OKLAHOMA CITY – Somewhere in Brooklyn, probably a lo-fi bar in the Williamsburg neighborhood with local microbrews and small-batch bourbon flowing, a hipster is smiling, with appropriate irony.
NBA players have not only have adopted wearing “nerd glasses,” they have commandeered the fashion trend that began years ago with hipsters and seeped into haute couture.
After Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, all four players who sat at the main dais wore glasses: Kevin Durant, LeBron Jamesand Dwyane Wade with serious black-rimmed ones andRussell Westbrook with his oversized red-rimmed ones, as if they all just arrived at a pocket-protector convention.
Westbrook tried to take credit for bringing decorative eyewear to the NBA. “I’ve been wearing glasses since I’ve been in the league. I think everybody else just started wearing them now,” he said Wednesday.
So he started this? “Hey, I ain’t saying nothing, but I’m just saying,” Westbrook said.
Or maybe credit goes to filmmaker and NBA fan Spike Lee, who played the big glasses-wearing Mars Blackmon in She’s Gotta Have It and the Air Jordan commercials.
“Spike Lee’s been wearing glasses for a long time,” Wade said. “I don’t know if they’re prescription or not. Trends, they come and go, and people get on board with them or they don’t.
“With the nerd glasses in the NBA, it’s just something fun to do right now. I’m sure next season it’ll be out the window.”
NBA fashion extends beyond the glasses — sometimes there are no lenses in there at all — to suits, shirts, ties, pants and shoes. Players often look as if they’re headed to a business meeting.
From Westbrook’s wild, nautical-themed shirts to Wade’s pink pants (with accoutrements such as the pink finger bandage and the pink-soled sneakers), NBA fashion is a sidebar as entertaining and divisive as the officiating, flopping and Durant vs. James.
Wade joked that’s he inspired by sports reporters. “I don’t want to dress like y’all,” he said.
Wade said he remembers his dad driving a delivery van and wearing a suit. “Just like everybody, we all have something that we like outside of what we do,” said Wade who has been to New York’s Fashion Week and went to Fashion Week in Paris and Milan a year ago.
“I just put a little spin on it, you know, have a little fun with it, and over the course of time, my tastes have changed, and I take more risks,” Wade said.
Last summer in Europe, Wade ran into NBA superfan and a man comfortable with his own style, Jimmy Goldstein. With his long, wiry gray hair, Goldstein is ubiquitous in the front row of playoff games, wearing leather pants, jacket, hat and boots.
Goldstein likes the way NBA fashion has evolved. “I’m appreciative of the fact that these guys are getting more into the clothing part of fashion rather than jewelry,” Goldstein told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. “I think it’s on an upward swing right now for players and fashion. … I’m all for individuality and coming up with something that’s unique for yourself. I do the same thing.”
Dr. David Leonard, an associate professor at Washington State’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies, explores beyond fashion trends and examines the NBA’s dress code, implemented in 2005, through a social and racial prism.
“We can’t look at the fashion we’re seeing outside of the context of the NBA dress code, both in terms of the significance that has been placed on clothing and stylistic choices, and also the ways in which we are seeing players conform to the dress code while also asserting their own style and identity,” Leonard said Wednesday.
He is not a fan of the dress code. “It reflects a particular anxiety that fans, the media and the league have had about what NBA players represent and questions about hip-hop and the way race is wrapped up in these discussions,” he said.
Leonard disagrees with the premise that the only reason NBA fashion has evolved to this point is because of the dress code.
“There’s an inherent problem there because one, it assumes rules are what is necessary for individual creativity,” he said. “It also presumes that every player in the pre-dress code (era) was wearing the things that are now banned.”
Goldstein didn’t like the dress code, either, and said he’s not a fan of many rules, in general.
“I feel that traditions should be out the window when it comes to fashion,” Goldstein said.
With Goldstein sitting in the front of the news conference, Westbrook enjoyed the fashion questions, a departure from the “Do you shoot too much? Are you’re too aggressive?” inquiries.
“I’ve just got a style of my own, and I’m going to keep it that way,” Westbrook said.