Wesley Morris’s piece on the rise of nerd fashion in the NBA is fascinating, but I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t mention David Stern’s dress code until the third-to-last paragraph of the piece:
When David Stern imposed the league’s reductive dress code six years ago, all this role-playing, reinvention, and experimentation didn’t seem a likely outcome. We all feared Today’s Man. But the players — and the stylists — were being challenged to think creatively about dismantling Stern’s black-male stereotyping. The upside of all this intentionality is that these guys are trying stuff out to see what works. Which can be exciting. No sport has undergone such a radical shift of self-expression and self-understanding, wearing the clothes of both the boys it once mocked and the men it desires to be.
I’d actually be really curious to hear more about the stylists in these equations, the people who mediate between the league’s expectations of the men who are the key to their profits, and those men’s expectations of themselves. If the rise of Kanye West and nerd hip-hop hadn’t coincided with the ban, what might the prevailing riff on the code have looked like? What inspirations would they have turned to — and because fashion evolves, where might they turn next? Malcolm X wore himself some crisply-cut but patterned suits back in the day is all I’m saying.