Over the past few seasons, NBA players have embraced cutting-edge fashion and personal style like never before. The current New York Knicks squad have gained a reputation as one of the most fashionable teams in the game, competing with and often surpassing, the nouveau-Miami Vice aesthetic of the Heat’s big three. New York City is the fashion mecca of course, and has the reputation of being one of the most stylish cities in the world, so it’s only fitting that the Knicks embrace this side of the city. But what makes this current Knicks team such a diverse collection of fashion fans? Why do they take it so seriously? Is it purely the fact that they belong to the city - or is it more about the history of the franchise and trends that are making the team so sartorially relevant?
New York’s fashion prominence can be felt throughout the concrete jungle, around the world and online. The city’s style influence isn’t a new phenomenon felt by NBA players –– Walt Frazier credits playing for the Knicks for bringing out his unmistakable, trademark personal style. “Coming to New York was just a Mecca of clothes, I used to follow my teammates when I was a rookie I used to go where they got their suits made, their shirts made [...] What set me apart was my hat – the Clyde hat – then I bought the Rolls Royce and the mink coat so that developed into a style.”
Frazier found his fashion voice while playing for the Knicks and he’s made it into a brand, with his “Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine” Restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of NYC. There’s a basketball court in the restaurant and his trademark animal print-loving style adorns everything from the menus, couch textiles and walls. His suits have become must-sees on MSG TV every night, and paired with his unique broadcast vocabulary, makes him one of the most loved color commentators in the game.
It seems like current Knicks are following Frazier’s lead, but instead of finding their own way in fashion, they’re hiring stylists to help them find their own personal style. Frazier’s pick for the best dressed player on the Knicks, Amar’e Stoudemire, is one of the most visible ambassadors for athletes with style. When Stoudemire joined the Knicks, he hired a high profile stylist and now sits front row at fashion week in Paris, Milan and New York and attends events all over Manhattan. Stoudemire’s made fashion part of his personal brand, with a design collaboration with designer Rachel Roy, and plans to launch a sports style website. But Stoudemire isn’t the only Knick that’s about that fashion life. Carmelo Anthony is known for working with two different stylists, having gone through a complete style evolution from his time at Syracuse and with the Nuggets, to now being one of the more experimental dressers in the league. Anthony claims that he’s always been into fashion, it just took living in New York to bring it the forefront of his everyday swag. “I'm really into fashion. It was kind of hard to go to shows in Denver. So I think coming into a city like New York or being out there in L.A. a lot was good,” he mentioned in a 2011 GQ Magazine article. “I'm just going to events that I would normally go to but now that I'm here in New York it's magnified times ten.”
Tyson Chandler seems to have also benefitted from the move to New York. Ever since Chandler became a Knick in 2011, MSG sideline reporter Tina Cervasio put me on to Chandler’s dramatic sense of style and his predilection for capes and large scarves. It seems that while style exists in the other markets, it’s access that really sets New York NBA players apart, as Chandler explained to fashion magazine WWD. “When I’m in other cities, you can’t just pop up at Rick Owens….You can’t just go down to Tom Ford.”
Players like Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler aren’t the only NBA players who are turning to stylists, but they were among the first to do so and take some of the biggest fashion risks in the league. Location seems to reign supreme when it comes to the Knicks’ main style influence, but the media presence in NYC cannot be overlooked as a fashion factor either. New York City is the largest media market in North America and the two biggest fashion magazine publishers, Hearst Corporation and Conde Nast, are headquartered in Manhattan. Along with 270 magazines and newspapers, two of the three daily national newspapers and four major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS). Due to the density of media on Manhattan, the Knicks organization have to ensure their players can handle the often relentless press and paparazzi presence.
Certain players seem to blossom under the spotlight, like Iman Shumpert, whose side hustle as a rapper and signature high top fade and retro-inspired style is embraced by New York. The Knicks’ presence at society events also helps their reputation in the fashion world and members of the team are often on best dressed lists. Tyson Chandler was named the eighth most fashionable man of 2012 by GQ Magazine and JR Smith models for brands like the Porsche Design Store and shows off his 70-plus tattoos to the New York Times.
The 2012-2013 New York Knicks are succeeding stylistically on and off the court because of the perfect combination of location, access, trends and personalities. They’re the most fashion conscious roster because of it thanks to players like Chandler, Anthony and Stoudemire. Hopefully the zest for style trickles down to the other Knicks that are less sartorially savvy -– I’m looking at you, Steve Novak and Raymond Felton.