In recent years the NBA has developed into the most stylish professional sports league, with many players adopting cutting edge fashion for their off court duties. The boring, often oversized suits were gradually replaced by more colorful street wear outfits in the late 90s and early 00s. Meanwhile the controversial decision to introduce an off court dress code put an abrupt stop to that development. While stars like Allen Iverson felt their freedom to express themselves was violated and even racism claims surfaced, the ruling certainly was a regress to duller fashion. But as often in life, the limitations seemed to push creativity and the imposed “formal wear” became a far cry from your grey suit with a plain shirt and a tie.
Some players were quick to adopt leading roles as haute couture trendsetters in the NBA fashion game, amongst them Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, who were campaigning against the dress code at first. Not only did the paradigm shift open up new ways of self expression, but also a two way street of business opportunities for fashion companies and the most marketable and fashion-conscious players alike. There is Carmelo who partnered with Ermenegildo Zegna or Kobe’s deal with Hublot for example, but the prize for most fashion ventures easily goes to Russel Westbrook.
Russ has always been a big risk taker in his fashion choices and not infrequently on the receiving end of mockery. Examples are his non prescription glasses, extravagant shirts or him admitting to his inability to grow facial hair. Now he laughs it off easily, when Kobe calls Westbrook’s fashion “weird shit”. The man has partnered with Barneys New York to form Russel Westbrook XO, a company catering to all the requirements of the modern man. This includes clothing, slippers, fragrance, luggage and jewelry, each in partnership with premier designers. His Jordan Westbrook 0 is the brand’s first signature sneaker designed for off court use and his high end eyewear line westbrookframes is coming along quite nicely. All in all very lucrative for the California native, albeit he doesn’t give the impression of a sellout. His story more resembles that of a nerd, who has been rather unpopular with his choices a long time before it finally paid off. NBA fashion’s miniature Bill Gates if you will.