The Dreaded End
Post-Dress Code self-expression lives on top of heads.
by Sam Riches / @Sam_Riches
When Udonis Haslem took to the hardwood during these NBA Playoffs, the first thing that grabbed my attention wasn’t his returned ability to corral loose rebounds or hit jumpers from the elbow.
It was the hair sitting atop his head.
Haslem keeps his mane in braids, and he’s one of the last ones left. His decision to hold on to the cornrows marks more than just a choice of individual expression however; it marks the end of an era.
When David Stern instigated the NBA’s Dress Code policy in 2005, those in opposition were quick to point out the limiting effects of such a ruling. The player’s freedom of self-expression had been shackled. What the athletes had deemed as comfortable and expressive had been determined inappropriate by Stern. Some hypothesized that the decision was made to keep the players in line with mainstream America and regulate a league that was brimming with unique personalities.
The catalyst behind that ruling was Allen Iverson. Though his impact on the game was noticeable from the beginning of his rookie campaign, it was in his second season when his impact began to stretch beyond the hardwood. The kid had become a man, and one who was not going to be commodified with the conventional affability of a superstar. He wore his clothes baggy, his hair in braids and his skin covered in tattoos.
As the dress code came into effect, braids became one of the most popular hairstyles in the League. The iconic bald head of Michael Jordan challenged and replaced by a new generation of players, a pattern the League had encountered before.
Dr. J took to the skies with his ‘fro, Slick Watts let the sweat gleam off his bald dome long before Jordan, Michael Cage and AC Green let their jheri curls loose, Chris Mullin—among many others—went the military route with the flattop. And while some let their games speak, Anthony Mason opted to shave his words into the side of his head.
Generation after generation, challenging norms and expressing themselves through their follicular abilities.
The ’90s brought more colorful characters than Dennis Rodman could paint his head with. Mike Gminski’s mullet, Larry Johnson’s middle part, Ben Wallace’s feared ‘fro, and whatever Scot Pollard thought this was, to name a few.
When Iverson decided to shave his cornrows off, other players were quick to follow. But before the barber could even finish sweeping up the past, new styles began to make their way into the game.
Brandon Jennings has been experimenting with blending the past and the future with a mixture of cornrows, hi-top fades, Mohawks and a few other styles in between. Ron Artest channeled his inner Rodman. The Birdman added a few extra inches to his height while Boobie Gibson and Tony Allen paid their respects to Anthony Mason.
When Haslem finally decides to let go of his ‘rows, it will be up to the latest generation of talent to usher in the newest trends, for better or for worse.
The NBA may have been successful in eliminating some freedom of choice for from the player’s closets, but until they make their way into the barbershop; the League will continue to produce some of the most interesting hairstyles in professional sports.