Op-ed deconstructs the conversation around hoodies

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Grantland has an impassioned editorial from writer Wesley Morris. In it, he tackled perceptions of young black men in hoodies, prompted by the killing of Trayvon Martin. Morris also examined a highly-publicized image of the Miami Heat basketball team wearing hoodies in memory of Martin and the photos implications.

I suspect this is what the NBA had hoped to avoid when it implemented its current dress policy, which requires players to dress in business-casual attire. That was in 2005, and the sport was awash in bagginess and ostentation and bling. To some eyes, it was awash in tough black men, too; in stereotypes. The players were expected to look more the way the owners did: presentable. To the board, presumably, more than to the fans. Jeans, jewelry, and sweats were out. The cornrows and dreadlocks began to disappear. Since the owners were almost all white, the players mostly black, and the forbidden style decidedly urban, the league’s new code of dress felt like code — if not for racism then for contempt for a lifestyle embraced by a lot of young black men, some of whom dream of playing in the NBA.

Miami Heat don hoodies, speak out on Trayvon Martin

The star players looked on the bright side. They hired stylists and began to think about (and overthink) what to wear. They donned suits and bow ties and snazzy glasses. They went to the tailor, wore their clothes tight, and accessorized. The new style felt like both a mockery of dapperness and a legitimate embrace of it. Hip-hop was already headed in this direction, away from gangsta-ism. It made sense for the NBA, too. A wealthy man should look rich.

LeBron James arrived in Miami from Cleveland’s humble, industrial climes, and he and Dwyane Wade fell in sartorial love. Together, they stood at the league’s style vanguard. They made mistakes. Still, even as a tandem fiasco they demonstrated courage. They gave us ideas. But the upscaling took a large part of the sport away from the streets where, for a generation, it had thrived. The league made a demand, and the players met it. If the Heat photo doesn’t officially reverse what the players had to forsake, it certainly evokes what they can no longer wear to work.

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