You could be forgiven for thinking that they’ve come straight from the Instagram of an affluent male fashion blogger. But you’d be wrong. The photos come from none other than Miami Heat’s starting shooting guard, Dwayne Wade. It would be easy to think that Wade is an anomaly, one basketball player of many with an interest in fashion. In fact, you don’t even have to look further than his teammates to find more examples of men inclined to dress not just well, but adventurously. Take, for example, LeBron James’ manbag-cum-purse, pictured below.
Esquire have even written about an entire blog post about a shirt that LeBron James wore to a recent press conference. While its writer isn’t a fan of the shirt, I think it’s a pretty sharp look. And I find it incredibly refreshing to see men in the public eye making an effort to look good. With the exception of David Beckham and Thierry Henry, it’s difficult to think of many footballers who take such good care of themselves.
So why the title? This blog doesn’t talk about fifty of anything. Well, the grey comment is a reference to the fact that trends that have traditionally been seen as synonymous with ‘black culture’ are seeping into ‘white culture’ and vice versa. I’ve previously written about the phenomenon of young white men dressing like the, predominantly African American, members of Odd Future who, in turn, dress like middle aged white men used to in the ’90s.
Although I’ve noticed myself wearing more preppy clothes over the past several months, I’m still keen to embody some of that…swagger (that’s the first and last time I will ever use that word) that guys like James and Wade seem to exude. That swagger (ok, twice) is noticeably absent from many of the men I call my ‘style idols’, like Dallas Green (pictured above).
Under no circumstances does this mean my style is going to transform completely. However, I’ve noticed a slight transition in the way I’ve been mixing things up recently. For example, I’m already planning a trip to JD Sports (my de facto choice for trainers for men) to pick up these bad boys -
It’s tempting to equate dressing well and looking good with playing basketball. After all, it’s traditional for American high school ball players to wear shirts and ties on game day. Maybe being a baller is the key to being fashionable. Then again, maybe not.
NB: JD Sports sponsored their mention in this post. That has no bearing on the rest of the content in this post. Clearly.
Note: Google spiders would probably prefer I called this article ‘tribes in fashion’ or ‘post tribalist style’ (apparently they don’t ‘get’ puns), so I hope you ’80s kids appreciate the reference.
We all know someone who looks like this, right? Yes, they might not have the beard, or the chest piece, but you know someone who is just like this person. And if the site I drew it from is correct (which it almost always is), they’re probably a fan of acts like Girl Talk, Ratatat, Animal Collective, Freelance Whales and Grizzly Bear. Two of which a female friend (and manifestation of the fixed gear hipster) literally recommended on her Twitter the other day.
This week I stumbled across an article in Shortlist’s fashion magazine for men, MODE, about tribes in fashion. The article sets the scene well (recounting Hooligans, mods, Teddy Boys etc), which is nice as I don’t have the energy to rehash all of that here. However, its slightly weak conclusion (namely that hipsters sampling various styles from different eras is just another form of tribalism) left me feeling that Robinson ended the piece where it should have just been beginning.
The MODE article neatly references Ted Polhemus, an anthropologist specialising in street style, who claims that ‘most of us are now both post-tribal and post-fashion. The name of the game is to do your own thing.’ I call bullshit. As Tyler Durden uttered in Fight Club, ’you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.’
Although we are definitely not post-tribal, we do seem to have developed the ability to inhabit more than one tribe at once. Take me, for example – by day, I’m a preppy, fashion blogger type. By night, you’ll usually find me watching underground bands like Loma Prieta or Touche Amore screaming their way a set in some grim bar’s basement. You’d think that’s a combination that wouldn’t be too common, right? Well, it’s one I share with Brian Kanagaki, the bassist of Loma Prieta. And about twenty other guys at any one of their shows.
So how, all of a sudden, are we able to switch between tribes so easily? I blame the internet. In ‘the old days’ if you wanted to become (or at least look like) a punk, you’d have to spend years buying Doc Martens, a denim jacket to safety pin patches to and all the vinyl The Misfits and The Ramones had put out. Everyone in your town would know you were a punk, and that was that.
Now? I could finish work and set my laptop to download The Damned’s discography, get some studded DMs from Topman, order a bunch of patches for a vintage store denim jacket from eBay and be heading out to The Black Heart by 9pm. Instapunk. In the same way that people might present themselves differently on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, they often have a collection of interchangeable images of themselves that they project in different social situations.
As well as becoming more spasmodic and interchangeable, tribes in fashion are also becoming more metatextual and cyclical. Towards the end of the 20th century, rappers began to mix brands like Cartier, D&G, Ralph Lauren (traditionally the preserve of the white upper classes) with excessive bling like grills, bejewelled canes and pimp cups. In reaction to this, the white upper classes took a u-turn and began to dress in a style that seemed consciously ‘uncool’ – thick glasses, cardigans and deck shoes were once again en vogue c.f. The O.C‘s Seth Cohen wearing Original Penguin by Munsingwear, a brand formerly associated with ageing white dudes like Richard Nixon.
It took a very long time (well, as long as we’re not counting Erkel…and we’re not) for young African Americans to take on these trends, but it finally started to happen. The picture above of Tyler, the Creator and rap collective Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All) shows the way in which many young black teenagers have started to reappropriate the image of white, middle-class, often nerdy teenagers in their own way. Yup, so in the queue waiting for the new Supreme collection to drop, there will inevitably be a bunch of white guys trying to dress like black guys who are trying to dress like white guys. For more on Supreme and its phenomenal success, check this excellent article.
Stereotypes like this, that initially seem obscure and unique, are everywhere. Fashion bloggers with that Chanel quote about only being irreplacable if you’re unique (irony.) in their Twitter bio, who look coyly at the floor to their right and act surprised in every photo…even though they’re the ones who set the self timer. Screamo kids wearing wool hats and Jansport rucksacks at gigs, arms crossed and nodding their grudging appreciation at French post-hardcore bands. Tumblr kids with dip dyed pink hair and upside down crucifixes on their t-shirts who listen to The Cure and The Smiths (who they heard about from 500 Days of Summer) and obsess over manga. Gaggles of chino-clad fourteen year olds, with the strings of their American Apparel hoodies tied in a bow over a tribal print Topman t-shirt, who all hate One Direction. Despite looking just like them.
If you haven’t opened a fashion magazine in the past couple of months, let me catch you up: ‘sport luxe, sport luxe, sport luxe‘ (yo Google, I know that looks like keyword stuffing but pinky promise it’s legit).
I was initially (actually, I think I still am) undecided on sport luxe, because it seems to fall into two distinct camps. The first is made up of crazy colours, relaxed silhouettes and a vibe that somehow manages to feel simultaneously retro and futuristic.
The more stuff like this I saw, the closer I came to realising what it reminded me of. Then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me.
Yup, the reason a lot of sport luxe walks the line between past and future is because we first saw it a movie set in 2015 that was made in 1989. If you don’t know that I’m talking about Back to the Future II by now, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore. The fact that I love this crazy, experimental side of sport luxe is probably skewed by the fact that I’m a massive BTTF fan. So much so that I actually bought a replica of the cap Marty McFly wears in 2015. Judge at will.
But there is another side of sport luxe…the one I hate.
Above is a shot of Astrid Andersen’s AW12 collection, apparently inspired by Shaolin monks and The Wu Tang Clan. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s not what I get from the items shown. I get Eastern European tourist and Lady Sovereign. In case you don’t remember Lady Sovereign (it has been like five years since she was in the charts…), here she is…
For me, this is what it comes down too – shiny fabrics, baggy cropped clothes and sportswear have a heritage of usually being 1. very cheap looking and 2. easily imitated. I can’t get too excited about sport luxe because I know places like Primark and H&M will be flooded with this sort of stuff by the end of the month, and (because of the emphasis placed on sport luxe in the mainstream fashion press) EVERYONE will buy it.
Until then, I can only recommend going totally all out with it and rocking the bright, kooky side of the trend. And I can’t think of a much better kooky sport luxe icon to get tips from than Kreayshawn.