Luke Tadashi and Tommy Nowels of California-based menswear brand, Bristol, are born-again basketballers—hoopers-turned-designers, in a way. The duo’s second collection, showcased during New York Men’s Day and simply titled “002,” is their interpretation of where fashion and basketball met in early aughts, or around the time Tommy and Luke played for their varsity basketball team in Santa Monica.
Keep in mind that for the pros back then, throwback jerseys, gaudy chains, and oversized everything was the name of the (dress) game. Young idolizers like Tommy and Luke, of course, followed suit, emulating the likes of Kobe, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson—who the two designers credit as inspirations for their brand—as they tried to perfect killer crossovers and fadeaways, and rock their satin breakaway pants with just the right amount of side-buttons unsnapped to show off a fresh pair of Adidas Pro Model IIs. That was, until dress codes struck.
In October of 2005, the National Basketball Association instituted a league-wide dress code intended to subdue the personalities of players, regulate the swagger (primarily influenced by hip-hop culture) to something that resembled office wear, and make the league more conservative, overall. Back in Santa Monica, Luke and Tommy’s high school coach instituted a dress code of his own: shirt and tie on gameday for everyone. No exceptions.
What was an effort to make athletes on all levels less expressive only heightened players’ creativity and willingness to wear new things. It’s this rebellion against limitation that serves as Bristol’s design ethos. Said Tommy and Luke, “We found ourselves, like our NBA idols, searching for creative ways to preserve our personal style yet stay within the rules. Looking back, this had a profound influence on how we approach fashion.”
Standout pieces include borg-collared bomber jackets, and satin flight suits inspired by the ones Jordan Brand used to make in the ’80s, and recently re-released in limited quantities. Bristol’s version fuses a military inspiration, using solid-colored satin for a wearable bomber jacket and a set of trousers with a clean, modern appeal.
For more up-and-coming labels to watch, check out our latest roundup of Under the Radar brands.