A line I think about a lot comes from GQ writer Cam Woolf's write-up of last fall's streetwear con, Hypefest. In it, Woolf singles in on a pack of young men, and writes:
What struck me about the group was that a decade earlier, they might have been circled around a television rooting on the Yankees, who were playing that night. They’d be dissecting every at-bat, slinging around advanced metrics with inscrutable acronyms like ERA+, BABIP, or OPS+, and griping about Giancarlo Stanton’s deficiency against righties. Instead, they spend their days pouring that energy into clothes: tracking prices, posting in forums and Facebook groups, and trying their mightiest to compile an impressive collection of clothes and sneakers—the same way their fathers might have done with baseball cards. Style is now the lingua franca of a generation trying to prove their cool. And so Hypefest wasn’t so much an opportunity to walk around a carefully curated mall as a chance to be around other people who’d be interested in doing exactly that.
That passage underlines the tension of how NBA fits—a category that contains both sports and fashion—became one of American pop culture's most important mirrors. In an age where personalities drive the biggest and fastest growing sports, these style extensions gave more depth to athletes we already tracked closely. Following a given athlete's ongoing commentary via his style choices provided important shading, small details we could cling to. Sometimes, outfits carried more dramatic tension than the games themselves. There's a reason so many brands want to bottle the influence of the most wave-making players.
As tracking the NBA increasingly becomes a year-round concern, something as surface-y as outfit choices (and the resulting news cycle) serves as an intriguing proof of concept. In previous eras, the NBA focused on marketing the basketball. Now, they're marketing a 360-degree lifestyle.
Check out our roundup of the best fits from 2018.