I know some of you were in the Sports Arena for Sunday's Lakers/Bobcats exhibition game just to check out the pre-mandatory NBA dress code. Indeed, fans everywhere are wringing their hands and crying, "What will Kobe Bryant wear?"
This explosion of fan interest is due to commissioner David Stern's groundbreaking announcement that, beginning November 1, the NBA will enforce a dress code. "Every player must dress like a white man," Stern told reporters.
Actually, that's not true. Here's what his dress code says: "Players are required to wear Business Casual attire whenever they are engaged in team or league business...players are not allowed to wear...while on team or league business: Sleeveless shirts, shorts, T-shirts, jerseys, or sports apparel...headgear of any kind while a player is sitting on the bench or in the stands at a game, during media interviews, or during a team or league event or appearance...chains, pendants, or medallions worn over the player's clothes. Sunglasses while indoors. Headphones..." In other words, every NBA player must dress like a white man, hip-hop or no, millionaire or no.
Well, first thing, like everybody else, I worried about Kobe's wardrobe. So, I call Ron Stuart Men's Clothing, downtown. Gary answers, I read Stern's dress code and ask, "How would you dress Kobe?"
"Business casual? Hmm," Gary says. "I would probably put him in a pair of slacks and a sports shirt with an open collar, something with a stripe."
"How come a stripe?"
"A little color, a little more fashion than a solid. Or a solid with a texture to it, something with a pattern. Then I would work with his complexion and everything."
"How about a sports coat?"
"I wouldn't necessarily put him in a sports coat. Business casual, on Fridays, for most occupations, is a sports shirt and a pair of slacks, a pair of loafers or, perhaps, a more casual shoe. If I had to put a sports coat with it, I would probably put him in a solid sport coat that would coordinate..."
* * *
I'm talking to David at Jus-Workwear, ("...largest selection of Carhartt clothing in Southern California"). "Let's say Kobe walked in right now...how would you dress him?"
"We only have jeans and work shirts."
"I know, but let's say he came in anyway and begged, 'I gotta get something.' What could you do for him?"
"The only thing we have along those lines, unfortunately, are dress, collared shirts, but all the shirts have Carhartt on them. We just deal in Carhartt. That's all we sell."
"What if Kobe told his manservant to remove the Carhartt emblem? Could he comply with Stern's dress code, wearing one of your shirts?"
"Yeah. They're a thicker shirt because they're a work shirt, but, yeah, they have a nice button-up collar."
Kobe would like that. "Do you have anything resembling slacks?"
"We have canvas pants; they're more of a lightweight canvas, for working." Silence. "Yeah, we could make them look good."
"You don't carry dress shoes, right?"
"How about black boots?"
"We got black work boots."
"Could your boots pass, on a moonless night, as a European, high-fashion, cutting-edge black boot?" I envision Kobe, hands on hip, pout on face, modeling leather biker boots at the Hotel Del.
"I wouldn't go that far," David laughs.
Pity. "Okay, Kobe's got his Carhartt dress shirt. He buys a pair of your pants that are borderline, but, possibly, could pass the dress code."
"Yeah. If he knows how to iron he could put a crease in them and make them look nice."
Deal. "How much?"
"Work shirts, around $40; pants, about $40. Say, 90 bucks for everything."
* * *
I ask Kari, at the Shirt Tale on Camino Del Rio South, about dressing Kobe.
"I do one type of thing: button-up dress shirts," Kari says. "You know how the Pat Riley collar curves?"
Never heard of it. "Yeah."
"I do that. Custom dress shirts. Sometimes, tall people want a longer collar because short people, if you put too long of a point on the collar, it won't look right. With custom shirts, you can do anything you want. You can place the spread as far apart as you want or as close together. The point -- that's how long the collars are -- you can make them anywhere from two inches to four inches. You can pick tie space, no tie space, or with tie space. And your cuffs, there's all kinds of things to do with cuffs. There are regular cuffs, one-button cuffs, two-button, notched. French cuffs, there are four different kinds of French cuffs: pockets, no pockets, pleats on the sleeves, or no pleats on the sleeves. It's full custom."
I am dizzy with shirt lore. "How much?"
"They start around $120 and go up."