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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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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The Oregon Ducks’ New BCS Uniforms: Where’s the Mallard?

Another Bowl game brings another new look for the Oregon Ducks, who’ve worn a variation on the Nike Pro Combat 2010 Uniform every game this season. Nike’s American Football summit took place in Dallas yesterday and the company launched the updated Pro Combat System of Dress for the 2011 season and seemingly lucked out with the Ducks BCS Championship game against Heisman winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. There is no grander stage for Nike to showcase their newest duds for next season and get jersey geeks salivating. The Ducks will wear the new advanced garments for the big game, along with the Florida Gators and the Boise State Broncos, respectively.

Photo Credit: NikeMedia.com

The most surprising part about the Ducks’ 2011 uniforms are not all the technological design updates like the further streamlining of the already fitted jerseys, the new Air Zoom Alpha Talon Cleat and the use of Nike’s patent Flywire technology in a sports performance garment. But rather, compared to what Nike has produced for Oregon in the past, the BCS Championship uniform is rather underwhelming. From head to toe, the entire ensemble is a riff on what the Ducks have worn all season and sticks to the same colour palette. The jersey is mainly white with grey, black, neon and silver accents. The Duck wings are back again, this time in gun-metal grey on the shoulders. The thin Oregon font in grey on the chest and arm sleeves and is highlighted, naturally, in neon. The result is minimal, futuristic but also incredibly bright. Thank goodness Glendale is a closed dome stadium as natural light would make the game unwatchable – the Boise State Broncos in blue wearing on the smurf turf would be easier to watch.

Photo Credit: NikeMedia.com

The biggest complaint from Oregon aficionados is that the Ducks stray too far from their traditional team colour palette of green and yellow. I believe that team colours must  feature on the main body of the jersey and pants and the accessories should use the alternate colours to highlight the overall look. The accessories are by the far the best part of the kit and most interesting. The gloves use two shades of silver to form a diamond pattern while black duck wings and an Oregon O display when the wearer puts up their hands to form the “O” and look very sleek. The carbon fibre helmet mimics the gloves with the diamond pattern and the “O” is in the now trademark neon. It’s a striking helmet, however I do miss the traditional mallard helmet that the Ducks wore earlier this season, which is a classic in sports design that fuses technology, design and references the duck perfectly.

Photo Credit: NikeMedia.com

It’s interesting that the Ducks are back in neon, using a yellow that could look much more green in certain lights and on television. Paired with white jerseys, black and grey elements, and bright shoes designed to blur when in motion, the uniform will likely look dizzying and incredibly bright in high-definition. However, perhaps it will give them a competitive advantage against the more basic, traditionally styled Auburn jerseys offered by Under Armour.

The closest Oregon has come to wearing real school colours: November 26, 2010 against the Arizona Wildcats. Amazing mallard helmet though. Photo Credit: Getty Images

While stylistically more advanced, it’d be nice to see Nike push the creative envelope and take the uniform to the next level with the 2011 Pro Combat System of dress design, using the advanced technology and original Ducks colours. Will the jerseys be re-imagined before the Ducks march on the field on Glendale? Don’t be surprised if Nike and Phil Knight have something else up their fitted sleeves for BCS championship game on January 10th. Rumor has it that the alternate gun-metal grey (called anthracite in the Nike colour wheel) jerseys that are now available on GoDucks.com, will include pants and that the Ducks have an option to go with white jerseys and anthracite pants. Will the Ducks take in the Tigers in a two-tone, all white or completely different look? Without a doubt the Ducks stand out and literally wear their Nike Corporate link on their sleeves, but that doesn’t mean they should eschew traditional completely. Can you go forward without looking back? Only time and Beaverton folks know for sure.

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Amar’e Stoudemire Gets More Credit From Anna Wintour than Mike D’Antoni

Amar’e Stoudemire seems like a new man since he became a Knick this off-season. New York is a like a Mikveh for Amar’e – not only because he’s discovering his Jewish roots but socially, he’s been reborn as one of fashion’s chosen people. Stoudemire’s stylish flare caught the eye of the single powerful person in the fashion industry, American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Amar'e Stoudemire at the Fashion's Night Out party hosted by Vogue in September 2010. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Amar’e emerged on the style scene this past Mercedez Benz Fashion Week, before the NBA season began. Ms. Wintour personally invited Amar’e to the Fashion’s Night Out runway event and launch party hosted by Vogue, which is the official kick-off to fashion week. He also attended the Tommy  Hilfiger twenty-fifth anniversary runway show, where he sat front row between Anna and Hamish Bowles, the European editor-at-large for Vogue. Since September, the rumours are swirling that Amar’e could be the second black man (and basketball player) to appear on the cover of American Vogue, after LeBron James. Amar’e is no stranger to modeling and thanks to his own adventurous sartorial sense and high profile stylist – he’s become one of the most fashionable men in the league.

Vogue’s new big three? Front row at Tommy Hilfiger’s 25th anniversary runway show. Photo credit: Getty Images.

After the Knicks win versus the Raptors this past Sunday, Amar’e was dressed deliberately understated in Louis Vuitton sneakers, wool trousers, green tie and a black zip-up sweater. I had to ask if he’s criticized more for his game or his wardrobe? Anna Wintour and coach Mike D’Antoni are known as two of the most demanding individuals in their respective professions, but the answer may surprise you. Amar’e Stoudemire – super model? Maybe.

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UNDRCRWN x Starter Snapback Hats and Style Guide

The early 90’s aesthetic is big again among NBA players from Amar’e Stoudemire to James Harden and Brandon Jennings. What’s ironic is that the Starter jackets and Polo boots many of us 80’s babies grew up on hoarding – the new kids of the NBA were still in diapers when the brands were popular. Sports lifestyle brand UNDRCRWN recently teamed up with throwback favorite, Starter, for a cap collaboration with their own version of the retro trend.

The holiday drop features five caps in the iconic snapback Starter style. The “Simon Says” style is a play on the 1980’s toy using bright primary colours and yellow stitching and a black bill for a graphic, yet clean look. The infamous “UNDRCRWN” logo is embroidered on the front in white and the Starter logo on the back of the cap completes it. The “Script Club” style references the popular NBA Draft Cap from the early ’90s. The cap features “UNDRCRWN – World Champions” stitched across the front of the cap, as well as a patch reading “World Champs on the left side and the Starter logo on the back. The cap is retro chic without the kitsch and is available in blue, green, red and black.

Now that throwbacks have become the new lid of choice since the standard New Era fitted is falling out of favor. But how do you wear a vintage piece without looking like you’re trying to go too retro? I’ve compiled a little guide to bring you the best in reasonably priced menswear and streetwear brands to rock with a snapback. To stay current, make sure you pick throwback style items but in modern, fitted silhouettes. Mix in neutrals and classic pieces to balance the look. The wardrobe guide is inspired by early 90’s style well as the new youngings that are dressing like they’re bringing ’88 back.

All five hats will be available for sale at www.shopundrcrwn.com and select UNDRCRWN retailers worldwide now.

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