Category Archives: NBA

2011 NBA Draft Style Analysis: The Suits Finally Fit and Kemba is King

The 2011 installment of the NBA Draft was not given the opportunity to be great. Madison Square Garden, the usual host for festivities, is under renovation so the hopeful rookies had to travel across the Hudson River to Newark and walk the stage at Prudential Center. Bloggers and basketball pundits dismissed the next class of NBA talent as bottom tier. Also, with a lockout looming – will these young men ever see playing time? In 2003, LeBron James’ oversized white ensemble was better suited for a pimp and not the first overall draft pick. His personal style has evolved thanks in part to the dress code, maturity and careful image management. The NBA instituted the dress code in 2005 and it came at the perfect time as menswear was moving towards to the skinny suit and tailored styles thanks to Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme. Fitted or “European” styles began dominating locker rooms along with luxury sneakers and Louis Vuitton everything. Braids began disappearing as Carmelo Anthony shaved his off and Kobe Bryant switched from jerseys pre-game to suits. Players no longer wanted to look like Allen Iverson but now Kanye West’s fashion forward style evolution was to be mimicked. This year’s draft class may not have hit the perfect style notes but it’s clear that with the help of stylists, the new kids are learning how important fit is in a suit. Gone are the days of the LeBron white suit or Jalen Rose’s infamous red atrocity. Without further ado, here’s the best, worst and downright average style grades for the 2011 NBA draft class. It should come as no surprise that a New York kid wins my award for best dressed. Kemba Walker won my respect and fashion gold star last night because he wore a suit that was not only perfectly cut for his body type but because he was able to still let his personal style shine through. Last year, Wesley Johnson’s plaid pants and double-breasted ensemble may have been sartorially inclined but it looked like the outfit wore him, not the other way around. Walker looked both comfortable and cool in the single breasted blue-grey suit. The peaked lapels were in proportion with his shoulders and the jacket was modern without being fussy. Walker was already on my radar for his understated, well-fitting suit at Connecticut’s visit with President Obama after winning the NCAA National Championship. His big heart and great speaking skills makes him a complete player off the court as well – he’s a marketing dream. In fact, he already has endorsement deals in place with Axe and Best Buy without the elusive title of being the number one draft pick. Walker’s accessory choices elevated his look from above average to exquisite. The pocket square in beige with a pink hue picked up the rose gold outsole of his two-tone shoes. The tie bar kept his look clean but added some visual interest on his thin, patterned tie. Even his belt was a leather with a pink undertone to tie it all together. Fellas, when I say the items of your outfit don’t have to match but they have to go, I’m talking about putting an ensemble together like Walker’s. The hues (underlying color) are all in the same family – blue in the primary items and pink in the accessories. Since the colors are all related, they work in harmony. I’m excited to see what Walker brings to Charlotte off the court. According to my favorite Bobcats’ source, Ben Swanson (a.k.a. CardboardGerald), the rookie came to the press conference dressed to impress in Louis Vuitton sneakers. Kemba Walker, you’re on my fashion radar. He’s my early pick for style rookie for the season….if we get a season.

Walker’s swag dominated the night but credit has to be given both to my Canadian countryman Tristan Thompson, as well as Marshon Brooks for sporting full ensembles not just a suit. Thompson (and his personal shopper) found a suit that managed to fit him perfectly without looking snug in the shoulders or short in the sleeves – an issue for a player with a seven feet, two-inch wingspan.The polka dot tie contrasts with the pink tone in the shirt and the paisley pocket square ties it all together.His rose gold watch face is the right shade for his skin tone and the leather watch strap and shoes are the perfect complimentary shade of warm saddle brown – this is how to wear black and brown together. It certainly looked like Thompson dressed to best match his new Cavaliers cap – think he knew something the media didn’t?

In every draft class, there seems to be one player that calls dibs on the bow tie and tries to make it work for him. This year, Marshon Brooks took the honor. The last time a bow tie was worn properly was when James Harden sported his cream ensemble and has since had the neck accessory a signature. Brooks seems to be following Harden’s sartorial example. Brooks was originally drafted by the Celtics before being moved to the Nets, sported another bow tie at his introductory press conference in Newark. For draft night, his two piece grey suit fit in the shoulders and the sleeve length was fine although it could be taken in more in the torso and in arm width to remove some of the bulk – the ill fit was made obvious when he stood up to meet Commissioner Stern. Besides the technical suiting issues, the patterned shirt mixed with the neutral grey suit really make the bow tie the star to the outfit. A good tactic to draw attention up to Brooks’ face and away from the terrible adidas draft caps.

The number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was Kyrie Irving out of Duke University and the only thing that streamed first overall about his outfit was his timepiece.Besides the impressive watch, the rest of ensemble was average – decent fitting jacket and shirt, pants could be tailored and the tie was too skinny and poorly knotted. Hopefully fellow rookie Tristan Thompson and veteran NBA fashion plate Baron Davis can help their new teammate take some risks this season.

Speaking of sartorial risks, Kawhi Leonard went for preppy throwback look with white piping on black two button suit. When I originally saw this suit, I immediately thought he belonged on a yacht or perhaps parking cars at the yacht club. The buttons are a bit distracting and the pocket square seems like an afterthought but the piping has grown on me. Keeping the shirt and tie relatively neutral was a smart move so it didn’t distract from the jacket. The fit is decent, but as with many of these young men, the sleeve could be slimmed down. A pop of color or sheen in the pocket square could have upgraded the look and he might want to re-think the braids – no one should take manscaping cues from Udonis Haslem.

Pocket squares have become the new accessory of choice for NBA draftees in recent years and this year, some players either didn’t put enough thought into them (Leonard) or tried too damn hard. It’s important to remember that for these young men, most of their interviews will head and shoulder shots so the pocket square will be shown and having one that looks like a used tissue stuffed in your pocket looks sloppy. The Morris brothers were a great story of the draft, twins going one right after another to different cities for the first time in their young lives. But they had me crying foul all over Twitter as with the pocket square, bigger is not necessarily better as you have a limited space to display your accessory.

Markieff Morris, the slightly older twin and the first to be drafted, thirteenth overall to the Suns, wore a pinstripe suite that looked be right off the rack and ill-fitting on his massive frame. The jacket is too long, the shoulder are bunching and sleeves and pants must be taken in. Also, on a large man a three-piece suit adds bulk, he should have gone for a sleeker silhouette. As for the pocket square, it looks like he found some iridescent Kleenex and stuffed it in his pocket. The fact that you actually see a bulge from the access fabric in the jacket is a terrible look. Remember, it’s a square, not a scarf. While we’re on accessories, white watches, like white sunglasses, often just look cheap and it does not work with his outfit at all.

Marcus Morris, the younger brother by seven minutes, was drafted next to another Western Conference team, the Houston Rockets. Marcus, followed suit almost literally with a pinstripe three-piece suit in black that was looked to fit in the shoulders but not so well elsewhere. Not to be outdone by his brother, upped the pocket square ante as his almost reached his tie knot – far too large. I’m all for flair but the pocket square took over his entire outfit and you became distracted by his accessory and not listen to what the newly minted rookie had to say. Also, if you look the Morris’ brothers wore similar shirt and ties. The best moment from the twin’s draft came from their interview with their mother, who was also in a pinstripe suit, who said she wouldn’t wear either of the adidas draft caps – smart woman.

As for the rest of the draft class, it was nice to see the players put some effort into their attire, the recent explosion of athlete stylists are certainly helping keep the players current. Derrick Williams tried to work with a skinny suit silhouette but didn’t make it. The tailoring was fine but the tie knot didn’t work with the shirt or the tie width. The bright red tie was a nice burst of color, but some more texture would have really made Williams stand out.

Jimmer Fredette came into the draft with plenty of hype thanks to his ridiculous NCAA campaign. While Fredette’s stock dropped a touch on concerns over lack of defensive fundamentals and size, his fashion game could probably use a return to basics. His jacket hit in the wrong spot and Fredette looked like he was sporting a pot belly. The stance on his jacket was a touch high and the cut made him look boxier. Dressing in BYU blue (navy suit, blue tie, blue shirt, blue watch) was a nice nod to his alumna matter but it came off a little dull. Fredette is more modest than most NBA rookies but his giant timepiece and rapping brother give the impression that the young man from upstate New York wants to take a few more risks.

Finally, I have to give points to Jonas Valanciunas, my hometown Toronto Raptors fifth overall draft pick. Most Raptors picks were hoping that local hero Tristan Thompson would have his homecoming on the Air Canada Centre court, but as usual the Raptors went European. Valanciunas went for subtle but well-tailored. The olive-green tie and pattern mixing with a different pocket square elevated the look from basic to interesting. The sleeve length was also on point so kudos to the unknown centre. I’m sure he’ll be a frequent visitor to Yorkville this season, Toronto’s high-end shopping neighbourhood soon.

Overall, this year’s draft class was an improvement over last year’s. The new crop of NBA rookies need to continue to practice and perfect the art of fit and how to dress their frames. Hopefully they’ll start taking more risks and find their own personal style among the NBA trends and Louis Vuitton littered locker rooms. Good luck gentlemen and welcome to the big leagues.

Photos courtesy of ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports and NBA.com.

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James Harden: Most Fashionable Man-Child

James Harden is only twenty-one, just old enough to buy alcohol legally in the United States. Harden is proving his worth for the Thunder these playoffs, averaging eleven points a game and shooting almost forty-one percent from the field. Harden is providing a spark for his teammates off the bench, but NBA fans are more enamoured with his unique manscaping and style. The member of the Thunders’ Broingtons always stands outs among the usual NBA off-court uniform of dark, ill-fitting suits or head to toe Gucci ensembles. For the post-season, the Los Angeles native kept his full beard and shaved his hair into a mini mohawk. The hairstyle speaks to Harden’s quirky California personal style and boyish charm.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Toronto earlier in the season, I chatted with the sophomore shooting guard about his infamous beard and personal style. The beard discussion was posted on The Basketball Jones but Harden and I got to talking fashion and sneakers, too.

Credit: Slam Magazine

Harden defines his style as very LA, which to him means “flannels, little t-shirts, [Nike] Dunks, varsity jackets, stuff like that”. While being a LA native, the west coast kid doesn’t think he has a specific personal style code. If he sees some nice clothes, he buys them – one of the luxuries of having an NBA salary. “I wear a lot of [Nike] Dunk’s, cartoon shirts, varsity jackets”. Harden’s love of cartoon shirts is something that’s caught my eye since he was in college. It’s not a look that’s very popular on the east coast but for Harden, the cartoon shirts started because it’s all about the shoes, “I get shirts to match my dunks. They got a store [in LA] called Hot Topic and they have a lot of cartoon shirts there..it’s just about being from LA”.

Credit: Getty Images/SI.com

Harden’s other style signature is the bow tie. It started at the NBA Draft with Harden’s statement making outfit.. He wore a cream colored vest, pants, a striped shirt, a tan sport coat, a diamond encrusted watch and a burgundy patterned bow tie. While it was a lot of look, Harden just wanted to wear something different, “I don’t think I thought about it…With the bow tie, I have a lot of them now….it’s different, unique [my style] just comes natural, not something I try to do.” Since the night he joined the Thunder, Harden’s racked up over ten bow ties and plans on getting a lot more as he buys more suits.

Credit: Twitter

Harden will be buying more suits mostly due to the NBA dress code. While most players are able to bring their own flare to their outfits despite Commissioner Stern’s rules, Harden admits most of his wardrobe goes unworn on game days. “I [usually] wear a lot of hats, t-shirts, that I can’t wear…The rules are put in place for a reason, but I still try to work around it”. The shooting guard may think his style is the best in the league, but he’d still jump at the chance to raid a few wardrobes. “[I’d like to see what] top guys like Kobe and Lebron got in their closet, they probably got tons of stuff in their closet, I just to see what their wardrobe looks like.”

Credit: Dime Magazine

Harden’s personal style extends to his shoes, too. He can’t pick a favorite pair but his choice Nike model will always be the Dunk. He’s looking at adding the Gucci inspired pair to his collection and also loves the Canal Street Air Force One’s because they’re “cool and bright”. Harden’s style advice for those who want to follow his lead is to experiment with colors and not focus on one style, “anything you see that’s unique and different, try to pick it up.” Harden’s hair is evidence that he practices what he preaches and allows him to bring his style on the court too. I wouldn’t suggest the mohawk and beard combo unless you’re around Harden’s age or can grow a significant beard like him.

Credit: Orisue

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Walt “Clyde” Frazier: On Style, Sager and Exotic Skins

The NBA is not without its characters. Basketball is a team sport, but it also allows for style and individualism as displayed in a perfect finger roll, an ankle breaking crossover or the angle of a headband on a furrowed brow. In the last few years, NBA players are truly embracing their own sense of style off the court by hiring stylists, starting clothing lines and even modelling. It’s normal for a modern athlete to have multiple hustles when they’re not on the court to make sure that their brand and finances stay strong through retirement or injury.

This generation of All-Star players showing an interest in fashion have their older generations to thank for trailblazing in the style department. Walt “Clyde” Frazier is a retired two-time NBA champion and now serves as the colour commentator for Knicks’ broadcasts on MSG Network and he bring his own flavour and colourful wardrobe to every game. I didn’t get to watch Frazier playing, as he ruled the hardwood in the 1970’s, but I’m always fascinated by his personal panache and candor on MSG. Walt is a style icon, perhaps the greatest ever that graced the NBA.

Frazier came to New York as an Atlanta boy and took the social scene by storm with his “WCF” vanity plate on his Rolls Royce, fur coats, custom designer suits, late nights in Harlem and the Upper East Side and his signature swagger. He will always be the epitome of cool. He owns the honor of being one of the first NBA players to have a signature shoe, the Clyde – in suede, of course, and it still sells strongly even thirty years after the shoe’s initial release. His lexicon on the MSG broadcasts are often imitated – there’s even a fake Walt Frazier Twitter account, and his wardrobe choices are always screen grab worthy. He’s an author and literally wrote the book on cool, Rockin’ Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool, wherein he admitted he spent half of his rookie salary, $10,000, on clothes. He’s often named to best dressed lists and was recently featured in GQ’s special issue on the twenty-five coolest athletes of all time. Even USA Today’s Money section took note of his long time work with Manhattan’s Mohan’s Custom Tailor. Frazier’s a long time client of Mohan’s and in return for his endorsement, gets a steep discount on suits. And yes, Mohan’s was responsible for the cowhide and leopard-skin concoctions but Frazier found the fabric on his own.

When the Knicks were visiting the Raptors this season, I made it my mission to track down Mr. Frazier (as I wasn’t sure whether it was proper or not to call him Walt or Clyde). After asking Amar’e all I could about his impending (and now published) work in Vogue, I trolled the halls of the Air Canada Centre in my four-inch gold eel skin platforms, looking for Frazier. I wore the exotic skinned shoes hoping that they would bring me luck, and although not practical, I managed to catch Clyde. He wore a ball cap, instead of his trademark fedora and a fully custom-made ensemble. He wore green plaid corduroy single breasted suit, with a yellow patterned collared shirt, a black, pink and green striped tie and tan ostrich leather shoes. He was even kinder than he appears on television. He smiled through the interview, is patient, soft-spoken and has a true passion for bespoke suits and basketball.

I’ve waited to post this interview and today, March 29th, being that is his sixty-sixth birthday, seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to a true style icon and genuine character in sports. Oh, and for those wondering – his outfit matched the birthday cake that MSG presented him with yesterday. Now that’s special. Frazier has done what most athletes dream of doing – he’s become a lasting and employed figure after his playing days. He may even be better known now for his ridiculous suits and rhyming catch phrases than his steals and championships. Perhaps, one day I can go fabric hunting in the garment district of Manhattan with Frazier (my birthday wish), but for now, I hope you enjoy this snippet of Clyde.

Megan Wilson: How did you develop your own sense of style? What made you “Clyde”?

Walt Frazier: Coming to New York was just a Mecca of clothes, I used to follow my teammates when I was a rookie I used to go where they got their suits made, their shirts made…. What set me apart was my hat – the Clyde hat – then I bought the Rolls Royce and the mink coat so that developed into a style.

MW: Fashion always changes every season. We see it in the NBA now with players like Amar’e Stoudemire going for a more tailored look. How has your style changed from when you were playing?

WF: Well when I was playing in the ’70’s – the lapel used to come all over your jacket so they’d come down on your jacket. The ties were wide then they made them narrow. Men’s fashion is not like women where you’re going to have dramatic changes all the time so if you hold on to the stuff it will come back in style. What I like are colours, different colour combinations. Today, I have something that I think is different. Like the shoes, people usually black shoes or grey shoes with this suit but I like the antelope colour. With antelope I can add some pizzazz to it.

MW: What’s your favorite exotic skin to wear?

WF: I have stingrays… Stingrays makes up a nice boot. I have alligator, but sometimes using the belly gives you a different look, a softer look. I used to be really into fashion, like when I was playing, I used to spend months and months [of salary] on clothes and outerwear. But I still like being fashionably dressed, I spend a lot of time picking out my ties and my shirts. I think when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you look good so that’s what I try to do.

MW: When you go to the tailor to have your suits custom-made, do you design them as well?

WF: Ya, I tell them about the lapel, which type of lapel and the buttons. I essentially design them. Like this fabric I picked myself. I was in a fabric store and I saw the fabric, then I take it to my tailor and tell them I want it double-breasted, single breasted, whatever type [of] cut.

MW: Who do you think has the best style in the NBA now? Who’s on par with the players of your day, does anyone compete?

WF: Like you said, Amar’e is good. He wears a more tailored, European style fit. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, I’ve seen these guys too. They kinda go with the college kinda look, with the sweaters, they kinda mix it up.

MW: Do you think it’s good to take a risk with fashion and not playing it safe?

WF: Well, I like challenges … I like to step out and do that. I guess in New York, you can do that, no one will stare at you no matter what you wear.

MW: You’ve had some memorable outfits, do you have a favorite? Is it hard to choose?

WF: Not really. This one is good today, I like tomorrow[‘s suit]. I’ve got to come up with something new so I never reach the pinnacle, just another plateau when I see another suit (laughs) and try to top that one. That’s what I try to do every game. … The fans now know that I’m going to have a different suit so they’re looking to see what I’m wearing so I have to give them something new.

MW: Now, NBA bloggers out there are always interested in what you are but don’t have a baller’s budget. What kind of tips would you give to them to get a cool, Clyde style?

WF: Don’t push the colours all the time, it’s about the fit. If you can get a nice tailored fit, like we’re saying with Amar’e, you can probably get that off the rack, people will probably think you’ve had that custom-made. Of course for shirts, you can get them tailored. But the tie and handkerchief a lot of the time make the outfit. If you can get a nice tie and a nice pocket square to finish it off.

MW: So where did your outfit come from today?

WF: My tailor, Mohan’s Custom Tailors did the suit. My shoes are made of ostrich leather and I had them made up custom by a guy in downtown New York. My tie is a custom-made by a guy named John Coages, I usually go to him to get my ties. What happens when you’re a tall guy is that your ties have to be longer than a regular tie, I can’t always buy ties from the store because if I want to do a different knot. And it’s not that expensive, maybe a hundred and twenty dollars.

MW: Who do you think has the better style – you or Craig Sager?

WF: (laughs) I think he’s a little more flamboyant than I am… I think my style is a little better. It’s because I’m taller – taller guys can wear a little better style.

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Marilyn Monroe is the Heat’s #1 Fan?

Ever since LeBron James announced he was taking his talents to South Beach, clothing brands are working to capitalize on the new big three. The most popular shirts are decidedly anti-LeBron and basic plays on words like Quitness and Miami Hate. Where’s the wardrobe love for the Heat?

 

Purple Heart Clothing in the Miami Heat store.

Enter Purple Heart Clothing based out of Miami. The company makes locally influenced gear including the “Miami-Wade County 3” tee that Dwyane Wade wore after re-signing with the Heat. He’s worn their other 305 centric gear to events and models for their website. Purple Heart came out with a “3 Kings” shirt earlier in the season to celebrate the free agency signings, but Wade is usually the focus of their NBA designs.

PurpleHeartClothing.com

Their most recent offering entitled “#1 Heat Fan”  has Marilyn Monroe in a Dwyane Wade jersey getting a little lippy. I understand the use of D-Wade (although Mario Chalmers or Joel Anthony would be much funnier) – but why Marilyn? Well, perhaps because back in her day, she was a bit of jersey chaser – after all she was married to Joe DiMaggio. She’s a timeless beauty but most would associate the blonde bombshell with the west coast and perhaps the Lakers, rather than the Heat. If she was alive and young during this generation and not the 50’s and 60’s, would she be competing with Kim Kardashian for most valuable backside and picking up a few championship rings without playing a game? Would she be a bandwagon fan and cheer on the Heat? I can picture Ms. Monroe as Jimmy Goldstein’s date court side in Los Angeles rather than hanging out with Lil’ Wayne and Gabrielle Union in Miami. But maybe Marilyn enjoyed purple drank with her pills?
Purple Heart used Marilyn Monroe’s image in the past, but instead of in a jersey, she’s fully inked up on a previous shirt. Marilyn is a pin-up icon and her image works well with the tattoo culture in Miami, but basketball seems like a stretch. While the drawing is nice despite the “HEAT” logo looking a little boxier than on the jersey, the image would look better as a graphic for a website or a sticker but a girl in a jersey on a shirt, is a lot for a simple tee.
The graphic shirt is available on the PurpleHeartClothing.com website in both a men’s and women’s sizes for $29.99 if you want to show your love for pin-ups and post-ups.

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Steal His Style: The Varsity Jacket

The retro renaissance is in full swing in the NBA. There are vintage inspired uniforms worn by the Golden State Warriors and Kobe’s overbite is back with a vengeance and poor shot selection to match. Players are also taking vintage cues when it comes to their off-court wardrobe. For the past few seasons, menswear has become enamored with preppy styles and a cleaner version of 90’s hip hop references. Gone are the baggy jeans, Rock and Republics and all iced-out everything. Now, wardrobes are full of snapbacks, Starter jackets and a bevy of Ralph Lauren.

LeBron James wore a Gommi Arcarde x Sabit Varsity jacket for his birthday. Priced at only $180. Photo credit: Getty Images

The varsity jacket is a classic that can work in every man’s wardrobe when worn appropriately. American streetwear brands are all offering their own branded take on the Letterman style. While luxury fashion houses like Rick Owens and Balmain mixed unexpected fabrics and fitted silhouettes for a modern interpretation on the classic, NBA stars have recently started designing their own personalized varsity jackets. Let’s take a look at some of the style highlights when it comes to the varsity jacket and how you can put your own look together without the high price tag and endorsement deal.

Photo credit: David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

When it comes to the most popular brand, Nike comes out on top. Nike Sportswear launched an aggressive marketing and design campaign this year focusing on their classic Destroyer jacket, their version of a varsity jacket. At events across the world, and at the Nike Sportswear flagship store in New York City, the blank canvas is customized with the help of Nike designers. They brought on cities, trend setters and their own roster of athletes to showcase the styling options. Nike’s reigning king, LeBron James, was the first NBA athlete to début his custom Nike Destroyer jacket. He’s been followed by burgeoning fashion designer Amar’e Stoudemire as well as his teammate, Chris Bosh.

Bosh and Stoudemire designing their bespoke pieces. Photo credit: Nike Sportswear

When you’re out hunting for the perfect varsity jacket, the key thing to keep in mind is shape and fit. Lay the jacket out and make sure the waistband, usually made of a stretchy material, isn’t a lot smaller than the shoulder width. If the jacket makes a definite v-shape, it will likely look like that on you — too big in the shoulders, too tight in the hips and could give you a gut that otherwise isn’t there. Make sure the shoulders fit properly as many cheaper varsity jackets will have a tiny collar and huge shoulder, and not a more even distribution. Also, many jacket sleeves tend to widen or be very large in comparison to the body of the jacket. Remember that anything can be taken in, but likely not let out. It’s better to size up, then tailor down to the get best fit.

Photo credit: RegularOlTy.com

In terms of materials, the Letterman style standard is a wool body with leather sleeves and optional iron-on or sewn-on letters. If you want the jacket to last, leather is a better option than vinyl sleeves as it is more breathable, meaning you won’t have to dry clean it as often. The best places to look for a quality jacket are eBay or a local vintage store. It takes some digging, but you can find some really interesting or limited pieces. If you feel like getting creative, you can find letters, numbers or have a logo made to style a basic piece into something personal.

Great eBay find: 2007 UNDFTD sample jacket

Here are a few of my picks for varsity jackets on budget, as a bespoke or limited edition Nike Destroyer jacket will cost you upwards for $2000. Layering thin materials in classic patterns and fabrics — such as chambray and gingham — with denim and boots is an easy way to look polished but casual from now until early spring.

Click the link for a buyer's guide.

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Made in China: Steve Nash Leaves Nike for Luyou

It seems that this NBA season is a time of transition for Steve Nash. In late 2010, he announced that he was divorcing from his wife. He endured another separation with Amar’e Stoudemire leaving for the Knicks. And now, the two-time most valuable player is parting ways with Nike Basketball, after fifteen years, to sign with a Chinese athletics brand called Luyou. Why the sudden change at mid-season? Leaving major brands for start-ups is a new trend among veteran NBA players. Baron Davis, a noted fashion plate and friend of Nash, was one of the first to sign with an Asian-based company. Davis has his own signature shoe and his Beardman logo literally makes him the face of Li-Ning. Shaquille O’Neal is also part of Li-Ning. Kevin Garnett left adidas to join ATNA and became their marquee player, and not just a member of adidas’ basketball “brotherhood”.

Photo credit: SneakersNews.com

Why the sudden trend? Are larger companies just not giving enough attention to the superstars? Is it about money? Or about growing their brand as players to ensure longevity once their playing days come to an end? Doing well the Asian market can translate to huge dollars in terms of jersey sales, revenue from signature shoes and marketability with other brands overseas that could continue into retirement. Players like Nash, Garnett and Shaq are so well-recognized in North America that it makes sense to to try to make headway in the world’s largest economy. All three players signed with different upstart Chinese brands that are still based in China. Li-Ning opened a store in Portland, the hotbed of athletic gear, last year, but none of these brands have an NBA presence or endorsement roster like Nike, adidas or even Reebok. Why take the risk and leave Nike after so many years?

Nash's last game in Nike's? Photo Credit: Getty Images/Yahoo Sports

Sneaker website CounterKicks attained the following statement from Nike:

“We can confirm Steve Nash is no longer under contract with us. We had a great run with Steve and we wish him all the best. We’re extremely pleased to work with the NBA’s top players like Kobe, LeBron, Durant and Wade, who wear our basketball products, the most innovative in the game today.”

The statement seems like public relations speak for  “good luck but we really don’t need you”. Nike has the largest roster and arguably the best talent with Kobe and LeBron but also new young stars like Blake Griffin, whose meager endorsement contract will likely bring a large payday and extension for Blake and huge hype for another signature shoe next season for Nike Basketball. Nash is taking a risk, but he becomes the face of a brand instead of competing with so many dynamic players.

Photo credit: WorldsBestLogos

It’s curious that the Luyou, Li-Ning and ATNA logos all look reminiscent of the infamous Nike swoosh. At first glance, they look like something that you may find in a knockoff factory in China. Are the companies doing their own swoosh to be recognizable? Is it symbolism or just a copy cat tactic? Perhaps if their logo was something unique, like another Chinese basketball brand, Peak, they would stand out more in North American market. They run the risk of being grouped into the Nike knock off section on the sales floor. However, it does leave room for serious branding for the signature sneaker models, like with what Li-Ning did with Baron Davis. The production process of both the Asian brands and the American names like Nike are likely in the same or or neighbouring factories in China.The incredibly lucrative footwear counterfeit business has another brand to compete with and mimic.

Nash in China in 2009. Photo credit: BDL/Getty Images.

An interesting factor in this recent trend is that both Baron Davis and Steve Nash are represented by BDA Sports Management, an agency known for exposing their clients to a worldwide fan base, especially in China. BDA has a strong international roster of players including Yao Ming. It’s also somewhat common for BDA athletes to endorse companies that are new in the basketball footwear market like Brandon Jennings, who is Under Armour’s only NBA athlete and at the forefront of all their marketing campaigns. He also signed the contract while playing overseas in Rome, instead of going to college. Under Armour is an American brand that instead of being based in Portland or China, is based in Baltimore, Maryland and is well-known for their apparel, instead of a company like Luyou, which is unknown to North American NBA fans. Nash is Canadian with international roots and is known as the pride of the province of British Columbia. Vancouver has a significant Asian population so that could translate to marketing opportunities, events with the Chinese community and of course, more sales.

Photo credit: sports.qq.comz

What it will really come down for Nash is whether he can sell sneakers to both markets and if it performs well enough for Nash to play in. Luyou’s brand slogan is “I think I can” so perhaps the mantra can pay off. Looking at their current offerings in China, they do not seem to have designed basketball sneakers in the past – most lifestyle and casual running shoes. At the announcement in Beijing, the brand had Nash call in videophone and announced that there would be both a charity playground project called “Nash’s House” as well as a Nash logo competition. Luyou trotted out diverse models who wore new designs and preached a new vision and direction for the brand. While I do not fully trust the capabilities of Google translate, it seems that Luyou is re-launching in their own market with Nash as the centrepiece. It doesn’t seem that there was any plans for worldwide expansion but perhaps that will come later this season or during the All-Star game in Los Angeles. Technically and aesthetically I’m curious to see what the brand comes up with as their other shoe designs look dated and uninspired. Would you wear Luyou shoes? Perhaps only time and availability in all markets will tell. For now, I’m sticking to my Nike’s.

Photo credit: CounterKicks.com + Luyou

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Filed under branding, endorsement, NBA, sports

The Ron Artest Art Show: Hipsters, Hoopsters and Sock Puppets

As I’ve written here before, Ron Artest is not your average NBA player. His antics on and off the court can illicit conversation, Twitter trends, fan outburts and even a Larry King interview. However, in early December 2010, a Facebook page announced an event that for most NBA fans and players was the inconceivable – a basketball inspired art show, dedicated solely to RonRon. Entitled Lovable Badass: A Tribute to Ron Artest, was the brainchild of curator, Steven Charles Manale, a Toronto artist and basketball fan, produced for Narwhal Art Projects. Thirty local artists paid tribute to the Queensbridge, New York native in a variety of art forms, including pen and ink drawings, sculptures, essays, prints, paintings and sock puppets.

Image credit: Narwhal Art Projects

When I received the Facebook invite and news of the art show became a popular tweet topic, I had a few mixed feelings. The event seemed well planned and Narwhal is known in Toronto for showcasing interesting works that are, at least intriguing, and usually well executed. The fact that it supported local artistans and one of my favorite NBA personalities was an interesting combination. But would the fusion between hood athlete and the hipster art scene work? Would the mix of unlikely bedfellows prompt the crowds to separate like an awkward high school dance, jocks versus artists? Promises of a mix of Ron’s favorite New York City hip hop piqued my interest, as did hearing that the bar would be stacked full of Hennessy. How gangster is that? Curious got me out of the door and I was barely even fashionably late to the opening.

Photo credit: Loni Schick

Needless to say, it was a surreal, once in a lifetime experience. I applaud the gallery and curator for trying something different. The timing was perfect as the night of the opening was during the Lakers practice day in Toronto, as they faced the Raptors the next afternoon. And yes, the man of the hour and mixed media art even attended. Ron is famous for using Twitter to reach out to fans and promote events. Ron  re-posted my article on his fashion sense on his official website – RONARTEST.COM and retweeted the link. I was curious to find out if he actually read my post, to see what he was wearing and if he would partake in a bit of Hennessy, too.

Photo credit: My iPhone 3G

The crowd at Narwhal was an interesting mix, different from you’d usually see at West Queen Street West art show opening in Toronto or a Raptors game. There were the artists who were on hand to pose with their art, explain their influences and greet Ron and guests. The organizers who all wore different Ron Artest jerseys from throughout his professional career (no Saint John’s college gear, though). It was a nice, campy touch and made them easy to find in the crowd. The jerseys bring me to basketball fans in attendance, many in basketball gear hoping to get a picture with RonRon. Members of the media slung back from the madness including theScore’s The Basketball Jones (Skeets and Matt) who were able to grab Ron for a quick interview and got the crowd to yes, say Queensbridge. There were also the usual neighbourhood hipsters and fellow artists taking it in.

The final group was the hoopsters. Now, I can’t take credit for this term as Deadspin coined it but it’s necessary in my lexicon in this instance. A hoopster is a hipster who wears an old, deadstock or rare NBA jersey for ironic wardrobe purposes, usually as a shirt in the summer with skinny jeans and boat shoes. Some are NBA fans, some are vintage fiends and some are just trying too hard to be cool. I heard one group of hoopsters discussing NBA rappers, as Ron has spit on mixtapes and even on solo tracks. My favorite overhead moment, “Hoopster 1: Shaq was an okay rapper, have you seen Shazam?” Hoopster 2: Allen Iverson is a pretty good rapper, though”. Yes, AI had some skills on mic, but his rhymes never cut like his crossover. Shaq however, is an embarrassment to hip hop.

Photo Credit: Steve Wilson

Despite the bizarre mix, most people got along just fine, perhaps it was the cognac or the pretty DJ Ali Cat spinning tunes or the mix of interesting art work. My favorite pieces include a sculpture of a classic photograph – Ron holding puppies in his Pacers’ uniform, a Charlie Brown comic chronicling the crazy of Artest and an illustration featuring the infamous “kiss” between Paul Pierce and Ron Artest.

Photo credit: Steven Wilson

Amongst the madness at Narwhal, I managed to grab Ron for a few minutes to introduce myself so we were no longer only Twitter friends. It was nice to hear that he read the blog and has an interest in my other work I do in the sports fashion realm. We both agreed that his outfit, while not great, was better than most of his effort when out in public. He wore a Ballin’ hoodie and a pair of baggy, dark jeans that despite his 6’8 frame pooled at least a few inches above his feet. How he found jeans that long, I’ll never know! While it’s nice to get comments and support from fellow media members and fans, it’s really exciting when the subjects I write about are also into my work and want to collaborate in the future. It may seem cliche, but it’s extra motivation for me to keep writing and styling in my niche market and hopefully, will lead to a few NBA players on client roster down the line. Ron made a speech, too – did you know he majored in art and architectural at Saint John’s before transferring to math, since it was easier? Ron lived up to the hype of being just a normal yet strange guy who also happens to have an NBA championship under his belt. He took time to speak to all the artists, pose with fans  and share stories. He left relatively early and it was neat to see all kinds of people excited to meet Ron and celebrate his unique style and life experiences.

Photo credit: Loni Schick

The event was a success. Press from all over North American picked up the story and most, if not all, of the art was snatched up as well. It’s not everyday that an art show can have such a specific focus, especially on one subject who is outside of the arts world, be a hit with so many markets. It’s also proof that it pays to be original – the artists, some not even NBA fans and crowd alike, were all inspired and entertained with a tale of redemption, charity, and crazy. Keep doing you, Ron!

If you want to learn more about the exhibit, check out the Narwhal Art Projects website or read Eric Koreen’s excellent article “Artestic Expression” on the show for the National Post. Thanks to my best girl and photographer Loni Schick for graciously letting me use her pictures for this post (I will get your Lakers toaster soon – promise!).

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Filed under event, NBA, personal style, sports, trends