on thousands of more lives.

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Basketball

Luka Doncic Signs Endorsement Deal With Jordan Brand

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The NBA’s biggest sneaker free agent has finally found his home.

Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic has signed an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand, the company announced Thursday morning.

Doncic’s previous endorsement deal with Nike ended in the summer of 2019, and the Slovenian’s patience in signing another shoe deal was a gamble that greatly paid off.

Doncic has put together an MVP caliber season so far, averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, 8.9 assists, and a league-high 8 triple-doubles.

The 20-year old has quickly become one of the NBA’s most popular players, and with a raving European fan base, Doncic’s signing is a brilliant move for Jordan.

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