FASHION DIGEST: Courtside During COVID: Fashion in Sports


Torch Photo/ Nick Bello

Flashy suits, patterned ties, matching handkerchiefs and shiny dress shoes – all of these things were once frequent sights on a basketball courtside. Now the courtside look includes Polos, quarter zips, khakis and Nike sneakers – oh, and let’s not forget – masks. 

What once looked like a Fashion Week runway of Division I athletes and coaches now looks more like the people sitting on the couch in your mom’s living room on NFL Sunday. What happened to these dazzling looks that once outshined any performance, win or lose?

This year has brought many obvious changes to the sports industry – canceled seasons, postponed games, everyday testing, no fans, the list could go on. Yet, one more observable change is the style off the court. This year, the NCAA decided to change their dress code from requiring suits to Polos. ‘Polos’ here is stated quite loosely, as many can see that on the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team, Head Coach Mike Anderson is the only coach wearing Polo quarter zips with slacks. Behind Anderson, you’ll be sure to see a line of matching Nike sweats and pullovers.

Athletes have always been notorious for their arena-entrance apparel. From bomber jackets to dazzling jewelry, almost all of the most eye-catching fashion trends can be seen in sports

So what changed?

The ongoing pandemic has made many people accustomed to wearing comfortable clothing indoors and out. Personally, I cannot remember the last time I willingly wore jeans outside of my job’s “Jean Friday ‘Dress Down Day’” – yes, believe it or not, jeans are considered “dress down.” Has this newfound – or should I say, more acceptable – love for comfortable clothing taken over fashion?

Basketball fans say that the NCAA took the initiative to dress down after the NBA successfully did so in their Orlando Bubble postseason. The shift in fashion goes hand-in-hand with the shift in how games are more like scrimmages in that there are no fans and no halftime entertainment. 

I have always liked the fashion in the sports industry. I believe that what a player or coach wears outside of  practice and games says a lot about their personality. For instance, I have always thought Anderson to be a classy man solely based on the way he dressed at games. 

Even in the NBA, pre-game fashion becomes a huge part of every matchup. Russell Westbrook is known for dressing up in suits, slacks and shoes, as well as his ability to dress “up” comfortable clothing – sweatpants, ripped shirts and tracksuits. Fans have even called his fashion “looks only Russell Westbrook could pull off.” 

From Westbrook’s versatile style to Cam Newton’s bold wardrobe, flamboyant outfits run through all sports – collegiate and professional. Newton told 247 Sports during an interview that an outfit sets the tone for the whole game, even the whole day. 

Of course, I understand the comfort in wearing dress-down clothing, but I hope that once fans are back in the stands, the bling and fashion of athletes comes back to shine. Whether it mentally prepares athletes for a game or just makes them more confident, I miss the flashy fashion on the sidelines of every playing field.