NBA Dress Code Policy 2021

NBA Dress Code

The compulsory dress code for all NBA Development League and NBA players was implemented back on October 17, 2005. And the man behind this deed was the NBA commissioner, at that time, David Stern. He also announced that the league had launched NBA Cares, which is also continuing to date, and that it is mandatory for the sport that its players look a little less gangsta and focus more on maintaining a genteel look. We will discuss the NBA Dress Code Policy overe here in this article.

This was a big move by the federation, as the NBA secured its place as the first major professional sports league to have ever implemented such a rule. Even though National Hockey League also follows a dress code for its players, except when told otherwise by the general manager or head coach. The NBA dress code came into fashion by the beginning of the 2005-2006 NBA league season.

The dress code idea was intended to have a professional effect on NBA, but it turned totally to the opposite side. The moment the rule was put into effect, you could see Dwayne Wade walking down the court in a shrunken suit touching his knees. While on the other side, the world’s eyes glued to Russell Westbrook’s sense of fashion, wearing groovy fish-hook prints on collared shirts and colorful thick-rimmed spectacles shining bright on his nose. The NBA’s new rule took over menswear worldwide, turning its eyes away from baggy clothing. And since all these years, NBA players have left a huge impact on the way men chose their fashion.

Arguments in favor of the new rule.

The league image had already gone downfall after what had happened during the Pacers-Pistons brawl back in 2004. This brawl was the major reason for the implementation of this rule. Now, fans who favored this rule stated that most of the businesses require that their employees follow a certain kind of dress code, so similarly, the National Basketball Association was not making any bizarre demands on their behalf. A rumor was also spread in the initial stage of the announcement that NBA had asked their players to wear a strict suit and a tie, which turned out to be false later.

And also, to add to their case, most of the NBA teams already had their specific dress codes, as dictated by the general managers or coaches. And there were penalties imposed for the violators, which generally involved some fines, for instance, making them pay for their accommodation or airfare to wherever the team was heading to, instead of boarding on the team charter.

Arguments against the implementation of the rule.

Numerous critics immersed such as Stephen Jackson, Paul Pierce, and Allen Iverson who put out an argument that changing a dress code would have no impact on an individual’s character, as a man can never be judged based on the clothes that he’s wearing, and also that even the thought of relating the hip-hop style of fashion to the crime or a bad image is racist. Iverson, a former professional basketball player and one of the critics, mentioned in his argument that “the dress code is not who I am and doesn’t allow me to express myself.”

The tide took its turn when many NBA and non-NBA sports figures also claim that this rule took its shot on a particular demographic of young black males and insulted the entire hip-hop culture. In addition, most of the NBA players are funded by brands involving casual wear, such as Puma, Converse, Nike, and Adidas.

Details of the Stern’s NBA Dress Code

NBA players had to follow the Stern’s dress code, which declared that all of them had to be dressed in a business casual attire whenever they were a part of some league or team activities, which included the arrival at games, the departure in case of a scheduled game, on the bench when injured, and also when participating in the official NBA businesses, for example, charity events, press conference, etc. Furthermore, the new rule of the dress code banned a lot of accessories and fashion especially related to the hip-hop culture, i.e., jeans, hats, do-rags, jerseys, do-rags, sneakers, Timber boots, t-shirts, shorts, sleeveless shirts, sunglasses while indoors, headphones in the arena, chains, pendants and the medallions worn over the player’s attire.

The above-mentioned clothing was prohibited from being worn by the players in their interviews, charity events, games (whether they are on or off the bench), or any other occasion under the NBA developmental league and the NBA itself. The non-compliance with these dress codes came with fines and could also be suspended in repeated offenses. In addition, players must also wear a sport coat when on the bench and are not dressed in their uniform. The major reason behind going with a dress code was to improve the state of the combating image concerns that were hovering over the NBA in the sport’s recent history.

Now, there has been some relaxation in the NBA dress code rule in these current times. However, as if a player does not follow the dress code to participate in a game, he must strictly dress appropriately for a coach’s standards. Therefore, it is ordered that the coaches and a necktie wear a sport coat or a suit.

New NBA Relaxed Dress Code

As the league is entering into the bubble, the federation has finally decided to loosen up regarding the dress code in the last year. So as a result, the league has been on what the players will be wearing in the bubble, which eventually devised a provision where players could be changing the name on the back of the jerseys to ones with some ‘social justice issues, and the league’s well-known dress code is also loosening up a bit.

Shaman Charania, a senior lead NBA Writer/Analyst/Insider for the Athletic and Stadium, tweeted about the new dress code changes on June 26, 2020. The latest dress code will allow the players to attend the game without a sports coat when on the bench, and they can also wear long or short-sleeve polo shirts for the various league and team activities. In addition, the male and female coaches will also be allowed to wear the long/short-sleeve NBA polos. In retrospect, this may seem like a small change, but we are talking about NBA, whose influence has been mid-blowing in the menswear industries, so here, even such small changes can take massive turns.

How did the NBA Dress Code change men’s fashion?

As it happens with every new thing introduced, this dress code also received massive backlashes from the players. But, as time passed, NBA players started to embrace the new rule and, over time, began having a good time with the NBA dress code, and thus the men’s fashion changed along with it.

According to a claim of GQ’s Green, the first one to jump into this new fashion trend under the dress code was Dwayne Wade. And followed him was another legend named LeBron James. However, wade has given all the credit for his fashion sense to David Stern’s idea of dress code. And thus, it made NBA the most stylish league and NBA players the most stylish group of athletes, as said by Mark Anthony Green.

Does the NBA Dress Code target black players?

Many players revolted against the new rule, as they thought depriving the hip-hop culture and spreading the message that it’s equivalent to being a criminal if you support hip-hop was racist. The man who was the biggest rebel of the dress code was Jason Richardson, as he never really got the idea of how wearing a suit would make someone a fine gentleman. Whereas wearing chains would make you a menace to society. He also mentioned that many people have religious reasons behind wearing their chains while others have personal reasons, and they can’t be ignored just like that. And many people supported him and thought it was racist too.

But over time, people dealt with it, and whatever it was, racist or not, it all turned to be good. And there is even more relaxation regarding the dress code from 2005, so it could introduce some new changes in the menswear industry. So it could also be a beginning of a brand new era in the fashion arena maybe.


Things will keep on changing with time, and the NBA will keep on impacting the fashion world strongly in the coming future. There may be some new rules coming and some olds going, but things will definitely be standing tall as they have been until now. So, we all need to keep our minds wide open because you don’t know when the next Stern comes with a new policy, and you may differ with his ideas too, but it may turn out to be the next revolution, as it happened with this one.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why does the NBA need a dress code?

The NBA Dress Code was put into action so that the players of the NBA would not be perceived as criminals or gangsters and would look more elegant and noble as an athlete. This was done to improve the bad image set upon the sport during that time.

  1. What includes in the NBA Dress Code?

Players must strictly follow the following requirements at all league or team functions, i.e., turtlenecks or collared shirts, slacks, jeans or khaki pants; and boots or shoes or other presentable shoes with socks, but no flip flops, sandals, work boots, or sneakers.

  1. Did NBA’s Dress Code violate the Fashion Faux Pas under Title VII?

Fashion Faux Pas under Title VII prohibits any discrimination based on color, religion, race, natural origin, and sex under fashion criteria. And by introducing the NBA Dress Code, many people suggested that it was a violation of Title VII and the right of young black people to dress up as they wish was being hampered.

Also read Smart Casual Dress Code- In Workplace, Attires for Male and Female

NBA Dress Code Policy 2021

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