Rockin' Steady: Then And Now
Jason Johnson is, by his own admission, not particularly stylish or athletic. He does however hold the distinction of being the world's tallest sports/style blogger. He can most often be found at Style Points, or on Twitter @frazierapproves.
When Shoals asked me to write a style piece related to the re-release of Walt Frazier’s seminal Rockin' Steady: A Guide to Basketball and Cool, I jumped at the opportunity. Rockin’ Steady is, simply put, one of the oddest books I’ve ever read. Equal parts memoir, style guide, hoops tutorial and 70s PG scouting report, it is profoundly weird. Like "Keep Portland Weird", or that cow-camouflage-blazer-he-wore-a-few-weeks-ago weird.
Clyde’s basketball tips still ring true, because fundamentally, the game hasn’t changed that much since his day. Instead of focusing on the basketball portion of the book, I thought I’d see how much of Clyde’s 1974 closet would stand up in today’s league.
Clyde’s closet boasted 49. With the not-so-new dress code in effect, it would be surprising if most ballers didn’t have a similar number. While Rockin Steady doesn’t detail each and every suit (I’m sure most were conservative charcoal or navy worsteds), it does highlight some of the more, ahem Clyde-ish items. I was unable to locate any modern lamb or cowskin suits, but Andrew Bogut seems to be keeping Clyde’s white twill suit alive.
Clyde saw no problem with wearing his suits as separates. Wearing suit pants without the cost is a bad move because, ideally you’d like them to wear and age equally. It’s an especially bad move if, like Clyde, your pants have no pockets. After scouring the web for days, I came up short in my search for NBA players in verifiably pocketless trousers. Were I a betting man, I’d venture that one or more of the fits from Kobe’s infamous “white hot” spread would fit the bill.
Circa 74, it seems that ties had fallen out of fashion. Ever a man of the times, Frazier purported to own no ties. This is incongruous with the photographic evidence presented in the book. From what I’ve seen, Frazier favored white silk ties with black suit/shirt combos. Gangster. Paul Pierce can be seen employing this particular look to questionable effect.
Shoes are dangerous. They’re a sartorial gateway drug. Every true clothes-horse has an even bigger shoe habit. Clyde was no exception. At the time of publication, he estimated that he had fifty pairs of shoes; 20 lace up and 30 loafers, mostly suede and leather, nach. One would expect that his shoe game would be relatively easy to export to into the new millennium; unfortunately, I was unable to find any pics of current players in 2.5 inch Cuban heels. I do, however, believe some college players wear them for on-campus pre-draft measurement.
Endangered species laws and changing attitudes make it virtually impossible for a modern player to walk around in an elephant or seal skin coat like Clyde, but that didn’t stop Nate Robinson from stepping out in this full size Yeti-fur coat.
Walt wouldn’t have become Clyde without the hats. Frazier had a penchant for wearing wide brimmed hats before they became popular. After being ridiculed by veteran teammates, Frazier nearly abandoned the hats that gave him his now-iconic nickname. They called him Clyde because his hats were similar to those worn by Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde.
Today, hats remain a sartorial power-move. They’re high degree of difficulty items that should only be attempted by the most accomplished Clydes of our day.
There will never be another Walt “Clyde” Frazier. So much of what made him has been lost. That time, that New York is long gone. The city isn’t edgy anymore. MSG doesn’t mean as much as it used to, and the days of weirdo fashion plates leading entertaining Knicks teams are long past.