manifestations of creativity
I’ve become increasingly interested in the cross-pollination of ideas. Of what results from joining two disparate spheres.
Today I listened to a podcast with Luke Tadashi, co-founder and creative director of Bristol Studio, an LA-based fashion brand. They’ve collaborated with Adidas amongst others and are a ‘hype’ brand, hence their appearance on the Hypebeast podcast.
Tadashi is not unusual in drawing fashion inspiration from basketball. The sport, now more than ever, has been entwined with fashion. The two have been interlinked for some time, retro jerseys being a longterm rap staple, and now the players are influencers and brand owners in their own right.
Star names like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Lebron James are renowned for experimenting with fashion and starting their own lines but some of the NBA mid-rankers have used it as a differentiator - guys like PJ Tucker with his sneaker head association or Jaylen Brown with his 7uice streetwear brand. It’s become part of being an NBA player.
Tadashi spoke about his youth as a decent basketball player and how he came to the realisation that he wasn’t going to be a good enough player to be a professional. Then he made an interesting point about identity.
His status as a ‘jock’ conferred upon him an identity that insinuated that he wasn’t creative. This wasn’t how he felt personally but it came as a part of his status as an athlete. The word ‘jock’ carries a lot of connotations. When I was at university, one of a minority of young men studying English Literature, I made a point in a seminar only to be told by a friend afterwards that someone had said to them,
‘That jock guy is surprisingly intelligent.’
Previously, if you were a sportsman, you were regarded as ‘not creative’ and potentially even ‘not smart’.
There are some lengthy arguments to scoot past here. What is intelligence? Wayne Rooney is an obvious example of someone commonly regarded as ‘not smart’ by both the media and the public, but is his ability on the football field not a form of genius?
We even use the word ‘genius’ to describe moments of inspiration when athletes are competing - how is it possible that they can produce genius, the best athletes do regularly, but not be regarded as one?
The insinuation that athletes aren’t creative is another odd one as often, the best athletes ‘create something out of nothing’, both on the field and in terms of maximising themselves. Many of the finest athletes come from straitened circumstances and have had to forge their sporting career by sheer force of will, talent and ingenuity. Read most Brazilian footballers’ origin stories for instances of this.
Sometimes, athletes had to get creative to even practise their sport before they were spotted. Think of people playing football with makeshift balls and goals in the street, or Caribbean cricketers bowling at milk crates on the beach. These things still happen.
Tadashi referenced this idea of creativity being expressed through sporting competition, saying:
“Some of my most creative moments ever were on a basketball court, just dribbling and trying to figure out a way to get past my defender. To be able to think on the fly like that, just requires you to tap into a creativity unlike any other.”
A fashion designer has had some of his most creative moments on a court. These moments are so visceral, they are hard to forget once they’ve been experienced.
The division of sport and art has relaxed somewhat, partly due to the efforts of guys in the NBA and top footballers. It’s common now, to be interested in fashion or music, to speak about some other form of expression aside from being on the training ground.
The word jock though, still exists and is still tied to an outmoded concept of masculinity. To be a jock is to engage in locker room talk, to lift weights and be dumb. The word is sometimes used to denigrate female athletes, engaging in sports that have traditionally been manly activities. It’s a tired word that needs to shuffle off this mortal coil and leave our lexicon.
Without getting in dodgy territory, gender identity can be a constraint, something that keeps you in a box and leaves you feeling stifled by what people expect of ‘someone like you’. Sport’s macho image amongst other people means that an athlete shouldn’t write poetry, or that a poet shouldn’t lift weights. To do both is to buck how people want to perceive a person, to be able to clearly label them. When you combine disciplines that have traditional gender associations, like Tadashi has done with Bristol Studio, then you would have previously confused a lot of people.
The problem though, isn’t gender itself, but our limited definitions of what each gender is. The new wave of athletes expressing their creativity outside of the field are helping move this conversation forwards. So are the creatives who are drawing on sport to create their art.
Sport and art are inclusive; they cut across cultural and language barriers and are open to anyone from anywhere; they are increasingly in symbiosis. It’s great to see.