There's been rumblings for a minute but only this past week did the NBA finally confirm that its coaches would no longer be required to wear suits courtside. It's the inevitable endpoint of a slippery slope spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, one that's been a long time coming.

During Adam Silver's tenure as commissioner, dress codes have loosened for players while coaches' wardrobes were confined to a certain level of rigidity.

In 2010, four years before Silver took the reigns from David Stern, coaches were told that they must wear collared shirts under their blazers, doing away with their beloved turtlenecks.

To this day, coaches are given a seasonal allowance for custom suits from Joseph Abboud with the expectations that they'll be worn from tip-off til walk-off.

Not all coaches have been entirely pleased to conform, especially as coaches for the NBA and MLB dress down in hoodies and sweat-wicking jackets.

"Sloppy is the new swagger," Toronto Raptors coach Earl Watson said in report on coach dress codes in 2017. "I would rather wear... straight Kanye style. All his collections."

There are positives and negatives to consider: on one hand, suits are restrictive, even well-tailored ones, and doubly so once you add a tie to the equation.

Plus, they speak to outdated notions of masculinity that are less relevant now than ever before — as we weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, even corporate America is shedding its suits.

On the other, smarter dressing does confer authority and a degree of decorum. The NBA's dress code keeps things simple, tidy. Many coaches also insist that they're content to wear suits during game-time.

We'll be seeing whether that's true or not: I bet that we'll soon be seeing fewer suit-wearing coaches than ever before following this recent decree. Naturally, not all of the Highsnobiety editors agreed with me, several of which lent their thoughts to the discussion.

Should NBA Coaches Stop Wearing Suits?


Thom Bettridge, Editor-in-Chief

Dress codes are obviously a really freighted topic in the NBA — amongst a super racial public perception in the 90s that the league was too “dangerous looking,” commissioner David Stern started forcing the players to wear suits to games. It was a really shameful moment in the league’s history, and so I understand why getting rid of the dress code for coaches could feel like a sign of the times moving forward.

That said, I don’t think NBA coaches have earned their right to not wear suits yet. And anyone with a modicum of style who has watched more than ten minutes of any NBA game during quarantine would agree with me.

Do you want this guy to keep wearing what he’s wearing? Or this guy? Or this guy? That’s a crime spree of quarter-zip usage that should not be condoned by any form of legislation.

Graeme Campbell, Senior Features Editor

I have no idea about the NBA or its politics, so let me come at this from a completely neutral European perspective. When playing sports growing up, the coach was god, and god would never wear track pants. Tactics, equipment, diet, and whatever else may evolve with the march of time, but to overlook the suit is an affront to tradition. (Sport, in my opinion, is one of the few pursuits where tradition can still actually mean something)

The suit is a symbol of poise and class; a modern gentleman’s armor that goes hand in hand with success.

I view the tracksuit coach as a lesser species — to watch a 40-something dude prowl the sidelines in ill-fitting Coco The Clown sportswear is a uniquely woeful sight. People will cite comfort, but let’s remember the suit is (usually) a wool fabrication, not some kind of modern-day iron maiden chamber.

When Aristotle said “Apathy is the last virtue of a dying society," I’m pretty sure he had the NBA’s attitude to relaxed coach’s dress codes in mind.

Bailey Anderes, Writer Intern

There is nothing wrong with a dress code. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. If coaches don't wear formal attire, it removes imagery of being professional, and after all, this is a professional sport.

Coaches are the forefront image of the team both from a spectator and business standpoint. I think this looks much less professional and overall games will seem more like pick-up games rather than NBA events.


Fabian Gorsler, Sportswear Editor

I’ll put it like this: coaches shouldn’t be required to wear suits during NBA games. If they want to wear suits, then go for it. But I know that if I was a coach, I’d be in a head-to-toe tracksuit à la Drake at that one University of Kentucky warm up.

Even before the pandemic, but more so now, I was a huge proponent of comfort. If it’s not comfortable, why wear it? And suits are not comfortable, I don’t care what anyone says. Maybe this is because I’m coming from this as a hardcore football (European) fan, and am used to the stereotypical tracksuit manager.

At the end of the day, they’re playing (or coaching) a sport, so I think forcing suits onto anyone involved in sports is a bit ridiculous.

That being said, I can definitely understand it during the Playoffs, which I would liken to Champions League nights in Europe. When the lights are brightest, I definitely think it’s classy to pull out the three-piece suit and look as professional as possible. Still, I don’t think it should be a requirement.

Jake Silbert, News Editor

Let’s start with the obvious: it’s archaic AF to hold people to dress standards established decades ago. I mean, are basketball players still wearing All-Stars and Nike Bruins? Unless it’s a Tech Fleece suit, I see no reason for coaches to restrict themselves with a necktie and leather shoes.

There’s a visible disconnect between coaches in blazers and players wearing their jerseys — the latter dress for comfort, why doesn’t everyone on the team follow suit (no pun intended)? Dress codes alone don’t prevent coaches from focusing on the action but I bet dime to dollar that a little comfort would go a long way in improving overall performance. Happier people do better work.

Consider this: which version of Phil Jackson looks more like he’s dressed to jump into the game, polo shirt and dad-shorts Phil or suited Phil? Track jacket Phil or tailored Phil?

I know, I know, Phil Jackson isn't actually playing basketball so he doesn't have to be dressed just like his players. But, the coaches on the sidelines are nearly as involved in the action as the players. Why not let them dress more like it?

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