The young man was unfamiliar with the heyday of Walt Frazier and Artis Gilmore. Here's Walt decked out in all his finery, circa the early 1970's:
(Walter's middle name was "Clyde," though "Thomas" would have made for a more appropriate license plate.)
And here's Artis Gilmore, circa the late 70's:
His hair made the 7' 2" Gilmore look a little like a caveman who had just killed a grizzly, skinned it, and donned its hide.
But athletes don't dress like 1970's pimps anymore. (Then again, neither do pimps.) These days, black pro athletes tend to favor bespoke suits; they just go a little overboard with them. For instance, a lot of people buy three piece suits; but only pro athletes actually wear the vest.
The suit is perfectly nice, but did Lebron really need the lapel pin and the boutonniere and the sunglasses and the earring? He's got too much going on.
Here's Lebron on the day he first got selected in the NBA draft, dressed like an old-style plantation owner -- except more so. (Granted, he was just out of high school at this point.)
Perhaps it was cool that evening, which would explain the scarf which matched his pocket hankie. But did he really need those sunglasses when the sun was no longer out?
Lebron accepting an ESPY award:
(Wouldn't it have been better to save the Santa Claus outfit for when he was giving, rather than receiving, something?)
Those custom suits don't come cheap: Lebron probably spends more on his clothes per annum than a schoolteacher's entire salary. Which is a pretty big price to pay just to look foolish.
Lebron's former teammate Dwyane Wade is another clotheshorse. Here's Dwyane looking sharp:
And he does look sharp. But that double-breasted vest alone makes him look as if he's trying too hard.
Here's Dwyane in a bow tie.
If a white guy wore that outfit, you'd just assume he was gay. But when it's a 6' 4" black guy bursting with muscle, you think, ah, a professional athlete.
Here's Dwyane dressed up as an English country squire --
-- except that no country squire actually puts that much effort into his clothes. (Maybe Dwyane gets a pass on this outfit since it seems to have been GQ, and not himself, who dressed him.)
Here's Dwyane as a college professor.
(He'd definitely be teaching one of the humanities in that outfit.)
Some of these getups are so overdone they graduate from "outfit" to "costume," since they almost seem to be about trying to become a different person.
Dywane sporting yet another bow tie.
Given that he wasn't wearing glasses in any of the other shots, one has to assume that those lenses are accessorial rather than corrective.
His look is actually not all that far from Urkel's:
The recent trend in black fashion toward buttoned up shirts, bow ties, sweaters, and glasses-as-props must have started out as an I'm-so-cool-I-can-get-away-with-dressing-nerdy kind of thing. Then it just sort of morphed into a fashion statement of its own.
And if there's one group that can get away with wearing these types of clothes without coming across nerdy or wimpy, it's pro athletes. They still look foolish, though.
Dwyane making yet another bold statement.
(All I can say is, Dwyane must be extremely confident in his masculinity.)
Dwyane on his way to a game:
It takes a major effort to color coordinate not only your pants, your shirt, and your sweater, but also your shoes, bag, and even earphones. Excess color coordination seems to be a theme among the pros.
And here's one, final shot of Dwyane, ready for work:
(Seriously, who pushes his jacket sleeves up?) And was that watchband custom made to match his suit or was he able to buy it retail?
The basketball player many consider the greatest of all time was Michael Jordan. He seemed to consider himself one of the greatest dressers as well. But he, too, always seemed to be trying too hard:
Jordan, weirdly, always favored big, boxy suits that looked too large for him. The shame of it was that he had a great body for clothes: a lean, muscular 6'5." But the body got lost in those huge outfits, and the effect was always that of a kid wearing his father's clothes.
Here's Michael swimming in yet another suit:
(The all-red motif seems to be a thing among the pro ballers too.)
Michael showing his moves in a topcoat.
Michael in an outfit which looks strangely like a bib:
No matter how outlandish the outfit, Jordan's jackets were always, like his ego, too big. One can't blame him for the ego: he was constantly fawned over wherever he went. His outfits were another matter.
Even his casual look was baggy. Here's Jordan-as-Shaft:
Evidently, when your ego is past the point of no return, you feel that even your clothes should be larger than life.
Other NBA stars have followed suit. Here's Anthony Davis sporting contrasting lapels:
Chauncy Billups, who must be a Michael Jordan fan, in a suit/caftan:
A diamond earring seems to be de rigueur among NBA stars.
DeMarcus seems to be another Urkel fan.
Kevin Durant, making a statement with suit and sneakers and gold chain:
(No point in wearing an outfit like that and being sheepish about it.)
Here, for purposes of comparison, is the Joker:
His face is a little jarring, but the loud jacket, boutonniere, bow tie, and garish yellow shirt with two sets of buttons wouldn't be out of place in the NBA.
Another style icon is boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr:
(Contrasting lapels is yet another theme among pro athletes.)
Here's Floyd doing his Guys and Dolls gangster (gangsta?) thing:
Floyd being color coordinated:
Floyd receiving an award:
Are his eyes so sensitive to light he has to wear sunglasses indoors? Or is he just protecting them from the light reflecting off that suit?
And here's Floyd putting on a belt that would look understated with some of the above outfits:
You may be thinking, well, Floyd is a boxer, and it's not really fair to use a boxer as an example of black fashion sense. But, that wasn't always the case.
Here are Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain in the late 1960's, showing that it is far better to clown around on purpose than be made to look a clown by one's suit.
One of the biggest fashion plates ever was Deion Sanders. At the peak of his earning power, Sanders reportedly spent over four million dollars on suits.
Here's Deion with his (now ex-) wife:
(That has to be one of the few suits that could work at both a casino and a funeral home.)
Deion's huge smile always helped. Lebron and Dwyane and Michael take fashion seriously. Deion, too, was a peacock; but he also seemed to also be amused by his clothes, which made him seem -- rightly or wrongly -- to be in on the joke.
Here's Deion wearing the above suit in reverse:
Once again, Deion's smile almost seems to be saying, yeah, I know I look foolish, but this is fun, so what the hell -- you only live once.
Here's Deion making an appearance on Saturday Night Live:
Were this anyone else, I might think he was playing the role of a priest in a skit. But it's Deion, so I'll assume he was just delivering the monologue.
Deion in an uncharacteristically untucked in moment:
Or maybe that's just part of the look, it's hard to tell.
And Deion demonstrating, yet again, that he knows how to enjoy life far, far better than you or I:
After the early 1960's, the gradual shift in black fashion sense away from traditional white styles seemed to parallel the shift in black names. At around the same time blacks adopted dashikis and let their hair grow into Afros and (a few) started wearing 1970's pimp style outfits with gaudy jewelry, more names like Dontay and Jamal and Antwan started to appear as well.
It was all part of a calculated effort to differentiate themselves from stodgy old white standards. It's understandable, although from the outside looking in, it seems misguided.
The dashikis and Afros have long since departed, but the pro athletes still have their own sense of style. These days, it seems to consist of taking traditional white clothing and making it flashier. So they add touches that, in the end, make them look silly to most of us.
But after you look at enough of these pictures, the realization sinks in that they would actually feel foolish wearing a regular, boring old white guy's suit. Their teammates might even mock them for doing so.
A lot of whites don't realize that Urkel, and the Carlton Banks character on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, weren't just about being nerdy. They were about making fun of whites -- and of blacks who wholeheartedly bought into white fashions and aspirations.
Also, what do you expect these pro athletes to do with their spare time and obscene disposable incomes? Read the New Yorker? No, they're going to go shopping for clothes to adorn themselves with. (In a way, their mentality is similar to that of rich, spoiled housewives.)
And, as with those housewives, the adorning inevitably turns into a sort of competition, resulting in ever more outrageous styles.
Of course, fashion, like beauty, is subjective. So, passing judgment -- as I've just done -- is equally silly.
But whatever your taste, anyone who pays too much attention to his clothes ends up looking foppish.
You'll never see a twittier-looking bunch of guys than in the Style section of the NY Times any Sunday. (Weirdly, the men most attracted to overdressing seem to be either whites at the effeminate end of the spectrum or blacks at the masculine end.)
Anyway, Lebron can dominate on the court, and when he does, he looks rugged and masterful. But when his clothes call attention to themselves, he looks foolish -- in a peculiarly black pro athlete sort of way.