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Fool’s Gold: Jarred Vanderbilt’s Expensive Gameday Style

Eric Elliot

Home » Featured » Fool’s Gold: Jarred Vanderbilt’s Expensive Gameday Style

LA Lakers forward Jarred Vanderbilt found himself in hot water recently over an expensive gameday outfit that he bought and promptly returned the next day. Social media blew up after a suspected Saks employee exposed Vanderbilt for sporting $2,000 worth of high-end clothes to a playoff game against the Warriors, only to bring them back to the store once the game ended. For a budding NBA star earning $4.4 million per year, many fans and commenters questioned why Vanderbilt would go through the trouble. Was it a savvy financial move or an ethical misstep? Let’s break down Vanderbilt’s fashion faux pas and the fiery fallout.

Lavish Labels for the Big Game

Vanderbilt turned heads when he showed up to the high-stakes Warriors vs Lakers playoff match in May 2022 dressed in head-to-toe designer gear. His outfit consisted of a plain tank top and open white and blue button-down shirt by Saks’ luxury labels, paired with striped slim-fit pants and pristine white sneakers. The suspected price tag? A casual $2,000 for the complete gameday look. While Vanderbilt dressed to impress, little did he know the outfit would cause an impressively negative reaction once he returned it.

Social Media Backlash

Just days after the Lakers’ first-round playoff game, an alleged Saks employee took to Instagram to call out Vanderbilt’s clothing return in a post that quickly went viral. “Nice guy…Bought 2k worth of clothes Monday. This outfit specially. Wore it to the tunnel and post game Tuesday then returned it yesterday,” they wrote. The post expressed frustration that the clothes were now considered used merch. “Obviously used clothing. Mayn if I didn’t have a reason to hate the Lakers and root for home turn now I have more reason. Boooooo @JVANDO YA BUM,” they added. The call-out highlighted the perceived absurdity of a millionaire athlete returning high-priced garb.

A Penny Saved?

As a newly signed Laker making $4.4 million per year, Vanderbilt certainly has the means to keep a $2,000 gameday outfit in his closet. The 24-year-old was brought to LA for his defensive skills against elite players like Steph Curry. His primary role is containing offensive superstars, not flexing designer brands. So why return the clothes? While Vanderbilt’s financial motivation is unclear, the move faced intense criticism as a tactless flex of his wealth and status.

From Small-Town Kid to Big Stage

To understand Vanderbilt’s actions, it helps to consider his background. He grew up in small-town Maryland without exposure to fame and fortune. After a quiet college career, Vanderbilt joined the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves where he slowly built his skills as a defensive stopper. When traded to the Lakers last February, Vanderbilt was thrust into the spotlight. Though his talent belongs on the big stage, Vanderbilt’s modest roots likely left him unprepared for expectations around image and status.

Dressing the Part

For NBA stars, branding extends beyond the court. Fans critique everything from their play style to fashion choices. After games, players experience a literal costume change as they shed uniforms for designer outfits to meet with press and fans. For Vanderbilt, the pressure to mimic the expensive aesthetics of LA locker rooms and culture may explain his desire for a $2k gameday look. While stars like LeBron James have mastered branding, Vanderbilt is still learning how to balance privacy, image upkeep, and smart spending as a budding celebrity.

Ethical or Economical?

Ultimately, Vanderbilt’s clothing return comes down to a debate over ethics vs economics. Supporters may argue it was simply pragmatic to return unneeded purchases, like any budget-conscious shopper. But critics say Vanderbilt’s wealth makes this view moot. While returning fast fashion garments is one thing, they argue it’s unethical to take advantage of high-end stores this way as an NBA millionaire. No matter where you stand, the incident highlights questions around privilege and power.

Setting a Bad Example

Beyond just the ethics, many pointed out how Vanderbilt’s actions could influence young fans. As an emerging star, Vanderbilt now carries a weight of responsibility in the eyes of youth who look up to him. Flaunting wealth or bending rules risks sending the wrong message. Will kids see this as a lifehack or a lapse in values? Vanderbilt’s misguided display unfortunately aligns athletics with excess in ways that obscure his professional merits.

Lessons Learned

No matter your feelings on Vanderbilt’s clothing return itself, it’s clear the young player has become a case study in PR and leadership. For Vanderbilt, hopefully the backlash imparts several lessons – from valuing his belongings to making purchases with intentionality. More broadly, the debacle highlights the learning curve of the limelight. Newfound status tests principles. With guidance, Vanderbilt and others can emerge better equipped to handle such transitions with grace.

The Bigger Picture

Zooming out, reactions to Vanderbilt’s fashion foul-up provide a mirror into modern sports culture and materialism at large. As fans critique player salaries, lifestyle inflation creeps in. Ideally we’d shift focus from dollar signs and designer brands back to love of the game. If athletes feel less pressure to visibly project success, stunts like Vanderbilt’s unnecessary returns could become a thing of the past. But these changes start on an individual level, then ripple out.

At the end of the day, Jarred Vanderbilt’s courtside style spectacle sent an important message: true class requires more than just designer clothes. For a star on the rise, how Vanderbilt responds to this first brush with fame will set the tone for his public profile to come.