It feels like forever ago that the dress code was a big story in the NBA. Maybe that’s because Allen Iverson isn’t in the league anymore, so there’s no one to complain about having to wear a suit. Or maybe it’s because guys started realizing that having nice clothes was another way to prove how cool they are. Whatever the reason, the pregame tunnel walk before an NBA game is a virtual catwalk nowadays, and I can’t believe I just typed “virtual catwalk.” 2011, you guys.
But what’s changed? It’s not like players didn’t wear suits before the dress code. Heck, before he was wearing terrible jeans, Michael Jordan graced the cover of GQ in a smart double-breasted number. There’s definitely a precedent for dressing up in the NBA, but in today’s league, things are way fancier.
Turns out, the guys just started caring about their clothes, rather than just making sure they had them. From the Los Angeles Times’ fascinating piece on NBA fashion culture:
[Players] were no longer simply satisfied with the convenience of one-stop custom clothiers such as Élevée in Van Nuys, which in 2005 laid claim to half of the NBA’s players as clients. Stephon Marbury once placed an order for 82 suits — one for each regular season game — and longtime customer Shaquille O’Neal was known to order 52 shirts and 20 pairs of trousers at a clip.
But after the dress code was implemented, some pro ballers took a page from the music and movie industry celebrity playbook and began to engage the services of personal stylists.
“Before the league changed the rules, it was pretty simple,” said Paige Geran, a stylist who has worked with Kobe Bryant for the last year and a half. “The guys would just wear suits for every game so they’d just buy them in bulk.”
Pretty great little Stephon Marbury anecdote right there. Of course he’d be 82 suits so he could have a new one for every game. Makes total sense, if you’re in his brain. 82 games means 82 suits, which means never having to do laundry. Kwame Brown’s like, “Wish I’d have thought of that.”
There’s a lot more to love in that article. From a hilarious description of Kobe Bryant that would make for a great heckle (“He has broad shoulders and a narrow chest — kind of a runway look”) to Dwyane Wade’s sartorial strategies for the postseason (colored socks, diamond lapel pin), there’s everything you could possibly want to know about how these guys get their clothes.
And if you could care less about that, then just remember that Stephon Marbury once bought 82 suits at the same time. That’s worth it for sure.