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Style Advice

Your guide to basketball style

Your guide to basketball style

Considering the NBA’s impact on the fashion world, it’s hard to believe that basketball has only been around since the 1890s. Then, the sport was played only as a hobby so players wore whatever they had: usually an uncomfortable combination of wool undershirts and baggy trousers. Now, a little over a century later, and with style icons like Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and LeBron James among its ranks, basketball has forged its own distinctive uniform that has become a part of our day-to-day casual wardrobes. And even if you’ve never scored a slam dunk, you can still welcome the aesthetic into your wardrobe. 

A short history of basketball style

Though the Harlem Globetrotters are owed honourable mention for their ‘flamboyant’ uniform in the 1930s, which became the blueprint for today’s kit, it wasn’t until the 1980s and ‘90s that basketball started to carve its way into everyday style. 90 years after the game’s inception, Michael Jordan rewrote the uniform rules of basketball not once, but twice: first he was fined $5,000 for every match he wore non-uniform Nike sneakers (with Nike footing the bill); next he asked Champion to create the longer shorts to fit his ‘lucky’ University of North Carolina pair over the top. 

The result? The NBA relaxed its rules. All players wanted a pair of longer, more comfortable shorts, and everyone – player, fan, or otherwise – wanted to ‘be like Mike’ in a pair of Nike Air Jordan’s. By the 2000s, players were wearing their jerseys off the court and guys who have never even set foot on one have a Lakers vest in their arsenal. 

How to wear basketball style today

If there’s any lesson to be learned from Michael Jordan and the modern evolution of basketball uniforms, it’s that there is no one way to wear this sporty style: it’s all about making it work for you. So whether you’re shooting hoops, hitting the gym, or chilling at the park, incorporating laid-back basketball style into your everyday wardrobe this summer is easier than it sounds – especially if your reference points are more informed by “Space Jam” than the NBA.

Tops

Basketball jerseys

Basketball style doesn’t get more obvious than a jersey. It’s no surprise that this light, flattering, and breathable style has made its way into everyday sportswear. Whether you’re hitting the gym or just heading to the park on a hot day, the loose, cooling properties make the basketball jersey a practical choice that just happens to look super cool, too. And since you’re taking things all the way, you might as well pick a bold colour while you’re at it.

Oversized tees

Basketball style is all about oversized pieces, so if you’d rather inject a small dose rather than dunk the whole look into your summer wardrobe, reach for loose-fitting tees. You can even stick to a plain and simple white version if bold colours aren’t your thing. The contemporary, oversized cut will stand out from your usual choices and will keep you cool on hot days. And if you’re heading somewhere that doesn’t allow for basketball shorts and Nike Jordans, you can still throw this on with your jeans or chinos for more considered occasions.

A hoodie

You’re probably fed up with wearing hoodies by now, but we can’t deny that they’re still one of our favourite throw-on pieces. Before the hoodie was adopted into street style, it was a favourite among athletes, so it’s no surprise that many of today’s sports stars have their own ranges. The Air Jordan hoodie by Paris Saint Germain is the perfect collaboration that combines everyday style with a classic sporty look. It’s laid-back but still nods to athletic style, and feels more elevated than the scruffy pieces you might be used to lounging on the sofa in. It even features the iconic Jordan Jumpman logo to seal the deal as a b-ball staple.

Bottoms

Sport shorts

Classic basketball shorts can be quite a bold style to pull off if you’re not used to it. But they’re so cool and comfy, we think you should give them a go. Ease in with a plain pair of sports shorts that nod to the look but don’t feel explicitly grounded in basketball style. The loose, breathable mesh fabric is enough to give this pair a functional sporty look that you can wear anywhere.

Basketball shorts

Like the jersey, basketball shorts had no trouble securing their place in off-the-court style thanks to their loose, comfy fit. You might have a pair you already wear for lounging at home or hitting the gym, but this summer we’re all about taking the look outside. Basketball shorts are slightly longer than your regular sports short, but they’re just as moveable – who knows, they might even inspire you to shoot some hoops.

Classic loose shorts

Despite the laid-back summer ahead, not every occasion will allow for baggy sports shorts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t hint at the style while keeping things a little more sophisticated. A pair of loose-fitting shorts with a drawstring waist can look contemporary and cool when paired with a shirt if you need to smarten up – not something we’d recommend with classic basketball shorts. On off-duty days, wear them with an oversized tee and Converse for a basketball-inspired look that hints at the style without feeling overwhelming.

Footwear

Photographed: Nike Jordan Air Jordan 6 Retro W (£165)

Nike Jordans

Basketball has inspired some iconic footwear, and you don’t need to be hitting the court to pull the styles off. Nike Jordans (are you noticing a theme, here?) weren’t the first, or the last, statement basketball shoe to make it off the court and into mainstream fashion, but it’s fair to say they’ve made the biggest cultural impact. The style was first designed exclusively for Michael Jordan in 1984, and now has sneakerheads queuing overnight to get their hands on the latest drops. The style has evolved from classic hi-top trainer into bright and futuristic shapes so there’s no shortage of options to suit your personal style.

Nike Blazers

When Nike released the Blazer sneaker in 1973, the brand was barely known among the basketball community. In fact, it was thanks to George ‘The Iceman’ Gervin sporting a pair on the court that Nike made its name as a seriously functional, as well as stylish, footwear brand. The high ankle, supportive padding, and comfortable rubber sole made them a lasting favourite on the scene, which has even seen collaborations with partners ranging from Stussy to Stranger Things. Thanks to contemporary styles like Jordans, Blazers feel less like an obvious basketball shoe and more like a retro sneaker with a contemporary edge. 

Converse

It’s hard to imagine wearing Converse as a legitimate sports sneaker these days, but in 1917, the first pair of All-Stars was released as basketball shoes. Now, the hi-top canvas style is as closely linked with skate style as it is with its basketball heritage, but it’s that versatility that’s kept them on the sneaker scene for over 100 years. If you’re new to basketball style or just want to hint at the look into your casual wardrobe this summer, Converse All-Stars are the perfect homage. In fact you probably already own some, so you’re closer to nailing basketball style than you thought.


Words: Ella White