Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is no stranger to fashion provocation, but gauging by the reaction from his stroll into Chicago's United Center last night in a tailored Gucci suit that featured ankle-flashing capri pants, you would have assumed he'd shown up in a rainbow Speedo and glittery suspenders. From Shaq's on-air a cappella version of "Karma Chameleon" to online commenters lamenting the "feminization" of NBA player, the online reaction was swift and heaping with complaints about boring things like the state of masculinity.
Personally, I'm not so much a fan of the man capri look, but, to paraphrase Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I may not agree with your look, but I defend to the death your right to wear it.
The ever-escalating NBA fashion wars are nothing new. The player arrivals and post-game press conference during the playoffs have practically become an unofficial celebrated event on the men's fashion calendar. We've seen everything from man purses to pink ensembles. It's pretty standard now, and yet every time a prominent player wears something a little "fashion forward" there's an online and televised uproar.
Look at the way TNT's Inside the NBA crew reacted to Dwayne's get-up last night.
Shaquille O'Neil straight up starts singing Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon," because, I guess, the singer, Boy George, is an openly gay man whose fashion choices over the years have ranged from "club kid androgynous" to nearing full-out drag queen (looks that really don't encompass Wade's fashion sense). The website Yazmar claimed Wade was wearing women's capris (they're not, they're straight off the men's Gucci runway) and lamented it was "a sign of more effeminate things to come from the NBA and so called MEN of today." Twitter response included lines like, "The Miami Heat are a gay basketball team!!"
First off, to clear a few things up, they weren't actually capris. The flood pants look is nothing new in men's fashion. Designer Thom Browne has been pushing it for year, and its slowly seeped into other designers' work. Of course, when you're 6'4", the look may come off a bit more "capri" looking. And, actually, Wade isn't the first player to rock capris to a game. Russell Westbrook pulled out actual capris back in March.
And yet as much as we all gawk at NBA player's fashion choices, the fashion-forward look is downright awesome, if not one of the few subversive trends in mainstream sports.
Back in 2005, NBA Commissioner David Stern handed down his controversial dress-code edict that many found racially tinged and specifically targeting hip-hop culture. Of course, you really can't expect dudes who are millionaires and in their 20s to wear Men's Warehouse suits to work just because some high-level sports bureaucrat told them to. It's really no surprise then that following that, the NBA fashion conscious went from Michael Jordan's "Dad Who Likes to Golf" and Allen Iverson's "But what I really want to do is rap" looks to Wade and Westbrook's "Yeah, I hung out with Donatella Versace in Milan last summer, what of it?" aesthetic.
They've literally turned some out-of-touch old white guy's decision that must they dress like mid-level management at First United Bank into a carnival of self-expression.
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The fact that guys like Wade have their masculinity called into question for their wardrobes and still continue to dress like French dandies is just subversive icing on the cake.
Fact is, Wade excels in just about every aspect of traditional masculinity. He's a great father, has an official Hollywood hottie on his arms, is a community leader, a business man, and, oh yeah, is one of the greatest basketball players of all time and seems well on his way to collecting his third NBA ring.
But yeah, sure, make fun of his pants.