Five MVP awards, fourteen All-Star Game appearances, six NBA Finals MVPs, six NBA Championship rings, two Olympic gold medals, a Defensive Player of the Year award and zero style. Who else could we be talking about other than the legend himself, Michael Jordan. As arguably the greatest athlete of the 20th century, MJ's success on the hardwood is indisputable. Off the court, however, his decisions have been questionable—especially when it comes to fashion, where the Jordan Rules apparently don't apply.
Aaron Horton took notice, and blessed the Internet with What The F*** is Michael Jordan Wearing?, a hilarious collection of Jordan's fashion air balls. The site has gotten shine from Businessweek and Grantland, and we even crowned it one of our coolest Tumblrs of 2011. Complex caught up with the Philly native to talk about the inspiration for the site, its success and just how far he plans to go.
Interview by Julian Kimble (@JRK316)
When did you first notice MJ's "style," or lack thereof?
He was wearing these, like, JNCO jeans and a linen shirt and someone posted the photo on Okayplayer. Then, one day I was sitting around with some friends watching NBA TV and they were showing a Bobcats game and we just all noticed that he was dressed like crap. The first post on the site is the first time I ever really noticed his style. It's still the worst picture on the site.
How'd the site come to exist?
A friend suggested the concept should be a site, and I agreed. So after they left that night, I decided to do some research and found a bunch of photos. It shouldn't have been that easy [laughs].
Do you think people let him slide because he's "His Airness"?
We were too young in the '90s to know who could and couldn't dress. It seems like around the time of his divorce, he seemed to go through a mid-life crisis and stopped caring. However, my mom noted that he could never dress. If you look back, he always wore stuff that was pretty unacceptable. But yeah, I think people just let it go because it was Mike.
You've done a few interviews about the site now. Does its success surprise you?
Yeah, I thought this was gonna be an inside joke kind of thing. I think it was the type of thing that long-time NBA fans were thinking about, but nobody called out. There would be mentions of it here and there, but never a collection of inventory. Most of the traffic actually comes from referral links via Twitter. Things really started to pickup around Thanksgiving when Questlove tweeted about it. I woke up to a ton of traffic that I couldn't believe. I'm surprised I don't get more hate mail; nobody jumping to his defense or anything.
The Internet's a powerful tool. So he has to know at this point, right? If he doesn't, his sons have to.
I don't wanna assume that he's seen it, but I think he may have heard about it because he's been dressing considerably better of late. Either someone told him or he's out of that phase he was going through. I definitely don't think it was his sons, though. They might know, but I don't think they have much influence.
Maybe he should just wear his Bulls uniform—warm-ups and all—in public.
[Laughs] I'm not critiquing him from a fashion standpoint, though. I'm no fashion icon, I just feel like he takes some risks. It's like he doesn't go about it the Michael Jordan way: determined to be the best. Charles Barkley seems to wear age-appropriate clothes, so he has it figured out.
You were a Pacers fan as a kid. Do you see this as a way of getting back at Jordan for the '98 Eastern Conference Finals?
At first it had nothing to do with that, but a small part of me enjoys this. What's funny is that he was so dominant on the court, but he's had his issues off of it, in terms of the front office and style. Don't get me wrong though, I respect everything Michael Jordan has done on the court and as a businessman. This is all just a joke.
Let's talk music for a second. What are you feelin' this year?
So far this year, I was surprised at how good Ab-Soul's Control System is. Not that I wasn't a fan or didn't think he was talented before, but it's really good. I really like The Stoned Immaculate; it's a little pop for Curren$y, but I still like it. Also, Smoke DZA's Rugby Thompson. Here's a random one: Sleigh Bells' Reign of Terror. Oh yeah, and Joey Bada$$'s 1999.
Yeah, he reminds me of my friends and I in high school, with his respect for the old school and all.
I feel like the new generation of rappers really respect lyrics and sampling more than they're given credit for.
Agreed. If you could pick one artist to spit a What The F*** is Michael Jordan Wearing-related rhyme, who would it be?
Oooh (pause). Wale—I think he's the best with sports metaphors, so I think he would come up with something clever. Although I did like that J.Cole "You caught him down in Memphis, cheatin' like Calipari" line too [laughs]. If Chamillionaire could work something out, it would be hilarious for obvious reasons. If someone made a t-shirt with a picture of Jordan and a "No niggas" caption, I'd buy it.
Jordan should make one. And wear it.
Any other websites people should be on the lookout for?
Definitely: Smoking 40s on the Internet. That's basically the crew's—Smoking 40s—Tumblr. Content is sparse right now, but we're plotting and looking to do some bigger things with it this summer. Possibly even some totally original content.
So how far do you plan to go with this?
One goal is any communication with Mike—even if it's a cease and desist. By now, there's a nice collection of photos up there, but if it could lead to any other opportunities like developing TV or movie scripts, that'd be cool. There have to have been sites like this before mine, but it looks like there's one for Russell Westbrook now. He looks like he's just having fun, though.
Tell that to Sally Jessy Raphael. Do you ever worry about any backlash from Jordan?
Dude's pretty powerful, but I'm not actually worried. We're in two different universes. You know what his reaction was? Somebody probably asked him "have you seen this Tumblr called What the Fuck is Michael Jordan Wearing?'" and his response was probably "what the fuck is a Tumblr?" He probably has too much money to care.
In the event that he does care, Chamillionaire and Isiah Thomas have your back.