“My innate personality is to win at all costs,” says Michael Jordan, without missing a beat, in the new Netflix documentary The Last Dance. A brief outline for those uninitiated among us: the 10-part series chronicles the NBA player’s final season with the Chicago Bulls in the 90s. It’s truly electrifying to watch, even if you're not a sports fan, and a staunch reminder of ones reserves of strength. At a time when many may feel like strangers to their own bodies - as isolated days turn into weeks, turn into months - this message seems all the more urgent. Majestic sportsmanship aside, the documentary also prompts the viewer to consider another - perhaps forgotten - matter. Personal style.
A giant on the basketball court, it is impossible to keep your eyes off of MJ. He is, after all, a performer, thriving off an audience watching him. What becomes fairly obvious is this level of perfectionism also extended to his off-duty wardrobe at the time, too; carving out a distinctive image that mirrored his impressively cool and determined aura. “I’m a suits guy,” he said in a 1990s interview with GQ. “I have anywhere from 100 to 150. There’s a certain attitude you want people to understand, walking in with a suit on.”
Jordan made a look work for him. He would often play with proportion (championing XL blazers long before it was trending on the runway). Exuding a new sort of elegance - an effortful effortlessness. These suits were classy, yes, but never felt too flashy, and often leaning towards earthy hues.
"It's really pretty fascinating, but if you were around the NBA 15 years ago those guys dressed very poorly," Tinker Hatfield, the creative director for product design at Nike and the man responsible for developing the Air Jordan shoe, told the Chicago Tribune in 1999. "The coaches would make them wear a tie to a game, but they didn't know what they were doing. Now when you go to a game, everybody dresses well and it all comes from the Michael Jordan effect.”
"What Michael did, he came in and started wearing these beautiful Italian suits but they were modified,” Hatfield continued. “He would modify them not only to fit, but he would also play with the look a little bit and he would take an Armani suit and restructure so it would drape differently. He really started coiffing himself so well and he did it in a high-class way that was really appealing.”
Personal style defies expectations and is ultimately limitless. For instance, there’s a particularly lovely black and white image of a male model, dancing, wearing an oversized Calvin Klein suit in 1993, inside Sex and Suits: The Evolution Of Modern Dress. Anne Hollander notes in the caption: “the suit is in flight toward its unknown future.” It goes beyond fashion, prevails trends and depends so much on the individual wearer inhabiting a look.
So, this is not to say everyone should be thinking about wearing only suits as we slowly adjust to the idea of re-joining the ‘real world’ (unless that is your thing). But rather, enjoying the act of rediscovering (or discovering) your signature style.
In today's climate, when ‘normal’ seems almost redundant, we can feel out of touch from our 'normal' clothes . Perhaps present you is tired and doesn’t want to get dressed all that much (making note that 95% of your wardrobe has been discarded the last two months). It’s natural in these times to want to want to fold in on ourselves, to want to disappear. Though, when adrift, style can serve as both an armour and anchor. Michael Jordan is a prime example of that – he took great pride in the process of putting together an outfit to face the world, both for himself and others to read.
To quote the man himself: “the way I live my life is by setting examples, and if it inspires you - great.”
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