The fact that the NBA draft took place in the middle of the Paris menswear shows was something of a cosmically convenient coincidence.
After all, the draft has increasingly become one of our most-watched runways, the heart of the convergence between fashion and sports that has spawned the tunnel walk and social media accounts chronicling players’ wardrobes — and leading to front-row seats at shows like Louis Vuitton, where LeBron James recently attended, and Rick Owens, where Kyle Kuzma appeared. And it will only become more important.
ESPN has added a one-hour “NBA Draft Red Carpet Special” as has E! does for the Oscars and the Met Gala, including a 360-degree camera that looks like the E! Glambot, the better to capture the looks in the round, as well as a reporter asking contestants, “What are you wearing?”
Yes, the question is no longer just for women.
Perhaps because most of the athletes are not used to answering, they did not answer with a “what” – they did not name their brand – but a “why.” Why they chose the look they chose. Which again reflects why this all matters.
As Mitchell Jackson, the author of the forthcoming “Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion,” a coffee-table book that elevates the subject to the same decorative status as a Dior or Gucci monograph, said: “NBA draft fashion is its own topic now, not an afterthought, but part of the big show. It was always something the players cared about, but with more media coverage of the draft, with the advent of social media and the tunnel, it’s an important part, dare I would say a significant part of the player’s star power.”
It’s the players’ first chance to create the brand of them and offer it for public consumption. As a result, everything is tailor-made. Not just literally, but conceptually.
Starting with Victor Wembanyama, the overall No. 1 and widely touted “generational talent” from France, who wore a forest green Louis Vuitton suit with a kimono-like jacket wrapped at the waist and a matching forest green shirt, a large stone dangling from his neck. Vuitton is, of course, the world’s dominant luxury brand, synonymous with French savoir-faire and one that has recently hired a black American – Pharrell Williams – as its menswear designer, all values (inclusivity, cross-border diplomacy, success) as standing up to what Mr. .Wembanyama promises to represent.
As for the color, he said he liked it because it made him think of outer space (he’s reaching for the stars), while the rock around his neck is less blingy than some of the other ice that his future competitors have. , was an item said to help achieve goals.
His only competition in the high-fashion stakes came from Kobe Bufkin (picked 15th by the Atlanta Hawks), in a cream tweed double-breasted suit without a shirt, a choice that revealed a highly tuned trend antenna. It implicitly associated him with other celebrity proponents of the suit-no-shirt look, like Timothée Chalamet (who popularized the trend when he went shirtless to the 2022 Oscars). Little wonder LeagueFits announced that “Atlanta will compete for a ligafits championship, confirmed.”
Particularly restrained were Brandon Miller, No. 2, in a three-piece plaid number, and Amen and Ausar Thompson, identical twins picked fourth and fifth, who wore matching double-breasted suits by tailor Waraire Boswell. One was white and one was navy. “They went for subtlety,” said Mr. Jackson, a sign of how much draft fashion has shifted from the straightforward “look at me” to “think about me” or “invest in me.”
Appearance was part of a collaboration with Amex, and Mr. Boswell also designed a limited edition jacket inspired by the Thompson suits that will only be available to Amex cardholders. Why not start making an impact as soon as possible?
At the other end of the spectrum were Scoot Henderson (picked third) and Gradey Dick (picked 13th) who were the most stunned athletes of the night. Even then, however, their bling wasn’t just bling for bling’s sake. It was bling with sense.
Sir. Henderson’s suit, by Indochino (a brand that has something of a lock on draft-day dressing, this year working with nine athletes) was covered in more than 600 gemstones meant to represent his family tree, incorporating the birthstones of his parents and siblings.
“I wanted to be very thoughtful about how my look-a-day look represents both my journey so far and what’s next,” said Mr. Henderson, who also sported a custom, blinded grill, in a press release. “This suit is a visual representation of what got me here.”
This is the next iteration of the personal history-in-one-for approach that has become familiar among many players, who paper the inside of their jackets with photographs and memorabilia printed on silk. Look, for example, at Taylor Hendricks (picked ninth), whose candy pink suit hid an entire biography.
As for Mr. Dick, he wore a turtleneck and a petticoat jacket, both covered in red sequins. The look earned him comparisons to Zoolander and Siegfried and Roy on social media, but was a nod, he said, to Dorothy’s ruby slippers and his own journey from Kansas to the presumably magical world of the Toronto Raptors (a team whose color also happens to be red). Not to mention the hint that he also has guts and heart.
As a choice were the sequins teased and praised in equal measure, but either way they were impossible to ignore. In the attention economy, that’s a win.