Deion Sanders Style Guide: How to Pull Off Prime Time in 5 Steps

  • Nike Air DT Max '96
    1. Sneakers

    Considering he was a Nike signature athlete in the salad days of the early- to mid-90s, Deion’s sneakers are iconic, but it’s always seemed more a cult following. This isn’t to say they weren’t — and aren’t — popular, but as one of the most recognizable athletes of his generation, one might have expected more of a clamor for his kicks.

    I would attribute that to the sports he played; baseball- and football-based sneakers, often derived from cleats, pale in comparison to basketball in terms of mainstream interest. That said, his signature models are frequently retroed, and in some ways they are the mark of a true aficionado: If you see someone wearing any of the Diamond Turf releases, you know they have an appreciation for the sneaker history and culture.

    This isn’t to say Deion didn’t upgrade his own footwear on occasion, particularly late in his career, when he was blessed with some out-of-this-world PE Jordan cleats. But when you think about Deion, you really think the Air Diamond Turf, the Diamond Turf 2, the DT Max ’96 — good-looking trainers versatile enough to wear for multiple sports. If you want to go against the grain while paying tribute to a terrific era in sneakers, be like Deion and mix some DTs in with your Jordan collection.

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  • 2. Dancing

    Deion’s interception and punt-return touchdowns are the stuff of legend, but what made them truly resonate was his signature high-stepping touchdown dance, the epitome of on-field swagger.

    Years after he retired, players like Patrick Peterson and Cam Newton paid tribute by re-enacting the Deion dance; even Beyonce gave it a crack before last year’s Super Bowl. (In the interest of full disclosure, she was heavily pressured to do so by Deion himself, who readily makes himself available for dance lessons.)

    Personally, I don’t dance much except at weddings, but I wouldn’t think Deion’s moves would play all that well if you’re not actually on a football field. And yet, I still feel like you can take something from it: The dance became a major part of Deion’s marketability and legacy because people appreciate when other people are confident enough to let loose and enjoy themselves.

    Rehearsed or not, Deion’s dance made him a real-life Rod Tidwell, an example of joy and unbridled passion for life. And even if you have two left feet — personally, I have four — I think so long as you like what you do and allow yourself to broadcast that, you’ll be a happier person, and the world will be your oyster.

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  • Deion Sanders
    3. Style

    If you look at him back in his “Must Be The Money” heyday, Deion dressed kind of like a bootleg MC Hammer. (It makes perfect sense that his record was released on Hammer’s label.) Prime Time’s personal dress code back then was an outgrowth of his gaudy nickname, as he routinely sported parachute pants, shiny shirts, gold chains, and that unmistakable jheri curl. He honestly looked kind of absurd, but it was after all the ’90s, and there are people who somehow look back on his sartorial choices fondly, if ironically.

    Deion’s duds have changed quite a bit over the years. Most of the time when you see him now, it’s on television wearing a crisp suit, while retaining vestiges of his bold style. Deion himself explained that on his blog, a veritable gold mine for wisdom:

    “While your ‘A’ game starts with the right attitude, it is maintained by the right appearance. I always say, ‘If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good.’ Appearance is important. That’s why ya boy, Prime, is always so clean I’m dirty!

    “You can’t dress today the same way you dressed 10 years ago. Appearance matters. You can’t be 40 years old, sagging and rocking some Tims. You just look foolish. That may have worked when you were 20, but your appearance no longer matches where you are.”

    And that kind of cuts to the point: If you want to be respected, you need to take some time and put some effort into how you look. You also need to dress your age, and it’s never too late to start. Ostensibly, it’s not where you’ve been; it’s where you’re at.

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  • Pierre Garcon, Deion Sanders, DeSean Jackson, Robert Griffin III
    4. Life Calling

    After what was essentially a decade-long bacchanalia, Deion hit a low point in his life in 1998, when he was playing for the Reds, claiming that he intentionally drove his car off a cliff. Somehow, he came out totally fine, with a new perspective on life.

    “You try to fulfill your time and your needs,” Sanders said at the time. “I was just empty. I tried cars, jewelry, clothes, women, money … Nothing could fulfill me.

    “I know who I am, what I am, where I’m going and how to get there.”

    Say what you will about the virtues and shortcomings of organized religion, but becoming a born-again Christian seemed to help Deion turn his life around and gave him some focus. And along with his burgeoning media career, he became a mentor for young football players, with the idea that they could benefit from his experiences. He also put his name on a charter school named “Prime Prep” in Texas.

    This isn’t to say there haven’t been some bumps in his road to redemption. Nevertheless, there are undoubtedly people who have been helped by Deion’s guidance and wisdom; Pac Man Jones, for example, cites him as someone who has helped him stay on the right path. I would tend to give Deion the benefit of the doubt in that regardless of his motivations, his chosen pursuit has no doubt led to some perfectly quantifiable positive results. That, to me, seems like progress.

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  • Deion Sanders
    5. World View

    Deion Sanders isn’t exactly a fan of “Throwback Thursday,” believing that when we focus on the past at the expense of dealing with the present and future, we photoshop out the bad aspects in search of an unattainable ideal that never existed to begin with. Instead, he chooses to endorse something called “Throw Forward Thursday”:

    “Let’s start throwing our dreams, visions and goals forward until we achieve them. Let’s throw forward to our future. While things may be painful in your present, they cannot prevent the promise of your future.

    “Get this in your head … your future is bright! Begin to invest in it. Every time you work on your dream, you are throwing forward to your future. When you ignore your own problems, trials and tribulations, and help someone else with theirs, you are throwing forward to your future.”

    Regardless of what you think of him, you could do far worse than to subscribe to Deion’s philosophies. And it certainly seems like he’s come a long way from parachute pants and terrible rap albums.

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  • Nike Air DT Max
  • Deion Sanders
  • Deion Sanders
  • Pierre Garcon, Deion Sanders, DeSean Jackson, Robert Griffin III
  • Deion Sanders

When I was growing up, Deion Sanders was pretty much the epitome of cool, possessing substantial amounts of both sizzle and steak. His antics and colorful personality were bolstered by the fact that he was the best and most feared cornerback and punt returner in the game, able to swing the balance of the whole league as a frequent free-agent mercenary. Not to mention, he was a good enough athlete to become a more than credible baseball player — not Bo Jackson, but nothing to sneeze at.

In a way, Deion’s “Prime Time” persona was a precursor to Floyd “Money” Mayweather: Even more than his magnificent athletic gifts, what resonated with the public were his carefully cultivated and readily broadcast tastes for excess, which eventually submerged his entire personality in a sea of gold chains and would-be hip-hop anthems.

It was bemusing, reassuring and — just maybe — a bit of a letdown when Deion claimed to have become born again. But rest assured, Deion still has quite a bit of Neon left in him — he just dresses better and perpetually espouses a message of positivity.

We all wanted to emulate Deion when we were younger – and nobody possibly could, he was inimitable. But in honor of his 47th birthday tomorrow, here are five lessons I feel anyone can learn from observing Prime Time.

Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle