It’s almost taken for granted nowadays that to be in the NBA, you also have to be a style icon. Russell Westbrook in his Tom Ford goodness makes best-dressed lists everywhere, and pregame television coverage now includes obligatory shots of players arriving for games, walking through dank, underground parking garages and hoping not to get dripped on in their $20K worth of couture.
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. For decades even, NBA players weren’t necessarily part of the fashion conversation. There were a few outliers, of course — Dr. J in a slick pair of bell bottoms, Walt “Clyde” Frazier decked out in fur and a fedora — but for the most part, players dressed mostly for practical concerns, something comfortable to cover a body while traveling from hotel to the arena. Fashion was for art students.
And then came the titanic shoe contracts, the global fusing of fashion and sports, the awareness of 24/7 brand building.
Which is what makes The Last Dance even more fascinating. Watching this old Michael Jordan footage, the brain short circuits a little. Hold up, a second? NBA stars dressed like this back in the day?
At the time, the outfits seemed less remarkable. Some were ill-fitting, others ill-conceived, but they fell loosely into the style of the time. But now, looking back at the vintage footage, and knowing what NBA stars would become with regard to fashion, it’s breathtaking.
How can the man behind the dopest (and often aesthetically pleasing) shoe line in the history of the game think he had an OK look? There are just people in this world that have too much money — Mark Zuckerberg, Zion Williamson’s stepfather — to dress like this.
What exactly was Michael Jordan doing?
The answer might take another 10-part docuseries. But it probably lies in the fact that Jordan was too caught up in his all-consuming passion for winning to worry about the cut of his trousers. Fair enough. Ignoring fashion worked for Steve Jobs, and disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes wore the same all-black outfit every day because she said it cut one thing to worry about from the day and allowed her to focus only on work. Jordan’s six rings and one NCAA championship have no doubt provided decent consolation whenever he’s gotten dragged over the years for having no style.
With that, let’s spin through five of the most memorable outfits showcased in The Last Dance, both good and bad.