As a predominantly fashion and lifestyle focused publication, we here at BALLnROLL are quite characteristically interested in the more sartorial aspects of the world of basketball. Naturally, this focus brings us to taking a gander at 2005’s edict from NBA headquarters which brought about massive change in the official NBA player dress code. In our travails through the world of professional sports we’ve discovered that, even five years after the implementation of the official NBA dress code, extremely disparate opinions regarding the rules remain in the minds of players, executives, fans and fashion folk alike, and have come to the conclusion that the contention regarding the dress code mandate is, to a large extent, unsurprising.

As the venerable fashion publisher John Fairchild (who, funnily enough, shares his name with that of a 1965 Los Angeles Lakers draft who went on to win the 1970 ABA Championship with the Indiana Pacers) is said to have stated, “style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.” Dress sense is and has long been considered an essential and inarguable reflection of the man inside the clothes, be it on the basketball court, in the boardroom, or on the beach, and whenever restrictions are placed upon one’s rights of individualism and self-expression…well, it’s safe to say it isn’t usually taken without protest by those affected.

We had the opportunity to speak with Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, while he was in Toronto, playing against the Raptors, who didn’t hesitate in letting us know that he simply “dresses the part so [he] doesn’t get fined”, and is in fact much more predisposed to wearing sweatpants and white t-shirts as opposed to the button-ups and suits he now dons when appearing on behalf of the NBA. Conversely, in speaking to Sonny Weems of the Raptors, we found that he seemed quite pleased to leave the baggy style of his high school and college days behind for a more fitted look as a professional basketball player. As suspected, just as no two individuals have the same sense of personal style, it would also be unreasonable to assume that their feelings towards the dress code would be uniform (pun intended). But universality in the context of individualistic expression aside, we are left with one last question: is there anything about the NBA’s official dress code that’s particularly inflammatory?

The official code is said to have been designed to lend an air of professionalism and class to an otherwise open-ended aesthetic that had been driving viewership into increasingly low numbers, and in consideration of the fact that NBA players are, on a technical level, employees of the NBA, is it really so unreasonable for the NBA to analyze their business and direct it in a more profitable way? The business world has long operated this way; employees of banks and fast-food joints alike understand the importance of adhering to corporate policy to maintain advantageous and favorable appearance towards their clients and consumers, and the argument of racism in the NBA as per their dress code doesn’t hold in this respect.

Changing the Face of Basketball since 2005, the NBA dress code will maintain its relevancy due to the changeable nature of popular culture and fashion, as well as the rightfully unpredictable nature of each individual to whom the dress code affects directly. Nonetheless, there is and will always be room for self-expression to shine through, no matter what the rules and professional basketball players are surely more than well equipped to find their paths through the mire that is corporate policy.


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