It was one of the many signs that the NBA had entered its current fashion-forward phase, one that will surely be on display as Wade’s Heat take on the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, beginning Thursday.
First basketball players moved from eight-button zoot suits to the boardroom attire of Michael Jordan. Then a generation of players from the early 2000s had survived the rapper, gangsta, slovenly-spoiled-rich-kid aesthetic. Now, the door had opened on the progressive sensibility of players such as Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. Today’s basketball-playing young millionaires have on their own — or, for some, with an assist from the experts — developed a style that is artfully advanced and a touch competitive, but, most notably, body-conscious.
“They’re all their own specific kind of dandy or peacock,” said Brian Coats, contributing fashion editor at GQ, who has styled a host of athletes — including Jeremy Lin, Chris Paul and LeBron James — for the magazine. “They all want to be a little dressier than their competition.
“It’s so refreshing not to see them in the eight-button suit [jacket] down to their knees,” Coats said. “No one’s jacket needs to be that long unless you’re Obi-Wan Kenobi.”
Wade grew up in Chicago and was influenced by Jordan’s corporate-style footprint. But the color-drenched landscape of his new home comes through in his pastel vests, sweaters and use of layering, said Michael Wilbon, ESPN commentator, fashion savant and former Washington Post sports columnist.
Wade, said Wilbon, “has now gone a little extreme, of course. I’m of a certain age where I like suits and ties. But I like that Wade has led this envelope-pushing, even if it includes, well, pedal pushers or Capri pants or whatever I’m supposed to call what he wore last week.
“I’m okay with guys having a totally updated sense of style that can only be worn by 20-35-year-old men. I don’t know that it sets the style anymore,” Wilbon continued in an e-mail. “I wonder if they’re trendsetters or trend followers.”
Westbrook, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, likes a rule-breaking mix of sportswear, such as skinny camouflage pants paired with a tailored blazer. Rondo was an offseason intern at GQ and recently talked do’s and don’ts with Joan Rivers on “Fashion Police.” GQ described Chandler as embracing the ninja look. And indeed, he was an early adopter of head-to-toe ensembles in various shades of black, with a special affinity for the work of Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester and fashion’s favorite goth, Rick Owens.