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Patrick Hruby

Don't Get Mad, Get Plaid

How to subvert the NBA's new dress code


The hour is almost at hand. Judgment Day draws near …

Starting next week, NBA players will be required to abide by a ballyhooed new dress code.

Or, as some sport-coat refuseniks might describe it, a one-way elevator ride to business casual hell. Going down.

Tim Duncan has called the code "retarded." Allen Iverson has labeled it "fake." Them's fightin' words. Yet if up-in-arms players truly want to turn back the clock -- to the halcyon era of throwback jerseys, diamond-encrusted Jesus medallions and Steve Nash's peace-love-'n'-understanding T-shirts -- only one strategy will work.

Roll over. Give in. Follow the rules.

Then make the league office beg for mercy.

*****

In the martial art of aikido, defenders do not counter force with force but rather use an attacker's energy and momentum against them. Weakness becomes strength, like a willow bending in a windstorm.

So what does this have to do with sideline fashion?

It's simple. For disgruntled players such as Duncan, the same principle applies.

Now, am I suggesting that Iverson pull a Steven Seagal and flip David Stern over his shoulder in the manner of a storefront dummy? Of course not. For one thing, flooring the commish would go over about as well as Marcus Camby asking for a clothing stipend; worse still, Iverson could end up in "Glimmer Man II."

No, all I'm really trying to say is that although the new code prohibits platinum medallions, it does not put the kibosh on, for instance, Confederate flag bolo ties.

Or purple velvet Nehru jackets.

Or Rhinestone Cowboy belt buckles.

Or all of the above, grouped with snakeskin trousers.

Simply put, NBA players need to dress ugly. I'm serious. The logic behind the dress code is transparent: Trade street style for Men's Wearhouse, sneakers and bling for wingtips and lapels, and corporate fans will find the product more palatable. Never mind that the actual league work uniform resembles numbered pajamas. Put jeans-wearing Nash in a suit and he'll somehow look classier, more professional.

Yet, as anyone who saw Jalen Rose's pinstriped, fire-engine red ensemble on his draft night can tell you, things don't always work out that way.

Well, unless the profession in question involves piloting an airborne sleigh.

In adopting a dress code, the NBA not only has ensured that the pope (no hats), the Dalai Lama (no sleeveless shirts) and Bono (no sunglasses indoors) will never sit on a team bench but also has sown the seeds of the code's demise. All unhappy players -- and Mark Cuban -- have to do is dress ugly. Ugly and within the rules.

In other words, don't get mad. Get plaid. Maybe some plaid pants, like Darren Clarke wears. Then pair them with a Jesper Parnevik sweater.

Obey the law. Flout the sprit. Think Duncan and company are up to the challenge? Do they even comprehend the fashion grenade they've just been handed?

They might. Listen to Ron Artest, who last week said to The Indianapolis Star:

"I'm going to have some fun with it," Artest told the paper. "I'll wear, like, purple shoes, yellow slacks, a burgundy shirt, cut-up tie and a lavender sport coat. I'm going to mix it up."

Lavender and burgundy. Perfect. Making the NBA sorry it got what it wished for will take creativity. Persistence. A sublime sense of anti-style.

As such, it's a shame Dennis Rodman was last seen playing in the ABA. Are painted fingernails illegal? Do feather boas count as prohibited headgear?

Sigh. Guess we'll never know.

Even without the Worm, however, the possibilities remain endless. The league wants sophistication? Why not come out of the tunnel in a James Bond tuxedo, a martini glass full of Gatorade (shaken, not stirred)? Spiff up the outfit with extra-long tails. Add a Monopoly guy monocle. Accessorize with a walking cane.

Go throwback with a 1970s prom outfit -- powder-blue tux, ruffled shirt -- a formal style best immortalized by Marquette's 1977 NCAA basketball championship squad. Or keep with a retro theme and emulate 1970s ABA Modfather Larry Brown, whose fashion sense can only be described as utilitarian, provided you've inked a deal to endorse the visible spectrum of light and/or are preparing to milk the family cow.

Fashion rebels, take note: Hawaiian shirts have collars, too. And that Matthew Lesko guy probably knows where to find Riddler-shaming question mark-festooned sport coats.

Then there's the Urkel look.

Combine suspenders, highwater slacks and a cardigan sweater. A bow tie will lend a touch of the dandy -- think George Will, Tucker Carlson, Louis Farrakhan -- to nationally-televised games.

The real key? NBA-issued white socks, paired with dark shoes and visible at all times.

Alternately, players could go sockless, a fine complement to pastel suits and 5 o'clock perma-shadows. They could bring back the almighty 8-ball leather jacket. Or they could mix 'n' match the fashion blunders of yesteryear, sporting skinny ties and zoot suits, done up in monochromatic Regis fashion.

Brown suit, brown shirt, brown tie? Instant Mr. Hanky homage. Hidey-ho, kids!

Rodeo tailor Nudie Cohn once outfitted the likes of Elvis, Gram Parsons and Roy Rogers in western-cut suits trimmed with rhinestones, fringe and gold lamé. Good enough for the King? Good enough for King James. And garish enough to make Stern miserable.

Personally, I'd like to see red velvet smoking jackets, à la Hef in "Playboy After Dark." Imagine the sideline interviews:

Craig Sager: So, Shaq, can you assess your performance tonight?

Shaquille O'Neal: Hey, Craig, come on back to the locker room. George Carlin is performing a new routine, and we've got Sammy Davis Jr. and his band. Need a light?

Speaking of Sager, if players are really hurting for eye-catching -- make that eye-obliterating -- ensembles, there's no better source of inspiration than media row.

From Peter Vecsey's canary yellow NBA draft shirt to standard-issue Dockers dork/regional Chili's manager outfits, fashion follies are easy to find. Often with a mustard stain, to boot.

As a last resort, there's also Sager himself, whose purple ties and retina-searing sport coats ought to be kept under glass. Next to a small hammer.

Beyond making a mockery of the dress code, smart players stand to profit from looking ridiculous. How so? By going commercial.

Think about it: sport coats have plenty of room for garish, NASCAR-style sponsor patches -- especially when you're 6-10. Major League Baseball nearly let Sony put "Spiderman 2" ads on bases; with a little ingenuity, the studio easily could outfit injured players in hideous, Spidey Suit-patterned jackets to promote the latest sequel.

Would the league office object? Maybe. But keep in mind, this is the same NBA that allowed Rip Hamilton to braid his hair in the style of a Goodyear tire while shoving "Be Cool" and Rob Thomas down the nation's collective throat for 37 consecutive weeks. As if they're gonna turn down a fistful of cross-promotional Spider-bucks.

Besides, repeatedly amending the dress code to crack down on some or all of the above would force the league to confront the terrible truth of legislating fashion: It's at best a dubious proposition, at worst a slippery slope that leaves you holding a ruler, measuring Afghan burqa lengths.

Indeed, a full-scale player mutiny -- think a leaguewide Urkel night -- would leave the NBA with two options:

1) Become a nitpicky fashion dictatorship, like the Taliban and many Catholic high schools.

2) Scrap the code, returning to the good old, laissez-faire days of baggy jeans, T-shirts and Jerry Sloan wearing his John Deere cap.

Which path would the league take? I think the answer is obvious. NBA fashion dissidents, don't get mad. Get plaid. Or maybe a hot pink polka-dot tie. And as you sally forth into the sartorial arena, remember one other thing.

As far as I can tell, kilts aren't on the banned list, either.

Read the original article at ESPN.com