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NBA Fashion: What Athletes Are Looking for in Their Everyday Fits

November 23, 2021

Every subculture has a unique fashion all its own. Sometimes, a fashion movement becomes so powerfully represented that it rises above subculture to become mainstream. The world of sports is no exception to this. Athletes have become part of our conversations about the best-dressed celebrities. Many of them have entered the world of fashion to work side by side with designers. 

Let’s delve into what gives NBA fashion its unique look and highlight what athletes want in their daily attire. 

The 21st Century Runway 

Before the 20th century, most cutting-edge styles were inspired by fashion shows in major cities. These shows were headlined by conventional beauty and attempts at unconventional design. Sometimes the fashion houses and their designers mattered more than the products they created.

While these traditional venues of showcasing fashion are still significant, high fashion is showcased everywhere, from city streets to basketball stadiums.

A pre-sports ritual that showcases athletes is common in almost every professional sport, whether it be the entrance music of professional wrestlers into the ring or the playing of a given team's theme to hype up the crowd. Athletes wear team uniforms, leaving little room for personal aesthetics on the court. 

Before and after going courtside, NBA players are targets for adoring fans and invested paparazzi alike. While gametime and practice is a time to dress in uniform, the walk-up to the game is the perfect opportunity for each player to showcase their style on a “runway” unlike any other. This is when high-performance athletics meets haute couture.  

For situations like this, it’s important to remember that many athletes are larger than the average person. Finding gear that showcases an individual sense of style and properly fitting is a big ask for designers. Many athletes have personal stylists for precisely this reason.

Athlete As Designer

Athletes are starting to become sartorial idols to draw inspiration from, not just for their style but for their creations, too. Say hello to the athlete-slash-designer. Athletes are now a part of head-to-toe apparel design.

Part of this is due to one of the defining qualities of modern fashion design: Collaboration. Whether between brands or between major designers and superstars in the worlds of fashion, sports, or music, collaboration is a defining trend that allows people to invent themselves as multifaceted brands whose artistic reach spans multiple mediums in an unprecedented way.

Athletic brands have long sought after athletes’ endorsement, but not luxury brands are also seeking out the spirit of these masterful performers to bring their distinctive style to the masses. 

There’s another practical reason for athletes to turn to fashion: The industry is highly lucrative, highly competitive, and entering with existing name recognition gives a built-in audience. This is especially true if the athlete in question is already known for dressing well. Additionally, even the greatest athletes of all time eventually hit a point where they need to retire. Rather than resting on their laurels, fashion design gives them yet another outlet to focus on the drive that led to them reaching the peak of their game in basketball. 

We’d like to highlight one fashion mogul in particular who’s making waves on the international fashion scene while still at the top of his game in the NBA: James Harden.

James Harden

It would take humility to say that James Harden is only one of the best players currently active in the NBA. Despite the time and effort he dedicates to the game, he still manages to perfect his style. If there’s one word to describe his fashion sense, it’s confidence. Whether choosing wild prints, neon green suits, or hyper-minimalist silhouettes, he follows this maxim and ensures that it’s always the man wearing the clothes and never the other way around. 

More importantly, he fully understands the role fashion plays in the world of athletics. Public figures increasingly see every part of their lives face scrutiny, even in things that may seem incidentally small, such as their everyday style. This level of scrutiny can, if worked with, do wonderful things for an athlete. He knows that athletes at the top have always sought to distinguish themselves through their aesthetic choices. More importantly, the prevalence of social media makes it so that the way one dresses affects how they are talked about. 

Outside of games, he’s collaborated with luxury brands like Daniel Patrick and classic athletic brands like Adidas. As recently as this past summer, he’s joined the board of Saks Fifth Avenue, seeing an opportunity to elevate his style and shift the conversation about fashion.

While James Harden is certainly one-of-a-kind, it’s doubtful that he’ll be the last basketball player to influence fashion, especially as curated styles become the norm for pop culture figures. 

Let’s highlight some of our own experiences when it comes to working with athletes and athletic brands alike. 

Enter Daniel Patrick

Daniel Patrick came onto the scene about a decade ago. We’ve always held athletes and their personal style close to our heart. For this reason, we’ve had the pleasure of working with everyone from musicians to athletes to classic athletic apparel brands in our hunt to bring our vision worldwide. 

Daniel Patrick has a love of vintage and classic athletic apparel and a desire to push boundaries for the ultimate luxury label. We have collaborated with Starter, Adidas, and James Harden, the latter two of whom we’ve had multiple collaborations with over the years. The relationship built from those persists, and the new pieces which are created remain a part of fashion history for years to come. 

DP Adidas Basketball 

The longest-running collaboration we’ve run has far and away been the run which often has gone in tandem with our work with James Harden, in the form of the DP Adidas Basketball collection. Here, a wide variety of aesthetics informed by the swagger of NBA players and the need for functional attire appear. 

DP Adidas Basketball Tee 

The DP Adidas Basketball Tee is part of a whole line created with high-performance and a unified, bold color at its core. This hazy yellow, relaxed-fit tee merges the performance of Adidas with the visual ingenuity of Daniel Patrick’s designs. This shirt matches with the shorts and pants in the rest of the DP Adidas Basketball line.

This shirt is built with a tonally embroidered DP logo on the chest, and it has a ribbed neck. A special AEROready cotton jersey material is moisture-wicking, making it performance-ready. 

This tee is just the beginning of the collaborative offerings Daniel Patrick offers.  

DP Adidas L/S Thermal Tee 

Next on the list is the DP Adidas L/S Thermal Tee, a graphic long sleeve tee with embroidered details and a high-performance blend that come together to create a new standard. Adidas Hoops is embroidered on the front chest, while a Daniel Patrick rubber applique is placed close to the cuff of the right sleeve. Ribbing on the neck and collar serves to tailor the fit a bit more. At the same time, a cotton and recycled polyester waffle knit blend makes this and other items in this particular collab line highly breathable and quick-drying.

The black and grey heather options use blue-and-black embroidery, while the orbit indigo version presents maroon-and-orange embroidery as well as a contrasting maroon neck and cuffs. Whether you want to stay simple or go colorful for a look that’s modern while evoking vintage fashions, these functional pieces retain the same level of style and performance wherever you wear them. 

DP Adidas Thermal Stripes Sweatpants

Our latest collaboration with Adidas takes its general design aesthetic from the culture of tunnel walk, making it perfect to wear courtside or day-to-day. The brand names are visible with the Daniel Patrick logo on the right leg and the Adidas logo on the left. A rubber DP applique on the back of the pant and a signature Adidas triple stripe along the outseams of the leg further showcase the familiar design elements of both collaborators. 

When it comes to the overall construction of the piece, medium-weight french terry makes this a luxuriantly comfortable pant to wear while still being light enough for a major performance. An elasticized cuff at the ankle serves to tailor the fit of the pant further.

The black and light grey heather versions of the DP Adidas Thermal Stripes Sweatpants utilize a cobalt waist and drawcord. The orbit indigo offering presents a grey waist and an orange drawcord that’s visible thanks to a partial sheerness of the fabric. 

Essentials of a Great Fit 

Fashion as a whole has begun to move away from rigidly formal attire to accommodate more casual sensibilities. However, casual doesn’t mean unkempt. While boldly-colored suits, comfortable streetwear, and everything in between is acceptable, these items must be carefully matched and built to last.

While most fashion rules are only rules until someone breaks them confidently enough, one truth holds under any amount of scrutiny: Dressing how you want, rather than how someone else wants, matters. This means choosing each piece of gear you wear deliberately and following your own heart when it comes to style rather than what’s trendy at a certain moment.

In general, though, there are a few things to consider. These include deliberate design elements, which hint at a carefully crafted garment rather than a mass-produced product. When a garment is manufactured locally, it indicates a more honest effort in the design process and the likelihood that the designer is doing more to oversee and ensure the quality of the batch.

If you want to dress like an NBA star swarmed by paparazzi, you don’t have to go copying their outfits, piece for piece. By going with bold items from designers who strive to push the limits of fashion, you can confidently dress on the cutting edge--regardless of where you go to show off your style.

 

Sources:

How the NBA's Best-Dressed Players Turned the Tunnel Into a Business | Esquire

Athlete Style I Sports Illustrated

From the Court to the Runway: How Professional Athletes Are Changing the Fashion Industry I Alexis Morgan

James Harden on Tunnel Fits, Shopping in Paris With Lil Baby, and His New Saks Role I GQ


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