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By Scott Wicken

Today, more so than ever, the US has established itself as a hugely powerful force in the world of style and fashion. The increasing prominence of both American style elements - as well as an increasing global demand for American made menswear goods - has made this a hugely important time in American men’s fashion. However, there are areas of men’s style where America is sadly still behind the times. The area of sport is one such place.

Men’s style, pertaining to professional sports in the US, has been a dismal scenario for the past 30 years. From preposterously long, eight-button suits that buttoned up to the neck circa 90’s NBA, to the outlandish NFL Draft Day attire, to the ungodly billowy, frumpy khaki trousers and oversized polo shirts of the modern NFL coaches’ wardrobe. Needless to say, it’s been rough. I mean, we’ve got Bill Belichick, one of the NFL’s most successful and most respected coaches, dressing like a homeless vagrant in a baggy hooded sweatshirt with sleeves cut off at the elbows (completely ridiculous). The NFL’s insistence on kowtowing to corporate sponsorship is largely to blame. The bowing to corporate interests and loyalty to “Official NFL wear” has gotten so bad that the NFL had threatened to fine a particular coach for his desire to wear a suit on the sidelines. In 2006, new 49’ers coach Mike Nolan petitioned to wear a suit on the sidelines to honor his father, a former coach. The NFL promptly denied this request and threatened to fine him for every game he wore a suit. Finally, the NFL’s official attire sponsor, Reebok, commissioned a specially made suit just for him and Nolan was allowed to wear the suit for all home games in 2007. It’s a shame too because, in the days of Lombardi, a trim and appropriate suit was de rigueur for coaches, and they embodied their leadership roles right down to their wardrobe.

Across the pond, stylish dress is no stranger to sporting fields in Europe. The coaches on the soccer pitches are routinely decked-out in elegant, European suiting; a fine example many, many coaches in the US could learn from. In fact, the commitment to sartorial excellence in Europe’s sporting culture is so ingrained that European fashion houses like Dolce & Gabbana and Armani routinely outfit players and teams. Dolce & Gabbana has long been the provider of off-field clothing for the Italian national soccer team and Armani has provided clothing to the English national squad, as well as the English club team, Arsenal.

Fortunately, times seem to be changing. In recent years, many professional athletes, particularly amongst the NBA’s elite, have garnered attention for their high level of sartorial excellence off the courts and fields, as they’ve shown increasing interests in global fashion weeks and events. It’s now no surprise to see the likes of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade sitting shoulder to shoulder at New York Fashion Week next to fashion elites, like Anna Wintour. Their heightened level of attire and interest in fashion is having a trickle-down effect to other leagues and athletes. With money, power, and influence, there’s no reason American men’s style in sports shouldn’t be as well regarded as it is in Europe. Hopefully, as Bob Dylan put it, “The times, they are a-changin.”

Scott Wicken is an apparel industry professional and blogger living in Los Angeles. He writes his own menswear focused blog Sigtweed & Corduroy, and can be found on Twitter at @sigtweed. 

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