REVENGE OF THE NERDS: Fashion snarking and the NBA's love of dorky style

There is a great big geeky renaissance happening in the NBA right now.
Publish date:
May 30, 2012
shoppables, fashion, men's fashion, basketball, confidence, sports

A few days ago Emily wrote a funny piece about Uggs. Then she decided it was petty to bag on other people's fashion choices and wrote an article in which she renounced fashion snarking as an art form. The whole thing was so meta, as I think she was actually defending Uggs as just being a functional yet stupid item in her original post.

She might as well have sent me an email with the words ALISON I HATE YOU in the subject line. Fashion snarking is an Olympic sport! Some of you are going to weigh in and tell me that it isn’t. Well fine, I believe you, but it sure should be.

I briefly considered sending in my letter of resignation the second I read Emily’s anti-snarking thoughts, but I gave myself a time out and the moment passed. Anyway, I don’t really even work at XOJane, I am just a rogue Colonel Kurtz figure that they have foolishly given a platform to.

Sports media has gotten into the fashion snarking game lately -- namely because the biggest star of the recent NBA playoffs has been Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook’s post-game press conference shirts.

Izod shirt at top right available here, Critical Slide Society shirt at bottom right available here.

I am not a huge fan of baskeball but I find myself Googling "Russell Westbrook shirt" after every playoff game. He just wears all this weird shit with such panache. It also doesn't hurt that he is one of the league's best point guards right now. (She said, after Googling it.)

Kobe Bryant’s petulant, loser Laker ass had this to say when asked what he thought about Westbrook’s fashion choices: “I know he wears a lot of weird $@#%, it’s a generational thing. I’m glad I didn’t grow up in his generation.”

Kobe, you are so right. What was Russell thinking? Who would wear such ridiculous things?

Kobe Bryant, LA Times Magazine circa 2010.

Online sports blogs have been making endless dumb "Where’s Waldo?" and Urkel from Family Mattersjokes about Westbrook’s fashions.

Of course Charles Barkley had to chime in when he saw Russell's multi-colored fishing lure shirt: “Well, at least we know they got a TJ Maxx in Oklahoma City.” I love Charles Barkley, he just says whatever the hell he thinks, consequences be damned. I want him to be reporting from the red carpet at the next Oscars.

Barkley is actually right on the money with his TJ Maxx comment. The 1990’s Goodwill style Westbrook’s been sporting looks like it could very easily have come from a TJ Maxx clearance rack.

Shaquille O’Neal told the TNT sports audience that he (begrudgingly) shares with Barkley, “It’s Toys R Us. I’ve got one word for you: Garanimals.”

I’ve got bad news for Shaq, Barkley and the rest of sports media: They are a little late to the snark party. Russell’s 'ironic hipster' style was new/weird/different way back at the beginning of 2004, but Coogi sweaters are back in production now, for fuck’s sake. (Coogis are the original Cosby Sweaters.) A cursory Internet search brings up a dozen hipster hate blogs, and I wasn't even really counting. Mocking hipsters is a dead art form.

Russell isn’t even so much a hipster as he is a "chic geek." Not only are some of those shirts buttoned up all the way to the top, his chunky framed glasses have NO LENSES IN THEM.

Nerd style is becoming old news. The "ironicals" that live in my eastside Los Angeles neighborhood have moved on to wearing fanny packs with a Rasta Bart Simpson T-shirt and some Zubaz pants.

I don't believe this shirt actually exists. It's an Internet legend.

They are the master class, and Russell could learn much from them.

The NBA instituted a dress code back in 2005, seemingly banning all clothing associated with hip-hop culture. The NBA was having a self-perceived image problem, and felt some players were representing the "THUG LIFE" a little too hard.

The dress code now states that players are not to wear jewelry, throwback jerseys, headphones or sunglasses. It even expressly bans Timberlands! The NBA wants to see their players in "business casual" clothing at press conferences and other official functions. It seems that Russell is following the rules, as they haven't fined him -- even if he looks like his "business" is waiting in line for a soy latte at a coffee bar in Silverlake, California.

I think Russell wears his clothes well. I mean, shit, I’d sleep with him. He has hilarious confidence. When a reporter asked him why his glasses have no lenses he answered, “I see better without 'em!” His clothes are just an extension of his personality. They are probably making him seem way more interesting than he actually is. That's the power of fashion. Good clothes really do open all doors.

I started daydreaming about groovy stuff I'd like to see Russell wearing. Yes, that's what I do for fun. Here's what I'd pick for him, were he to ask me for my expert (lol) advice.

Joyrich dinosaur jacket, top left, here. Reyn Spooner anchor shirt, top right, here. Lost shirt, bottom left, here. Makia gingham shirt, bottom right, here.

Not many guys can pull off some of these pieces. It takes a certain je ne sais quoithat most dudes don't have. I don't even think Joyrich makes that dinosaur motorcycle jacket anymore, but it really is a thing of beauty. I'm mad that I didn't buy it for myself when I had the chance.

Russell is not alone in the NBA with his love of nerd fashion. Lots of players are feeling the nerd trend right now:

Nerd crew, clockwise from top left: Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, James Harden.

I love it -- but fashion is so subjective. I get into these endless, drawn out disagreements on shows any time I put an actor in something that has too much "personality." Anyone who doesn’t understand what they are seeing takes a shortcut to just snarking about it and putting it down.

Get with the program, you dinosaur-ish sportscasters. What’s old is new. What’s dumb is cool. It's hip to be square, and I love it.