What Does it Mean to be Fly? (with Mitch Jackson) | Crooked Media
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September 14, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
What Does it Mean to be Fly? (with Mitch Jackson)

In This Episode

Mitch Jackson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Fly: the Big Book of Basketball Fashion,” joins Damon to discuss the impact of the NBA on the black community’s fashion decisions. He and Damon also share bumps in the road in their own respective fashion journeys. 

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Damon Young: I’m trying to think of a white NBA player. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Who was considered like a style icon. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah

 

Damon Young: Right. And it’s hard. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Man. I mean, if we take it back to the kind of constructs whiteness demands, that you get rid of your individuality in order to be part of whiteness, like you have to buy into the group ideology,. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You have to buy into the group’s culture. And Blackness has been a resistance to that, which is buying into individuality and coolness right. So even when white boys are cool, it feels like an appropriation of cool. You know, it’s like [laughter] no, we’re all on the same team, guys. We wear the same Dockers and the same button down shirt. And I’m not trying to be racist about it, but whiteness is—

 

Damon Young: You did, you did do the white voice. You did. [laughter] You did a pretty white voice. [laughter] Welcome back, everyone, to Stuck with Damon Young. The show where we’ve all had fits that just didn’t work. Like me because I was definitely the nigga in the nightclub in 2010 with a blazer a vest and a tie, some Kenneth Coles, while swags surfing on the dance floor and dripping sweat through each of the 18 layers of clothes I had on. So for decades now, there’s been a bit of a symbiotic relationship with men’s fashion, particularly the fashion choices made by Black American men. And professional basketball from Clyde Frazier and Michael Jordan to Allen Iverson to Russell Westbrook. NBA players have had an extreme influence on what we decide to wear and how we decide to wear it. And to talk about this history and this relationship, I’m joined by the homie Mitchell Jackson, author of Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion. We also deconstruct our own fashion journeys, including fits that worked and, well, fits that didn’t. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Mitch Jackson is a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of many books, including Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion, was was just released a couple weeks ago. Please cop it please go get it. Mitch, what’s good?

 

Mitch Jackson: Man what’s happening, with you? 

 

Damon Young: Ain’t nothing, ain’t nothing. So I wanted to ask you, you know, talking about your book, talking about fashion, talk about an NBA fashion. What is the worst fit that you ever had? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Oh, my God. Dog. [laughter] You know, what’s crazy is yesterday. Now I’m on a text chain with my partners from, from New York, and my one partner puts a picture out of Esquire Five Fits thing on the chat. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: He was like, we got to have a discussion, some of these is violations. [laughter] Then the chat just went crazy. [laughter] But that same partner one time I was in New York and I had wrote a bio for this dude named Ozzie Smalls. And Ozzie Smalls at the time was a furrier. 

 

Damon Young: Oh wow. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And so instead of paying me money, he paid me in furs. So I had, like, minks. I had some rabbits. You know, I was. I was walking around bless people hey, you want this fur? 

 

Damon Young: My nigga. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So I kept a mink for myself and short dog and man me and him. Just me and him. We went out one night to one of them whatever club was poppin in like 2006 in New York. And I had a mink on with my Levi’s and stuff, and I got in the club and I just felt so uncomfortable. I felt like a bootleg pimp. [laughter] In the club. And then we left and I was like, Man, why are you let me wear this mink to the club [laughter] he said, Man sometimes you got to let your boys jump out the window. [laughter] So that’s definitely something. I mean, it wasn’t a whole fit, but it was an item that made me feel. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Not like myself. 

 

Damon Young: We obviously, we followed each other on IG. I saw your slideshow recently of, you know, your fits, and there’s one in particular where it’s like a romper, slash. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: It’s like a romper. And it’s Black, but it’s also like a. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Like a jumper. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, yeah. So a romper slash jumper. [laughter] And so and the thing is I was like, Yo, this nigga he pulled it off, he’s doing it. That’s a chance he took in and I appreciate it. You know, I was thinking about that and I was talking with Morgan, one of the producers earlier about that, I was like, I want to know, do you have a stylist or do you find those things yourself because. You can’t find that in Nord—

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You know what’s strange? So I have another version of that jumper slash romper cover up, and it has sleeves on it and a collar. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So it looks all different. It looks like you might even have a suit on. And I actually wore that to the Pulitzer ceremony. I had a jacket over it. It’s ISSEY MIYAKE. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And I like the material because it travels well. It’s like it doesn’t wrinkle. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You know, you just pull it out and put it on. And then I saw that version of it, it’s sleeveless. Right? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So and it was on it was at Nordstrom, actually, but it never went on. It was on Nordstrom for like a year and it did not go on sale. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And I kept saying, well, I’m just going to wait for it to go on sale. And I waited and waiting and waiting and waited. And a year went by. It did not go on sale. So I find out I was like fuck it I am a buy it. I bought it and two weeks after I bought it, that joint went on sale. [laughter] But I don’t use a stylist and I kind of pride myself in being able to envision what I want to do. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So I’ll have an image in my head and then I’ll. I’ll start searching online for a way to execute that. And, you know, sometimes you can take months, sometimes it never happens. And it’s a real joy, I think, for me to have a vision in my head and then to see the thing that can do it. It’s almost like when you set out to write a story, right? Like you have a vision of what it’s going to be. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And then once you, something will happen in the midst of writing it. That’ll turn it in a way that’s like it feels organic to the story and then you’re like, oh, okay. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: This is it. So. So I think it’ll be kind of the same way. And I, and I do pride myself in the same way. I wouldn’t want to co-write, you know, an essay with someone. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: I’m gonna take my L’s and my wins on my lonesome. 

 

Damon Young: I have a few friends with thrift, you know, And for them, it’s like part of the experience, extensive wardrobe—

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: —and part of the experience of thrifting is defined is the procurement is you’re on some like Indiana Jones archeological dig type shit.

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. [laughs]

 

Damon Young: And you find something [laughter] that’s like, obscure. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: But it works for you. And then you think of a fit that it might work with. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: The shoes, the pants, whatever. And so there’s the part of it. Now, if you had NBA money no, you know, I know we’re both doing okay right now. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But I—

 

Mitch Jackson: We ain’t got NBA— [both speaking]

 

Damon Young: Yeah. So if you had NBA money, would you have a stylist? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Nope. 

 

Damon Young: So you still would be like, you know what I’m doing all this myself. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. I mean, it’s just it’s a pride factor, man. You know? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: It’s like I want to take the credit and the blame in equal measure. And I’ll say, I was in Madrid last month for my birthday. I had on a fit, it did not, they were not the right shoes. I took a picture and and I was like, oh, this is not an L, but it ain’t a win. [laughter] And I was like, I took that. I own it, you know? 

 

Damon Young: Uh huh. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So, yeah, but I think I think there’s a point and this kind of gets into the book like even the 12th man in the league is a millionaire, right? Getting big bread, like, if you think about what the NBA was getting like, I’m from Portland when Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler and Jerome Kersey, and that was a good Blazer team. Like some of those guys at the end of the bench are probably making a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, right? Like, you can’t do whatever you want to do with a couple hundred thousand, but every dude in the league from the minimum guy obviously to the max guys can do whatever they want to do. So I feel like then it becomes taste too. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You know, it’s not just you got a style, it’s just like what is your taste and do you really have a sense of who you are and in what kind of a static like think about you know D. Booker clearly has defined himself an esthetic right so he ain’t veering off way over into the you know Kyle Kuzma zone [laughter] but but I think he’s found his lane and I, you know he might not really mean I guess it might be hard if you if there’s a lot of demands on your time so I don’t know if I was in the league how much time I would have to do it, but I still would take pride in it. 

 

Damon Young: And your point about the money, you know, so I have a cousin who was drafted by the Sonics in 2004. David Young. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And he was a second on round draft pick making the minimum. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And at that time, minimum in the NBA is I think four or five hundred K. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah.

 

Damon Young: Which is a lot of money for a regular nigga, right? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. [laughter]

 

Damon Young: It’s a lot of money if you’re making four or 500 K a year. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Exactly. 

 

Damon Young: But if you are a 22 year old and your most immediate peers are making that like per paycheck. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Exactly. 

 

Damon Young: On those and you want to keep up with them, you’re going out with them, you’re hanging out with them. It’s perspective. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And to your point. I do think that some of them maybe would still adopt that esthetic in terms of like, you know what, I am. I pride myself on finding this shit. I pride myself on doing this. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But you just might not have the time. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah.

 

Damon Young: And decide to like, you know, to outsource it, you know? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And like, it’s funny you brought up Devin Booker because I don’t think of him. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: When I think of stylish contemporary NBA players. But he does have a distinct like Mississippi, even like a West Coast—

 

Mitch Jackson: It’s a West Coast. Yeah.

 

Damon Young: It’s a West coast like death row record era thing happening. [laughter]

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And so it’s funny because, you know, we’re kind of getting in the NBA weeds here, but Devin Booker has gotten some criticism for being like, I don’t know, there’s this clip that is going around the Internet where him complaining about being double teamed in pick up. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughter] Kobe was like I’m triple teamed or something? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah yeah yeah yeah. And that is followed him. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And so this is like, oh you’re trying really hard to be hard. But again I do appreciate that he has a style. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah.

 

Damon Young: Right. And he hasn’t veered from it. And so the NBA basketball traditionally has had this very symbiotic relationship with style and with fashion. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: In a way that the other professional sports here just don’t seem to have. Now and your you obviously have the soccer players who are style icons here, but the professional athletes here, the male professional athletes here who are considered icons stylistically are usually basketball players. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, why do you think that is when basketball is maybe the second by, I mean, football is by far the king. Basketball, baseball. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You could argue who is second, right? And so why do the basketball players. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Have that effect in a way that the other male athletes in America just don’t? 

 

Mitch Jackson: It’s something that I actually have been mulling over and have been expressing this way, but it kind of came to me yesterday. I was thinking about this. So, you know, like basketball players, I mean, you could argue maybe for tennis, but I think basketball is the most poetic sport. I say that because it’s not only like, you know, the juking of a running back in football, but there’s so much flying in it, you know, so much grace. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And so I think that that makes them more appealing then especially for fashion. Then the brutality we want to see in football. We want to see a hard hit in basketball. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You want to see somebody fly. And for me, even the name of the book right, comes out of that idea of like flying. I think basketball creates this symbolism that connects to fashion in a way that the other sports don’t. And then there’s just the fact that football players often cover it up. You know, they they always got the helmet on. You know, you got to snatch your helmet off to get some love in football. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Whereas basketball players don’t have to do that. There are fewer of them. So, you know, I think also, you know, people talk about like how basketball players are so tall and it’s hard to get close, which is easier now. But football players got this big ass thick necks and legs. You can’t fit in stuff and all that, too. [laughter] So there’s an equal challenge in terms of your physique. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: But I really do think it’s more symbolism. It’s like basketball players are grace. And I think most people, when they think of fashion, they think of something graceful, like something not forced. And then I think basketball markets it’s players the best, which is why, you know, if you look at the polls of who are the most famous athletes in the world, basketball players are the only ones that make that list. Besides Tom Brady, there was no football player on that list in like the top 100. So that tells you something. As popular as football is, they don’t have the star power. 

 

Damon Young: And you know, you brought up a really good point about like the intimacy of basketball where of the major professional sports here in America. It’s the most intimate like the crowd is literally right on top. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean, there’s only a few of you out there. And you’re basically hooping in your  drawers. Right. [laughter] You’re not wearing you’re not wearing a helmet. Yeah, you’re not wear like pads. You’re not wearing long pants. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You’re out there with a tank top and some shorts. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And no helmet, no hat, no nothing to obscure your face. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And so I think also to that point that the sort of young person who was a gifted athlete and who is attracted to basketball instead of football instead of baseball is probably going to be someone who is already a bit more reverent, a bit more individualistic, a bit more willing to take certain chances stylistically, because you’re putting yourself on an island. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: If you are choosing to play basketball. And also it’s the most urban sport too? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, true. 

 

Damon Young: And we think of fashion and we think of cities too. And basketball is a city game in a way that football and baseball just aren’t here in America. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Agreed. 

 

Damon Young: And so when you were coming up watching the game like we all did watching NBA, who was like the first NBA player that you looked at like, yo, this nigga’s fly. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Ha, man, it’s so crazy because, I mean, I was a Jordan fan, right? And I mean, that’s that’s also around the time that the Blazers were good. You know we got Clyde Drexler but I never see Clyde I never I couldn’t recall one picture of Clyde in street clothes from the early nineties or the late eighties. Not a one, not a single one. And I was too young to, like, be in the club with them. You know, Jerome Kersey was still going out by the time I got in the club, but the rest of them dudes was not around. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, there’s no footage, no footage of Clyde in street clothes and no footage of him dribbling with his left hand. 

 

Mitch Jackson: That is true. But that right hand was unstoppable though. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. [laughter]

 

Mitch Jackson: Coldest right hand in the game.

 

Damon Young: You couldn’t have stopped— I mean he averaged 28 a game. And you know he’s going right. [laughter] You know what I mean? 

 

Mitch Jackson: I didn’t start paying attention. Til probably A.I., you know, and I feel like me and A.I. are about the same age. Maybe there’s a year apart. And I know a lot of people, like some people been asking like, who’s the most fashionable? And everybody immediately jumps to A.I. But I think we got to look at A.I. in context, like A.I. came out in that ’96 draft. I mean, there was Kobe, there was Jermaine O’Neal, you know, I mean, he’s coming out around who else is in that Antoine Walker, you know, Stephon Marbury, like all of those dudes, were dressed in hip hop because they were hip hop. So he just happened to be the best of those dudes. And I think also the most irreverent about following rules. You know, like that we talk about in practice, even though that was much later, like to me that, you know, Iverson getting his hair braided on, on the bench and, you know, sucking on the lollipop like all of those things that really portrayed him as an irreverent basketball player along with having a style. But his style was not singular to him. That was how people were dressing at that time. So that’s also how I was dressing. And I had, you know, 4X tees and icy whites and I had me some Versace jeans and, you know, I didn’t have obviously the bling that they had. But I mean, everybody that age was dressing in that way. It was just Iverson was the star of the league at the time. And also he was small enough for us to be able to model him, right. It wasn’t like Marcus Camby wearing some shit and, you know, I ain’t seven one that ain’t gonna work on me. But Iverson was like an average sized dude. Maybe even a small dude. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. That’s a great point about how, you know Iverson, which is Iverson was a part. He he was a person who also helped create an influence to the zeitgeist, but he was also a part of it. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: He was also part of culture. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And you know, one thing about him, too, that I think maybe doesn’t get discussed as much now, and I’ll even consider it put MJ in here too. They got lucky. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Like, for instance, Jordan. Michael Jordan got lucky that the bulls colors were red, black and white. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Because if you with the Sonics. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right. Yeah. The yellow and gold. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. I don’t know if everyone’s going to start rocking the green and gold and whatever with the shoes and everything. Now obviously the Sonics were popular with Kemp and Payton. And people rocked their shit but not the same way. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm mm. 

 

Damon Young: You’re going to rock something that is red, black and white. And Iverson going to Georgetown. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right? 

 

Damon Young: Right. When Georgetown had the kente cloth. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Jerseys. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Which I feel like were the best college basketball jerseys ever. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Everyone wanted a Iverson jersey. And he signs with Reeboks instead of Nike, and they create that iconic shoe that everyone wanted, everyone rocked. And so again, along with him, also doing his thing along with him, you know, being such a force of nature culturally, he did luck himself into some situations stylistically. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And also, you know, the tattoo thing, right. Because you just did not see. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right.

 

Damon Young: Niggas with tats everywhere. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah [laughter] that’s only Pac. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah like Tupac and and even if you watch old if you watch like old stuff with Pac, I remember thinking at the time that Pac was so tatted up. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But you look at, like old footage of Pac, it’s like man. This. They’re like 12 year old’s. [laughter] Today they have more tattoos than Tupac [laughter] and Iverson was the first one that I can remember now. I guess there was Rodman, too. But Rodman is an interesting case because Rodman, I feel like a lot of the stuff that he was doing in the nineties are what people are doing today. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, for sure. 

 

Damon Young: But I don’t for whatever reason, he wasn’t as influential. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, he was too far ahead. He needed the LGBTQ movement. 

 

Damon Young: I do think that was part of it that a lot of what even. I don’t know if Rodman ever consider himself queer, but a lot of what he was doing was kind of queer coded. And so I think that we just weren’t ready. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] You know, I mean. We just weren’t ready to, to allow someone like that to be as influential as Iverson was. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But again, if you look at how niggas is dressing today, particularly like the popular rappers, the most popular athletes it is it is Rodman. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: It is more Rodman than Iverson. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Young Thug and Rodman. [laughs] Yeah.

 

Damon Young: And so the symbiotic relationship that NBA has had with men’s fashion is there is how the NBA and how basketball influence athletic wear right. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Because when MJ started wearing the baggy shorts baggier shorts and then the Fab Five took it to a new level. After that point, you couldn’t buy anything but baggy shorts. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And that was a thing that affected everyone, not just basketball players maybe one wanted to get some gym shorts. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: They were going to be bigger, considerably bigger than they would have been just five years earlier. Right. The NBA dress code in 2005, the NBA adopted a dress code. I guess the league felt that the players were too street. I’m putting this in the scariest scare quotes possible “too thug” too street, whatever, and didn’t want them to sit on the sidelines with all the bling and the sweatsuits and quote unquote “entourages” or parties or whatever. So they instituted a dress code where they had to wear suits to the games, right, or had to dress up like they would go to the club or whatever. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And it’s funny how, you know, honestly this sort of act has its roots in racism and racist reaction to how these young NBA niggas were dressed and the league’s reaction to the audience reaction instead of, you know, circling the wagons and being like, you know, this is our young talent. These are the people you want to nurture. These are people that are ushering in the post Jordan era. It was like, actually, no the audience is right. You all need to change. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right.

 

Damon Young: But it had an effect on how we dressed off the court, too, because that also ushered in the I think was probably the most unfortunate era [laughs] in clothing. Where niggas was with going in the clubs, rocking business casual shit. [laughter]

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah. But you can’t really divorce that from Jay-Z and Chainz clothes. Remember that? 

 

Damon Young: Well, I think it’s all I think it’s all intertwined. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Because that all happened in around the same time. And also remember too, that’s when you also had a lot of clubs that had that heavily racially coded language. Can’t wear baggy shirts. Can’t wear baggy pants. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Man, we had a club in Portland. They used to grab you by the knee and if they could grab a handful of your pants at the knee, they wouldn’t let you in. It turned out to be racist. They had a class action suit because there’s no pant unless you got on jeggings that you can’t grab a handful by the knee. But yeah, I certainly remember. I mean, I didn’t think about how that was connected to the NBA dress code too. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah, it all happened like from 2005 to 2007. There just was a seismic shift in how we dressed when we went out. Right. And my worst fits and they’re still captured on Facebook. [laughter] Come from this era. Where you would see me with the blazer, the T-shirt, maybe a vest. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Ooh, with the vest too? 

 

Damon Young: Yes, yes. In the club. Sweating through everything on the dance floor. An average nigga, I’m one of the niggas with a blazer, a T-shirt, maybe a tie, maybe a shirt and a tie. Some jeans, and, I don’t know, maybe some Timbs I don’t know what I was doing on my feet. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Oh yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Probably not Timbs. Because you weren’t allowed to wear Timbs in the club. So maybe like some— 

 

Mitch Jackson: That’s true. 

 

Damon Young: I don’t know. E Spades or some shit. [laughter] You know what I mean? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Man. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. That whole era. And then Very Smart Brothas started and I started rocking VSB shirts every year. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Okay. 

 

Damon Young: And I started rocking them with the blazer. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. I feel that you got to do that. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, I had. I had to brand myself. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean, I had to brand myself. You know, I also had the air with the with the Von Dutch hats, but. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Oh. Didn’t we all? Didn’t we all?

 

Damon Young: We’re not going to get into that. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Not the Von Dutch. 

 

Damon Young: Back with more after the break. [music plays] Who would you consider of the contemporary NBA players right now? And I’m going to stretch back maybe the last maybe 15, 12 years. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Who would you consider like the most influential style icon in the league? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Well, you got to say Iverson, because he is the figurehead of that hip hop era. 

 

Damon Young: Well, you know, I. I don’t consider Iverson to be contemporary anymore. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Okay. All right. So we move past him. Okay— 

 

Damon Young: We’re moving past Iverson. So let’s say 21st century. 

 

Mitch Jackson: All right. So then let’s say Westbrook. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Because I think he’s, like, as close as we’re going to get to Dennis Rodman, not as close as we’re going to get, but as close as that era got to Dennis Rodman in terms of taking a risk. I mean, I don’t know if he pushed the kind of gender boundaries like Rodman did, but he’s he certainly was a risk taker. I would say, P.J. Tucker. 

 

Damon Young: Uh huh. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Because I think he’s like the streetwear guy, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: He got all the sneakers I mean, he was just on the cover of I think Slam Kicks with, you know, a sneaker guy out of the NBA or something like that. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So and then he also pairs his sneakers with really high fashion looks like he will have on some A1s and a Valentino silk short suit or something. So I would say, P.J. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: I’m going to put Chris Paul, LeBron and D-Wade as like a triple headed monster. 

 

Damon Young: Okay. Okay why is that?

 

Mitch Jackson: Because they’re they’re so close together, they do roughly some of the same things. I mean, I think D-Wade takes a little more risks. I mean, I don’t think the brother he wears a shirt like 50% of the time now [laughter] but yeah. D-Wade certainly. And those guys embraced it. And then I think I don’t think we get the tunnel without those guys. And I’m going to add Chris Bosh, even though he wasn’t as big of a star as them. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: I think he belongs in there. And then of the new guys Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And let me pick one more I’m on to the new new guys I really like, what’s the homie name in Houston? Jalen Green. 

 

Damon Young: Oh Jalen Green. Okay. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah I like Jalen Green. Yeah he he went that draft night fit. I feel like that’s one of the best draft night fits maybe in the last decade like you see homie from Kansas trying to repeat it with that red—

 

Damon Young: And it, it wasn’t working. [both speaking] Yeah he took a chance he took a chance—

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah he did. But that’s when, you know, you got to take your L’s, your wins and your losses. That was an L. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: You know and it’s funny you mentioned P.J. and P.J. Tucker and Russell Westbrook because I feel like there are kind of distinct ends of. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Of this because Russell Russell, you know, is more of a risk taker, is more you know, you could say that he is his style was somewhat androgynous. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And he got clowned a lot. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: For it. He got clowned a lot like people, even like NBA, like Barkley and Shaq. And the Inside the NBA crew would always be on him. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: About his fits and whatever. And Russell would just you know, he would just continue to put that shit on. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And I mean, I think PJ is someone who is— P.J. Kind of represents like if the typical nigga who had a lot of money. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Exactly. [laughter] He’s like some one a hood dude can understand. You know? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: He like the dope dealer of the hood with some money. 

 

Damon Young: And he’s still fresh. He’s still fresh. He’s still fly. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But it’s a distinct type of freshness. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: A distinct type of flyness, and even, you know, the pairing like the sneakers with, you know, the more high fashion, you know. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Looks. I think it’s something he’s done more recently because I don’t think he was always doing that. He was, the sneakers, though. Always been this thing. But the look. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know. The pairing, that’s something that is—

 

Mitch Jackson: Front row Fashion Week influence. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. Yeah. And so you mentioned the tunnel, you know what I mean? And for people who aren’t familiar with this, you know, you might have seen this on IG you might have seen this on the NBA game where, you know, you’ll see footage, you know, of the of the players walking to the locker room after they’ve gotten off the bus or after they’ve driven to the game and they’re walking to the locker room is basically their runway. They got their fit. They’re not even looking at the camera, just walking you know what I mean, if that’s the only time you really want to see the fit. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Is before the game and you’re going to see the full fit. And so, you know, in your research for this book and talking to people, there’s something I’ve always been curious about is if that tunnel was an intentional thing or if it was just something that became like an organic happenstance or begin with an intentionality behind it. 

 

Mitch Jackson: I think it came about organically. I mean, I remember you remember when I used to have like the Christmas games or the really big NBA games, and this is around the time where it’s Bosh, D-Wade and Bron on the Heat, right? 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So they’ll have the game and then they’ll follow them into the game. But it’s like only the stars you see coming in. And obviously they knew that those cameras were going to be there. So I felt like that was more motivation for them to dress up. 

 

Damon Young: Hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And they had already gotten the stylists right. So like Rachel was probably already styling, you know, LeBron or something. So they had a stylist. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Anyway, they knew the cameras were going to be on him. And I think the NBA was smart enough to realize that people actually care about what these guys are wearing because initially I think we needed it to be stars because, you know, if it had been the P.J. Tuckers and them walking down the runway back then, like, I don’t think it would have caught on. Right. It had it had to be basketball’s most popular players.  

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: On basketball’s most popular team at the time that really got this going. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And it just so happened I think the Thunder were good around that time too. So we have Westbrook and K.D. and and Harden over there on the other side. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So I really feel like that was the birth of the NBA recognizing, okay, we got something on our hands here and then you know, Style Wars took off and everybody was in on that shit. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. And now, you know, I’ve noticed in the last couple of years, the WNBA. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. For sure.

 

Damon Young: It’s been amazing to watch with the women’s ball players are also, you know, making sure their fits are and again, it might have been a thing that they had been doing. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: But I think they’re getting that attention now. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Absolutely. 

 

Damon Young: They’re getting that that tunnel attention now in a way that I just don’t remember them getting, you know, three or four years ago. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Where now, you know, they got their fits and, you know, another aspect of like I guess, the stylistic journey and how influential the NBA has been and basketball players have been, you know, in terms of just a symbiotic relationship between like NBA players and Black men. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: Specifically. Right. You know, here is another part of it where. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: You know, Michael Jordan didn’t invent the bald head. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: There were you know, bald was in in the eighties and nineties and, you know, shaving your head bald or whatever. But he made it he made it a thing. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: He made it a thing that became like more of a thing because it was him. Iverson wasn’t the first nigga with cornrows. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean, and plaits and all types of stuff happening, you know, in his hair. But he helped make it a thing. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: More of a thing. It became more of like a national thing, because I feel like that look, pre Iverson was more of like a West Coast. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: Southern. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Sort of. 

 

Mitch Jackson: I agree. 

 

Damon Young: Look. You know what I mean? And then it became like more just like a universal thing. Like there was a point where you could kind of tell where nigga was from just by his hair. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: What part of the country he was from and you can’t really do that anymore. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right. 

 

Damon Young: And then, you know, I feel like the most influential single, most influential team or group of basketball players of the last ten years were those Duke ballplayers back in maybe 2015 where they all— 

 

Mitch Jackson: You talking about John Wall and them? 

 

Damon Young: No, no Duke. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Oh. Duke oh that’s Kentucky, okay.

 

Damon Young: Duke like and the Duke cut. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah yeah.

 

Damon Young: They all had like blow, the hair that was like the blow out. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah.

 

Damon Young: The curly blow out but faded. And it that became the hair that every young nigga had.

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean? And it was it was like Quinn Cook I’m trying to think of who else was on that team. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: But again, I mean the hair thing is something that is also NBA basketball players particularly have been I don’t know on vanguards. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah man.

 

Damon Young: You know with with hair and I guess how does that fit in with this whole conversation about style? Because I think when people think of style, they, they maybe immediately think about clothing. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And not necessarily about, you know, the way you decide to wear your hair. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Man. I think, you know, one of my favorite quotes about styles, is Miles Davis and he says, you got to have style in everything you do. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And I think Black men in particular, even if they’re not aware of that, take that to heart, like how you walk, you know how you stand, you know how you pose for your picture. And so obviously that’s going to come to also how you wear your clothes and how you style your hair. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And I’m glad you mentioned college because I don’t watch a lot of college ball anymore, but I got to watch March Madness, right? So when you get out to the Sweet 16, like I’m back on it. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: And I remember watching last year and going, damn, all these little dudes got John Laurent cuts, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So like, clearly he’s influential among the the kids, you know, they got the little, they got the braid with the little color in there, you know. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So I think you can clearly see how these younger dudes are modeling after the younger NBA players in terms of style, even in terms of like where you wear your arm band on your or where you wear your leg brand. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Or how you signal a three. Right. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: That to me, that’s like remember when you was playing like if you hit a three people used to put their hands up like this when I was playing, you know, three like the referee. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Now everybody doing all this, you know, what’s the little dude from the Lakers, the white boy from the Lakers?

 

Damon Young: Oh. Austin. Austin Reaves. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Austin Reaves. He cannot make it three without running by doing all [laughter] this shit so you know. So even that to me is style, right. And that comes out of the league or vice versa. Right. So in the college game and the league. Yeah. But but I do think that Black men especially depended on style because it was a way to kind of beat back oppression, right? It was a way to signal that my life had value and that I had control over things that were happening in my life. So I think that was really, really important. And I think we’ve held on to that. 

 

Damon Young: Well, and that’s a that’s a great point. And really quickly, too, like I was just Googling this just now is like that that Duke cut it was from the 2015 championship team where they had Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook and the all have the same haircut. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Where they all had like the curly fro but with the tapered fade. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right. And then that became like every young nigga that I saw that was around me had that cut. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: My nephews had that cut. [laughter] All the young niggas I hooped with sometimes had that cut, youngins I see in the street would have that cut. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And then they would, you know, have the they would, you know, flip it, freak it. And, you know, maybe someone had the blond in the hair, maybe someone to have the parts. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Where they had like the fade. But that’s the Duke cut. But your point about Black men particularly. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know, I was talking again before the, before the show with Morgan, our producer, about how a lot of these measures and we talked about this on the show with the NBA, were because of racism. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean? Like, you got to dress this way because racism, you can’t wear this in the club because of racism. And so instead of, you know, obviously we’re dealing with that racism. We’re dealing with, you know, this oppression, we’re dealing with this suppression of voice. But they were just like, you know, fuck it. If you’re going to make this rules, we’re going to flip them. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: We’re going to break them. We’re going to we’re going to show you, you know what I mean? What we can do. We can show you the virtuosity you know what I mean, we can show you what we could do within this construct that you created for us. We’re going to break this shit. We’re going to break this paradigm. It reminds me in a way of like the lore behind soul food. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mmm. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean where— 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. Yeah. I won’t eat these chitlins, but I’m a spice them up though. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. [laughs] I’m a eat these ribs and eat these greens or whatever. But we’re going to freak them, we’re going to we’re going to make them a delicacy. We’re going to make them the shit that everybody wants. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: We’re going to make them the shit that everyone, you know, savors, you know what I mean, and so it’s funny bring up Austin Reaves right Lakers player somewhat popular now white boy in the league the NBA has had white players. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yes. 

 

Damon Young: [laughs] It’s not an all Black league but I’m trying to think of a white NBA player. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Who was considered like a style icon. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Right and it’s hard. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Man. 

 

Damon Young: And so and and there are white like soccer players in Europe who are considered icons. But for whatever reason in America particularly and with basketball, the white boys who are playing just don’t get that same sort of consideration. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And are not doing the same things. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: And is this something that you notice as well? 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah man because I was looking at that their 96 draft included Steve Nash, you know, and actually, if you think about it, Steve Nash won two MVP’s and and Iverson won one. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: So you know, and neither one of them got a chip. So they both hall of fame players, but no one’s going around saying, man, remember Steve Nash, shaggy haircut. I needed to get that. [laughter] I think it’s because, I mean, if we take it back to the kind of constructs that like whiteness demands, that you get rid of your individuality in order to be part of whiteness. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Like you have to buy into the group ideology. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You have to buy into the group’s culture. Right. And Blackness has been a resistance to that, which is like buying into individuality and coolness, right? So even when white when white boys are cool, they’re actually it feels like an appropriation of cool, because in order to be white, it’s like white is like anti cool, you know. [laughter] It’s like, no, we’re all on the same team, guys. We wear the same Dockers and same button down shirt. And I’m not trying to be racist about it, but but white—

 

Damon Young: You did a white voice. You did. [laughter] You did bring the white voice out.

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. So I think that, you know, whiteness is a construct that demands that we kind of think the same dress, the same, do the same things, and everybody else is outside of that, right? Like. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: You can’t be a part of this unless you join us. I think of like country clubs, right? Like country clubs have dress codes too. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Right? But ain’t nobody tripping because we ain’t in there. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: At the country clubs. Right? So so I do think that that’s why. Because you know what Austin Reaves is doing that I’m thinking where did he get that from? I’m not thinking that he invented that. I mean, I admire because I remember guys like white chocolate. Remember Jason Williams? 

 

Damon Young: Now he had, yeah. He had some he’s a person that I would consider to be a style icon. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah okay. 

 

Damon Young: And he’s from West Virginia. He’s from like Appalachia. 

 

Mitch Jackson: But I remember seeing like a doc on him, I think, or some interview where he. Basically was raised all around Black people and like so. So it’s like by osmosis he got this—

 

Damon Young: Yes. 

 

Mitch Jackson: This cool factor in him. Kevin Love is from my area, you know, played high school against some of my little young partners. And Kevin Love is not cool. He’s like white guy nice and he dresses well. 

 

Damon Young: Mm hmm. 

 

Mitch Jackson: But like, I don’t think anyone is like, Kevin Love is cool. And so from it [laughter]  but I also know that he didn’t grow up around us, you know? So, like, you don’t have the Jason. I’ll be, I’ll be interested to know Pistol Pete who he grew up around because he seemed to have that same kind of flamboyance as as Jason Williams. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. And you could name them. You can name throughout history Pistol Pete, Rex Chapman. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yep. 

 

Damon Young: There’s another one. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean. And again, Rex Chapman grew up around us. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know, famously had like a Black girlfriend when he was at Kentucky and that was like a thing that was actual like. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm hmm yeah. 

 

Damon Young: Thing when he was at Kentucky and this was in like the late eighties, Tyler Herro is another one.

 

Mitch Jackson: Tyler Herro. Yeah, he really pressing on it. Boy, he want it bad. 

 

Damon Young: He’s a guy that [laughter[ to your point I look at him and I’m like yeah this is— 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah like he’s reaching, he’s reaching. 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: It ain’t him yet he ain’t found him and also but I mean these guys are so young too right? 

 

Damon Young: Yeah. 

 

Mitch Jackson: We’re talking about guys who are in their early twenties, like who finds themselves in their early twenties. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, I was, I was rocking the Von Dutch. [laughter]

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah, the snap back. [laughter] 

 

Damon Young: Mr. Jackson, thank you for coming through today for the show. This was a lot of fun. Also, please everyone go and cop Fly, Mitch’s tremendous book on the history of basketball fashion. It is a great coffee table book is a great book just to pick up and read and like pass around like I keep mentioning it more, but I gave it to Morgan and she said she’s not giving it back. [laughs] To me. I let my dad look at it when he was over for Labor Day, you know, I mean, and it’s just it’s one of those books that the 14 year old me would have appreciated just as much as a 44 year old me. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Mm yeah bro. 

 

Damon Young: I mean, and you can’t see that. I can’t say that about every book that I buy, even the books that I love. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Yeah. 

 

Damon Young: You know what I mean, so please go and cop Mitch’s book, cause he did a tremendous thing with that. 

 

Mitch Jackson: Appreciate you, dog man for sure. 

 

Damon Young: All right. Thanks again man. [music plays] Again, just want to thank Mr. Jackson for coming through. Great conversation, great guest, great topic. Thank you all again for coming out. Again, you could have been anywhere else in the world, but you chose to be here with us at Stuck with Damon Young. Thank you for that. You can find Stuck with Damon Young wherever you get your podcast but if you’re on the Spotify app. Please have some fun with interactive questions and poll answers or whatever. Knock yourself out. Have a lot of fun with that. And again, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, hit me up at deardamon@crooked.com. All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler. [music plays]