Claire Stemen
Claire Stemen
Claire Stemen likes to think and write about fashion as a vital form of communication. She loves clothing and the way we style ourselves, despite always buying the same black turtleneck over and over again. You can find her on Instagram @claire_stemen, or or at

How NBA Players Became the New Trendsetters

nba-style-dwayne-wade-mainFor most of its existence, men’s fashion seems to have been an all-or-nothing affair.

A guy was either “in the know,” or had a style that started with the basics and didn’t go much further.

NBA stars have come to defy this polarization. Neither stereotypical eccentrics nor “metro” men, players are bringing fashion where it matters: professional sports. For most men, fashion week isn’t even on their radar … but you can bet basketball is.

Fashion week isn’t on most men’s radar; but you can bet basketball is.

So if their idols arrive at games — using the hallway as their runway — it’s a whole different ballgame for men’s fashion.

This recent shift to attention in dress says something about the average man’s interest in fashion. Namely, that he’s paying attention.

Take the NBA draft, for example. In 2003, a little more than a decade ago, a prevailing sense of style was lacking. A mass of gray, loose-fitting suits dominated the broadcast — not like many people were paying attention to their attire anyway.

A little more than a decade ago, a prevailing sense of style was lacking.

2003 NBA Draft


Looking at each year following 2003, the effort put into NBA draft looks remains lax. Even 2014’s draft is lackluster (save for an excellent effort on Andrew Wiggins’ part.)

2014 NBA Draft

(Note Wiggins in the patterned blazer and bowtie.)

Then, quite suddenly it seemed, the NBA Draft became a wild collection of eclectic styles. Cue the 2015 NBA Draft:

2015 NBA Draft


It’s a drastic change — a change that was a long-time coming.

A number of bastions of basketball legendry, such as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, have been passionate about what they “sport” for as long as they’ve been in the game. Their influence, slowly seeping into the league, coupled with their success and sizable fame, rushed the NBA into a fashion-conscious revolution. No one expects more than color-coordinated sweats from athletes, but NBA players have begun to deliver much, much more.

Their influence rushed the NBA into a fashion-conscious revolution.

The question remains: where did this drastic switch come from? The rise of hip-hop and “urban” styles, largely due to the popularity of rap, brought more money, and therefore, more designer threads to public attention. The luxury lifestyle of rappers (who are often good friends of NBA players) became a mainstream obsession. Social media’s sudden influence and presence in nearly all aspects of modern life undoubtedly contributed to the change. Moments like walking into the building for a game became moments the public saw and cared about.

Walking into the building became a moment the public saw and cared about.

Who wants to be caught unstylish in those moments? No one.


As if it wasn’t unexpected enough that NBA stars overtook the men’s fashion world as public authorities on style, they even put on their own fashion show. Or, more specifically, Lebron James did.

Since James joined the NBA, his brazen style has spearheaded the movement toward a sartorially aware league. Today his Instagram often features a blasé yet confident hashtag #somethingsimple.

James’ brazen style has spearheaded a sartorially aware league.

His company Springhill Productions produced the NBA All-Style fashion show that aired in 2015. While the affair wasn’t quite suited for men unaccustomed to the demands of a runway experience (it is, after all, much harder than it looks), it was an interesting reminder that fashion is officially on the mind of the NBA.

With style choices fit for fashion week on view, the NBA is calling the shots, and not just on the court. Although the fashion world has great influence on women’s dress, it seems the best outlet to reach men is through their greatest love: sports. Now, with Snapchat and Instagram, fans can follow their favorite players and their style.

Here are a few we recommend:

Fashion All-Stars
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With love,


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