Clothes don’t make the man, unless that man is the self-proclaimed “best dressed man in the NBA.”
Faded denim jackets. Louis Vuitton belts. Nike Dunks. Fitted designer jeans. Leopard prints. Pastels. Gold chains. Oversized diamond earrings. You name the fashion accessory, color or style, and Nick Young has probably worn it.
Twitter addicts and Wizards fans have known about Young’s habit for years, but it wasn’t until his postgame press conference after Game 4 against Memphis in the first round – when he wore this ridiculous shirt – that he garnered national attention for his flashy attire.
The legend of Swaggy P, his self-proclaimed alter ego, has been in the making since before he was in the hoops spotlight. Back when he was a preteen, Young’s mother used to borrow from the rent money to help buy him extra pairs of shoes. Young would destroy his shoes within a few days of getting them and his mother would have no choice but to quiet her anxious son with new pair after new pair.
The result? A sneakerhead of epic proportions. Early in his career, Young routinely went on $1,000 sneaker sprees, buying any and every pair he’d remotely consider donning. It got to the point where he stopped trying on shoes and just purchased them on sight — he knows what his shoe size is for each particular brand or style.
Young never wears a pair of shoes more than twice. He has versions of LeBron James’ shoes that LeBron doesn’t even have. And that’s just his shoes. Clothes? Yeesh. As a young NBA player, Young managed to fill his mom’s closet, his closet, and their Ford Explorer with all of his clothes, yet that didn’t even account for everything he owned. A lot of NBA players love fashion, but Young loves fashion.
Fashion is such a part of his life and brand that on his Twitter bio he lists that he rocks Chucks (Converse sneakers) and tight jeans ahead of his profession (you know, being an NBA player), he routinely tweets about shopping, and his Instagram is filled with self portraits of his different outfits.
The best summation of his addiction? His first tweet upon arriving in San Antonio before Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals:
The NBA has always had some of the most interesting dressers in sports, and the entertainment industry as a whole. In the late 90s, Allen Iverson (among others) ushered in the cornrows, doo rags, baggy jeans and oversized white tees phase. Throw in the mid-to-late 90s music and style of Jay-Z, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., and it all made sense. It was hip-hop culture at its finest.
Yet after the infamous Malice at the Palace melee — and as a result the NBA implementing a dress code — NBA style tightened and players could no longer dress like a “gangster”, “thug” or “rapper.” Players had to look presentable to the world and at least look like the role models the NBA wants them to be.
This development has lead us to the new wave of fashion — hipster glasses, cardigans, suspenders, neon colors — in which NBA players basically mimic GQ models. In some cases, they’ve even been GQ models.
Once again the parallel with rap is apparent. Artists such as West and Drake, who fluctuate between rapping and singing instead of the hardcore rhyming nature of their predecessors, have changed the hip-hop fashion scene and adopted tighter-fitting clothes and a new emphasis on sleek style. Is it because of the NBA dress code? No. But the transitions in both vacuums — hip-hop and the NBA — happened swiftly and mirror each other.
There’s no denying that there are some classy dressers in the league — guys who have good style, always look nice, and are ahead of the fashion trends. But no one combines all these facets like Young. No matter how plain or bland he looks, there’s always infinite attention to detail. The way he styles his hair, the accessories he chooses to wear, the brands he flaunts. It’s all calculated.
Certain players, such as Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, have recently caught media attention for the way they’ve dressed during these playoffs. But those guys are All-Stars and superstars, making tens of millions of dollars per year, with a notable brand and hundreds of thousands of people paying close attention to their every move.
Young? He’s not as well-known, doesn’t make as much money, and doesn’t get as much attention for what he does. Yet he still spends just as much money, if not more, and puts genuine effort into his image even if only a few thousand Clipper and Wizard fans care.
Your true character is what you do when no one’s looking. With Young, it’s clear that he doesn’t dress up for the cameras or reaction from the public. He does it for himself. And that’s swag.