Why Do Basketball Coaches Wear Suits?

When you see an NBA coach wearing a three-piece suit on television, it’s easy to assume that they’re just another player in the crowd.

But when you take a closer look at their appearance, you’ll notice something different about them — even if they’re not wearing any other type of clothing.

Why is this?

What does this tell us about how basketball coaches dress while playing or working out as head coaches?

Basketball coaches wear suits during games because the dress code has become a massive part of basketball coaching culture and tradition. Also, coaches wear suits because it makes them appear more professional and gives them a sense of authority and credibility.

In this article, we’ll explain the answer provided above in greater depth.

Reasons why basketball coaches wear suits to professional games

Let’s now explore why basketball coaches wear suits.

1. Suits are part of basketball coaching culture and tradition

why basketball coaches wear suits - culture and tradition

Basketball coaching cultures have developed over time with certain traditions and norms.

One such norm dictates that all basketball coaches should dress in suits while coaching.

So why do so many coaches still choose to disregard this custom and wear anything but suits?

The answer lies within the history of basketball coaching itself.

In fact, there are several reasons why basketball coaching cultures dictate that coaches must always wear suits.

Some of those reasons include:

a) The early years of basketball coaching

Coaching basketball was much different back in the 1920s and 1930s than it is today.

During those times, most men were employed by colleges or universities, where they coached students from around the country.

While some college athletics directors did allow their employees to work out and play for local teams after hours, most didn’t.

As a result, many basketball coaches had little experience dressing professionally outside of the classroom.

They learned quickly that looking sharp meant having credibility and respectability.

And because people often judged athletes based off of what they wore, coaches began choosing suits over less formal attire like polos, golf shirts or sweatshirts.

So, if people looked up to basketball coaches and judged them based upon their appearance, then coaches would naturally want to dress accordingly.

b) The evolution of basketball coaching into a professional sport

As basketball became increasingly popular among American youth, the number of high school coaches also grew.

However, since the majority of these new coaches weren’t experienced professionals, they needed guidance in how to dress.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that basketball coaching transitioned from being primarily run by university administrators to one led by professional players.

This change gave rise to “coach/player” distinctions between two very distinct types of individuals.

As a result, players started wearing suits to show respect toward their coaches.

c) New rules governing basketball coaching uniforms

After World War II, professional sports leagues took control of their respective uniforms.

For example, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL) now set specific guidelines regarding which colors, fabrics, logos and team names go onto jerseys.

These uniform regulations help ensure that every MLB, NFL and NHL team looks alike.

Similarly, organizations including USA Gymnastics, NCAA and WNBA mandate that all certified coaches follow strict uniform policies.

According to these standards, all authorized coaches must wear suits and white athletic shoes during practices and competitions.

Violating this rule can lead to losing your certification.

2. Suits make basketball coaches look more professional

why basketball coaches wear suits - professional appearance

One reason why suits make sense as basketball coaching uniforms is due to professional standards.

When you think about it, wearing a suit helps you appear more authoritative, knowledgeable and trustworthy.

It shows that you’ve put effort into preparing for your job and you want to be taken seriously.

3. Suits give coaches a sense of authority

why basketball coaches wear suits - conveying authority

In addition to making you look more professional, wearing a suit gives you a greater sense of authority and power.

A few factors contribute to this feeling, including the following:

a) Dressing well makes you seem more credible

For decades, research has shown that how others perceive you affects whether they trust you.

In particular, people tend to judge you based upon how you present yourself.

That means you need to pay attention to details like what you say, how you say it and how you dress.

Dressed nicely, you will come across as more respectable and trustworthy.

You’ll also convey an image of professionalism, capability and competence. People often respond positively to others who dress appropriately, even if they aren’t necessarily qualified.

If you dress down and don’t care about how you look, however, then you may come across as unkempt, sloppy and unmotivated.

Your lack of concern for presentation could send the message that you’re too lazy or careless to prepare properly.

Ultimately, you want to project confidence and expertise while conveying positive messages about yourself. This requires taking the extra step to dress well. Doing so will help you gain respect from others.

b) Suits communicate success and accomplishment

No matter what level you coach at, everyone wants to be successful.

With that said, what kind of impression do you think you leave with colleagues and subordinates when you arrive for work in sweatpants or shorts?

If you wear a suit, you immediately become someone else – someone who knows how to succeed and accomplish great things — especially when no one else sees you doing so.

By putting together a professional outfit each day, you’re showing your staff, peers and fans that you’ve made a commitment to achieving goals.

More importantly, though, you’re demonstrating your ability to handle success and failure gracefully.

For instance, if you lose focus or fail to reach a goal, you can brush aside your disappointment without appearing arrogant or cocky.

On the contrary, if you’ve spent months preparing for a big event, then you can easily bounce back from defeat.

Allowing your staff to witness your successes and failures teaches them to expect greatness from you.

Plus, whenever teammates, friends or family members see you wearing a suit, they know that you’ve earned your position.

4. Suits are comfortable to wear

why basketball coaches wear suits - comfort

You might think that wearing a suit as a coach would make you feel uncomfortable or stiffer.

However, studies show that suits actually make you feel more relaxed and confident.

Research published in the Journal of Sport Behavior found that participants felt more powerful and competent when dressed in suits compared to casual clothes.

While it’s true that some coaches prefer more comfortable outfits to match their physical activity, suits provide a broader range of options.

Not only can suits offer freedom of movement, but they also protect against the elements.

Since many sports require coaches to sometimes move quickly and jump, it’s important that their clothes fit comfortably and perform effectively.

That said, there are plenty of stylish athleticwear brands available for anyone who prefers modern styles instead of traditional cuts.

Many companies produce designer alternatives to Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Reebok.

You should definitely check out these brands for quality, comfort and style.

Do basketball coaches have to wear suits?

There isn’t any specific legislation put in place that says coaches have to wear suits to NBA games.

However, the same cannot be said of the players.

In 2005, the then NBA commissioner David Stern created a mandatory dress code for players to abide by during public events and in their off time as well.

Here he is talking a bit about it in 2019:

It essentially mandated for business causal attire and prohibited headgear of any kind along with the shiny pieces of jewellery like chains, pendants and medallions which players used to wear over their clothing.

This dress code never made any reference to NBA coaches so they could get away with not wearing a suit and an accompanying neck tie!

Closing thoughts

Overall, suits are one of the best ways to dress as a basketball coach.

By respecting the culture and tradition of basketball coaching, you demonstrate your commitment to helping your team achieve its full potential.

At the same time, you help create a positive first impression that allows you to inspire others.

And remember, the key isn’t to follow every fashion trend. Instead, you should develop a personal preference for classic cuts and designs.

Once you find one that works for you, stick with it. Just because a trendy brand becomes popular doesn’t mean you need to buy the latest fashions.

In general, sticking to a consistent wardrobe will help you stand out as a leader.

Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed reading through this post, then there’s a good chance you’d also like our articles on why basketball players wear mouthguards and why basketballers wear masks.

Go check them out!

About Samuel Waihenya

Samuel is an avid fan of basketball and has been following the sport for over 10 years. He now intends to dedicate his time to produce great content for his own little basketball blog that aims to help its readership with whatever basketball-related topic they can think of. Have a read through Samuel Waihenya's author bio page here.