Sports: Athletes & Fashion

Uniforms are a quintessential aspect of professional sports. Teams use them to differentiate between players on the field. Fans buy replicas of their favorite teams’ jerseys to show support (and maybe attempt to live out some childhood fantasies). But the central idea behind a team uniform is just that: uniformity.

Each major sports league in the US (fine, and Canada) have very strict rules on what articles of clothing or accessories may be worn in addition to the league-directed outfit. Aside from keeping the sport safe for all participating parties or whatever, the problem with these stuffy uniform restrictions is that they really prohibit any of the athletes from showing any on-field personality. Which is a major issue.

In order to get my fix of outrageous people doing outrageous things (since I am NOT going to engage in any Kardashian-related material (I’m resisting the obvious Lamar Odom joke)), I am forced to turn my attention to the athletes’ off-field dress code. How do the superstars of Major League Baseball dress when they step off the diamond? Boring, apparently. Those guys basically live their entire lives with hat-hair. What about those hard-nosed hockey players? Any attempts to find pictorial examples (aka a Google images search) resulted in a mix between “Jersey Shore apparel” and “The Sopranos extra”. What about America’s darling sports league, the NFL? Aside from a few choice examples (Broadway Joe Namath’s fur coats, Tom Brady and his infamous Uggs, Tim Tebow’s fully-clothed underwear ads), most football players seem to generally dress like they are either en route to/from the gym.

I started to despair. With all of the time spent in uniform and team-issued apparel, do ALL athletes gradually lose their sense of self-expression? I still had basketball. And much like the 2011-2012 NBA regular season, I found everything I wanted, and more. Like TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager.

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Seriously?!

As it turns out, basketball players are full of style and quirkiness. Apparently the combination of a basketball player’s ridiculous proportions (likely upcoming-No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis from Kentucky is 6’10”, 220lbs – good luck to whoever makes his draft-day suit!) and the ridiculous contracts that NBA players command can make for some extravagant, custom-made clothes.

Miami Heat forward and NBA superduperstar LeBron James looking "fresh to death", as the kids say.

One of the earliest and most iconic instances of a hoopster with a flair for hot threads is Walt “Clyde” Frazier. Playing in Manhattan for the New York Knicks, Frazier soaked up the limelight both on the court and off of it, in large part due to his love for “flossing”.

Frazier was nicknamed "Clyde" due to his similarity of fashion to the male half of the bank-robbing duo Bonnie & Clyde.

Now doing play-by-play for the Knicks (as well as Just For Men commercials!), Frazier still shows lots of “character” in his wardrobe.

Better just steer clear of making any jokes about that jacket. Clyde would have a cow. Moo-ving on...

NBA players in the league today have picked up the torch where Clyde left off. One need only stick around for the post-game press conference to be wowed, shocked, or angered – perhaps even more so than during the actual game.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant "schools" the media wearing his signature backpack.

For example, Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James do every post-game press conference together. This has led to some competition of its own, harkening back to the Great Walk-Off of 2001 between Hansel and Derek Zoolander.

Seriously guys, it's Miami. Your team's nickname is "The Heat" for crying out loud. What's with the cardigans?

Fashion statements made in the moment don’t always stand the test of time, however. Take former Indiana Pacers guard and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose’s 1994 draft-day suit, shown below.

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you - The '90s!

With all of these examples, I think it’s safe to say that NBA players on the whole provide the excitement and intrigue necessary to spice up the drab uniforms worn on the court. Whether good or bad, the dress code worn to a post-game press conference is likely to be the very best people-watching you can do.

So, with the NBA playoffs all set up to start this weekend, be sure to tune in right after the final horn blows after each game. Get your popcorn ready, because once those gargantuan dudes come out dressed in last week’s six-digit paycheck, that’s when “amazing” really happens.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

But for real though. The man could make Prince blush.

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