Reader Emails

Mo,
Need to ask, what is the LeBron-DWade look of thick glasses and no lenses about? Is it supposed to be like the look for young affluent hipster blacks? Is it ironic because its the opposite of the “hood” look? Seriously wondering here, in no way can you tell me that it has anything to do with vision.
-Matt

Yo Moe,
What’s up with black hipsters? Is this something new? I’m used to black athletes dressing SHARP in suits that no white guy could ever pull off. Or in all matching gear, head-to-toe with fresh kicks and matching flatty. Now I see Bron Bron wearing pink sweaters and thick black glasses and DeShawn Stevenson wearing a ridiculous bowtie and sporting an Abraham Lincoln beard. It’s bad enough scrawny white kids are dressing like this. WTF is going on in the black community?
-Scott

short and sweet: when did it become cool for rich black athletes to dress like dorky white dudes?
-Mickey

I must’ve been sent this question at least half a dozen times, each one putting more pressure on me to finally answer what is on Stoolies’ racially inquisitive minds lately: What the hell are NBA players wearing? I get it — It looks weird. Let me start off by saying that if you’re someone reading this with zero fashion sense, like if you’re sitting at your computer in a pair of Old Navy cargo shorts and a free intramural t-shirt and that’s how you normally dress in public, you may never understand it. And I say that as someone who was once one of you — I wore Old Navy, Aeropostale, and the like for years before I became more fashionably aware. Not saying I’m Kanye West or John Feitelberg or anything, but I like to think I know how to look dapper when necessary.

Here’s the thing: it’s fashion. As stupid as those lensless glasses look (very) and as awful as Hondo’s jacket was (very) it’s all about the designer, the cut, the fit, the coordination, the statement, and the feeling they get while wearing them. A lot of things in fashion don’t make sense — it’s art. Just like a lot of things in other interests like sports, music, and politics don’t make sense. Trying to explain to someone with no fashion sense why Russell Westbrook would wear giant red Urkel glasses is like trying to explain to a person who doesn’t understand the rules of football why the NCAA has a Bowl system and not a tournament. It’s hard to fully grasp the details if you don’t first get the basics.

Ten years ago NBA players were wearing huge white T’s and giant chains and everybody hated that. Now they’re wearing boat shoes, chinos, and glasses and everybody hates that, too. I’m starting to believe that it’s not necessarily what they’re wearing that’s turning America off, but rather the fact that people don’t understand it that’s turning America off. Why can’t they just dress NORMAL? Because they’re 7 foot tall millionaires with connections into every facet of “cool” society…they couldn’t be less normal if they tried. Guys like Michael Jordan and Michael Irvin dressed like huge A-holes their entire career (Irvin has improved) and folks rarely made a big fuss about it…mostly because they could easily place them in the box of “outrageous black guy suits”. But now that today’s stars’ looks are harder to define, everybody wants to call them out. Jordan can look like a jackass and hear nothing, but Kevin Durant wears a backpack and some Jewish grandpop glasses and suddenly he’s the talk of Sportscenter? Doesn’t make sense.

Again, I’m not defending the lensless glasses because I think they’re a joke (at least put clear glass in them), but I am defending the players’ choice to dress as preppy/nerdy/geeky/tight/bright/outrageous as they wish.  Stern started it, after all.  The hipsterish high-fashion world has crept into hip hop and thus made its way into sports.  But so what?  No need to grumble to yourself like an old man and curse these guys because you don’t understand something. If it works, it works. Personally — even though it was a classless move to show up to another team’s game after the Knicks were eliminated and probably a microcosm of a bigger problem in the NBA  – I didn’t think Amar’e looked bad. It worked for him. Your average out of shape $35k/year middle school teacher couldn’t pull off wearing a sleeveless denim vest to a game, but Amar’e can and by all means should. It’s fashion, and sometimes you have to take risks to look good.  And if you’ve personally never taken any risks with it, chances are you’ve never looked anything better than “okay”.