ball out

An Appreciation of the Peacocking Male Style on Ballers

Look at these suits.
Look at these suits. Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO

Friends, countrywomen, ballers rejoice: The unforgettable television experiment known as Ballers returned with its season-two premiere last night. 

While stubborn snobs and aesthetes might suggest that there are better things to do on a summer Sunday evening than indulge in a show about the wanton philandering of two purposefully bald men (played, of course, by the Rock and for some reason Rob Corddry), perhaps these people just missed the memo: While winter is coming in Westeros, it’s always summer in Miami. 

Since we accept all kinds of people here, even those ignorant enough to not indulge in a show as delightful and easygoing as Ballers, here’s a helpful recap: Ballers is produced by Mark Wahlberg of Entourage and Calvin Klein fame and Dwayne Johnson of “the Rock” fame. It is about two financial managers for football players who are prone to partying harder than they should, starting fights with people who will always best them, and getting themselves out of Muscle Milk–flavored pickles. The football players they manage are hotheaded and reckless, the parties they attend are topless and drug-fueled, and the dialogue between every character is a grab bag of vague business vocabulary. “Deals beget deals in this land of milk and honey,” is a line akin to what one might hear on Ballers. Or did I hear that line on Ballers? It’s hard to tell anymore.

For those who, mysteriously, don’t care about doing business, football, partying, or the city of Miami, you’re not entirely off the hook yet. Ballers can also serve as an alternative meditation practice because it can be watched, without confusion, with the sound off. Some people prefer to watch sports on mute. Ballers, a scripted television show, can be enjoyed on mute, too. There is so much to take in, to admire, to appreciate. You’ll figure out the plot later. Or even never. It doesn’t matter. A true baller doesn’t care about story lines.

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO

I’m a lifelong fan of Ballers even though I have no idea what’s going on, I have little-to-no investment in the characters, and I am disturbed by the shots that linger a bit too long on naked stripper nipples. That is in large part because of the peacocking style of the show’s male characters. Not since Mad Men has there been such an attention to detail, nor so many costume changes, on a TV show about men behaving badly. These men’s lives may be messes, but they sure look good in suits! They are about to do coke off the spray-tanned surface of a naked woman’s body, but check out their cool T-shirts and nice necklaces. One of these guys has a ponytail. That means he’s the bad guy. Only bad guys have ponytails.

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO

Imagine all the custom tailoring that must go into trying to fit the Rock’s impossible body mass into menswear in which he can both move comfortably and gesture excitedly. Rob Corddry, in an interview with the New York Times, had this to say about acting onscreen next to the Rock: “Just the magnitude of the man — the sheer size — it is stunning in person. He’s enormous and beautiful, and his clothes fit him so perfectly.” Sometimes he dons a double-breasted three-piece, sometimes a precariously low-cut V-neck sweater, and sometimes he’ll go casual with a tight tee and some starchy jeans. Imagine wearing a piece of clothing that no one else on earth can wear. That’s real power. You could throw it out after wearing it once.

But it isn’t just the Rock who dresses the part of the baller onscreen. He is joined this season by Andy García, whose Miami style is part drug-dealer chic, part bespoke on-the-market grandfather. With a cigar hidden in a fold of beard, Garcia’s character André (the Rock’s new nemesis) is a threat to his wall-size counterpart’s clean style. He is laid-back but never wrinkled, knows that linen is a man’s best friend in the scorching Miami heat, and occasionally warms up his cold upper body with a neutral, adult cardigan. My god, at one point, André even dons a cravat. This show has more flair than an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And more drama (if you watch it with the sound on).

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO

The football players, meanwhile, keep it mostly casual. The show’s unsung hero is Ricky Jerret (also Denzel Washington’s son). Football player, cheater, and sufferer of foot-in-mouth syndrome, Jerret is very often shirtless or nearly shirtless, though in one scene in the season-two premiere, he wears a very handsome suit with no tie. By nightfall he’s traded the suit for a loose-fitting black T-shirt so that he might move more fluidly while slicing the head off a dolphin ice sculpture. This is the life of the baller. Clothes cannot restrict us. God, this show is good.

Ballers is off to a rip-roaring start this season. It only took 15 minutes before a fight broke out in the first episode, and the Rock even says — with a straight face! — “Ball so hard” to another character. But even if you don’t expect “The Entourage of the east” to be your thing, at least consider watching to take in the eye candy and get inspiration from the fashionable looks. Come for the lack of discernible story line, and stay for the custom-fitted suits. You (probably) won’t regret it.

Photo: Jeff Daly/HBO
An Appreciation of the Rock’s Style on Ballers