Court Cou­ture

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By Nia Groce

How NBA play­ers are tak­ing cen­ter stage as the new fash­ion icons.

Style has be­come synonymous with the NBA — thanks to a defin­ing rule that changed the game. Now, play­ers’ ev­ery of­f­court move is a run­way show all its own.

Thir­teen years ago, for­mer NBA com­mis­sioner David Stern im­ple­mented a man­date that would reroute the course of men’s fash­ion. The in­fa­mous dress code im­posed on the league — dubbed the Allen Iver­son rule be­cause of his re­sis­tance to con­form — re­quired play­ers to dress con­ser­va­tively in busi­ness at­tire dur­ing NBA-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. Once a dreaded guide­line, the reg­u­la­tion paved the way for mul­ti­mil­lionare ath­letes to craft their now-cov­eted style. ➵ “Even though at the time there was a lot of back­lash, in a way he helped a lot of play­ers start to be seen as in­flu­encers and fash­ion­able peo­ple. It’s not that Stern taught them how to dress, but he helped them take it more se­ri­ously,” said shoe de­signer Ar­mando Cabral, who counts Kevin Du­rant and Carmelo An­thony among fans of his name­sake brand. ➵ As play­ers el­e­vated their off-duty looks, they gar­nered ex­po­sure for Cabral and oth­ers.

Once the public started pay­ing more at­ten­tion, [play­ers] took it to a new level. It’s be­come a high­light in their ar­rivals to the game, in in­ter­views and in their day-to-day [lives], ac­cord­ing to Ova­dia & Sons, which has out­fit­ted the likes of PJ Tucker and Steph Curry.

Khalilah Beavers, the image maker be­hind Jimmy But­ler and An­thony, was among the ini­tial cadre of stylists help­ing to merge sport and style.

“It grew from a cou­ple of guys be­ing watched and fol­lowed to every­one. It’s like a com­pe­ti­tion now,” said Beavers.

De­sign­ers now will­ingly ac­com­mo­date play­ers’ ath­letic frames, par­tic­u­larly their atyp­i­cally large feet. Fabrice Tardieu, a Dwyane Wade fa­vorite, has ex­tended his of­fer­ing up to a size 17. Mean­while, Cabral re­mem­bers the largest shoe he’s ever made as a whop­ping size 22 for the re­tired Dikembe Mu­tombo.

Wade, who is signed to a life­time

deal with Chi­nese sports­wear brand Li-Ning, told FN that he be­came vested in fash­ion as an ath­lete be­cause it is a “ve­hi­cle for self-ex­pres­sion and in­di­vid­u­al­ity.”

“I en­joy tak­ing risks and push­ing bound­aries,” he said.

NBA style has even evolved into a team ex­er­cise in some in­stances (not to men­tion a no­table hash­tag with over 65k In­sta­gram posts at­tached to it). Ear­lier this year, Wade’s stylist Calyann Bar­nett dressed Le­Bron James and the en­tire Cleve­land Cava­liers squad in head-to-toe Thom Browne for their play­off se­ries against the In­di­ana Pac­ers. With 11 years of ex­pe­ri­ence un­der her belt, how­ever, Bar­nett em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of send­ing a deeper mes­sage when dress­ing her play­ers — at a time when ath­letes and fash­ion play­ers alike are rais­ing their voices about pol­i­tics and ac­tivism.

“Bas­ket­ball is a pre­dom­i­nantly black ca­reer. So when there are is­sues fac­ing that com­mu­nity — that many of [these ath­letes or their fam­ily mem­bers] have faced or still can face, that should be a fo­cus,” Bar­nett said. “These fash­ion houses have been around for years and if I am go­ing to sup­port them, let’s make sure they sup­port my causes and what’s near and dear to me.”

Here, FN ex­plores the key mo­ments that led to the fash­ion in­flu­ence of James, Wade and more of the league’s other sar­to­rial heavy­weights.

RUS­SELL WEST­BROOK

The NBA’s an­nual awards cer­e­mony in­cor­po­rates a Best Style ac­co­lade — a pub­licly voted honor — and for the past two years, West­brook has claimed the crown.

Aside from be­ing a fan fa­vorite, the Ok­la­homa City Thun­der star has earned more than his fair share of fash­ion cred. Just this past May, the no­to­ri­ously self-styled West­brook was ca­su­ally sand­wiched be­tween Ken­dall Jen­ner and Eva Chen at his Met Gala table. And be­tween front-row sight­ings at the likes of Louis Vuit­ton and Tom Ford, the Jor­dan Brand ath­lete’s fash­ion cal­en­dar ar­guably ri­vals his bas­ket­ball sched­ule. “West­brook is prob­a­bly the most au­then­tic with his of­f­court style. He seems more com­fort­able in his choices of sil­hou­ettes, col­ors and brands. He plays with pro­por­tions ... like an over­size sweat­shirt with slim jeans or a bag­gie look and printed tops,” said cre­ative di­rec­tor Jerome LaMaar. Still, some of his choices are con­sid­ered di­vi­sive. His exaggerated high-water pants or the om­bré ele­phant-print tights he de­buted in his 2014 West­brook XO Bar­ney’s col­lec­tion come to mind. Paige Geran, Kobe Bryant’s for­mer stylist, has grown to en­joy his in­ge­nu­ity.

“He’s cre­ative. I ad­justed to it af­ter watch­ing for a while. He’s one of the few that can pull that off,” she said.

DWYANE WADE

De­spite Wade’s world­wide recog­ni­tion, many de­sign­ers didn’t un­der­stand his fash­ion ap­peal at first.

“We had to con­nect the dots and say, ‘This guy is an in­ter­na­tional su­per­star.’ I had to make

Rus­sell West­brook ar­rives at the Louis Vuit­ton show in Paris wear­ing Jor­dan West­brook 0.3 sneak­ers.

Le­Bron James

Rus­sell West­brook

Dwyane Wade

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