The 2013 NBA All-Star game or runway show?

By Alex Manessis

The NBA All-Star weekend earlier this month was an opportunity for basketball’s best and brightest to put their skills on display for a national audience. As the clock expired and the Western Conference emerged victorious, it had already become clear that the memories taken away from the weekend were not produced on the court. In front of a national TV audience, the league’s stars seized the opportunity to prove they know as much about fashion as they do about fast breaks.

NBA fashion’s development began early, in the 1970s with players from cities with major nightlife scenes such as New York leading the charge. The most notable player from this era was Walt “Clyde” Frazier, whose style included muttonchops, animal print, mink coats, top hats, velvet suits and even capes. In the early 1990s NBA fashion was dictated by Michael Jordan and Nike. The Air Jordan shoe brand became the dominant athletic sneaker and remains popular more than a decade after Jordan played his last game.

In the years after Jordan’s retirement, NBA style began to shift drastically. The new generation of players, led by Allen Iverson, embraced “hip-hop” culture. Baggy jeans, retro-themed Hardwood classic jerseys, fitted-hats and chains were worn by players before and after games. Trying to fight a wave of (mostly unfair) bad publicity, commissioner David Stern instituted a dress code before the start of the 2005-2006 season. Stern, citing his desire for a more professional attitude from players, required a “business casual” appearance while jerseys, t-shirts, hats, chains worn above clothes and sunglasses were all placed on a list of banned items. Players initially met the dress code with resistance, feeling as though the league was limiting the players from expressing themselves.

However, younger players who entered the league in the mid-2000s were more receptive to the dress code. The league’s young stars began hiring stylists to aid them in their transition from athletic gear to higher fashion. Fast forward to the 2013 All-Star game and it is clear that the NBA’s best love to show off their wardrobes and are willing to try things that most would not have dared consider a few years ago.

So who and what stood out in Houston? To start, leather emerged as the popular item of the weekend. Saturday’s Skills Competition and Dunk Competition featured LeBron James and Dwayne Wade both rocking En Noir black leather sweatpants that have been trendy of late thanks to Kanye West.

Leather attire was not limited to pants. LeBron James wore a Heart of a Lion sweater that featured leather sleeves. Chris Bosh, James Harden and Chris Paul all wore leather shirts and accessories at various points during the weekend. Look for leather to take up more floor space in department stores this spring, but do not expect the men’s leather pants trend too catch much steam.

The “geek chic” look, popular among young Thunder players, has been met with mixed reactions, especially in social media. Former Thunder guard James Harden wore a slim blue suit with a grey bowtie and black wayfarer frames. Slim fitting suits are a must to complete this look, and several men’s fashion magazines, including GQ and Esquire agree that form fitting suits are preferable to other styles.
Current Thunder guard Russell Westbrook took the geek attire to a whole other level, wearing a brown sport coat, tie, skinny camouflage animal-print pants, a yellow belt and yellow Air Jordan Vs. It is almost certain you will not see a look quite like this anytime soon, but elements of the ensemble are becoming more visible on campus. The number of female students wearing animal print pants seems to have tripled on campus this semester, so do not be surprised if an occasional male student tries to pull off the look.

Unfortunately, even the announcers got in on the action. TNT reporter Craig Sager created a firestorm on social media with his suit selection. Comedian Kevin Hart put it best during TNT’s broadcast.
“Craig Sager needs to buy another jacket just like that one, and throw them both in the trash,” Hart said.

Something would be amiss to discuss NBA fashion and not mention the shoes that players wore during the game. Clearly, someone sent out a memo that bright neon colors would be required this year. Orange, purple, green, red and yellow were included in almost every colorway worn by players in the game. The same trend has been seen in various other athletic shoe segments, and louder-colored running shoes have been a frequent sight on campus, especially when paired with workout or yoga attire.

As a final take away from Houston, leather, form fitting clothes, “geek” chic, animal print and loud shoes were all “in” for NBA players, who are quickly becoming fashion’s early adopters. Although not all of the styles on display will be adopted into the mainstream, the willingness of the NBA players to try new looks that align with popular trends should encourage those who are looking to branch out away from their current wardrobe to try new fashions.