Players may come and go, but there’s this one thing that remains constant — the uniform. It not only has an influence on the comfort and performance of a player, but it’s also drives attention and loyalty from sports fans. This is the reason behind the major stir that George Ellard caused when he decided to sock it to the fins with kinckerbocker-style pants that stopped just below the knee and were combined with a high, red sock. This is how baseball stirrups were born.
The Birth of Baseball Stirrups
Contrary to popular assumption, baseball stirrups are not just a fashion accessory. Instead, they were introduced in 1860’s to prevent the exposure of wounds to toxic dyes leached from stockings. So, someone had this unique idea to wear a white undersock, protected by a stirrup on the top.
The trend of wearing this distinctive baseball accessory was picked by all minor and amateur leagues, and soon, stirrups became an integral part of the traditional baseball uniform. However, stirrups began to decline in 1990s when George Hendrick and Barry Bonds, key players of St. Louis Cardinals and the Pirates, started wearing their pants down to his shoe tips, negating the need for stirrups. But like all fashion trends fade away to return later, the return to more visible socks and stirrups is imminent. In fact, it’s almost happening!
Baseball Stirrups — The Great Fashion Debate of 2017
The comeback of baseball stirrups is one of the most pressing fashion debates of 2017 among baseball fans who are particularly judgmental about how a player should look on the field. There are fans who believe that long pants are disgraceful to the rich hosiery heritage of baseball and make players look like they are wearing pajamas. Therefore, these must be replaced by stirrups that are an integral component of the classic baseball uniform.
Here are a few reasons more and more baseball players have started boasting the old-school, high-socks look on the field.
Comfort and Support — When you’re a professional baseball player, you must take good care of your feet in order to give your best on the pitch. So, whether you’re hitting the gym or tearing around the bases, a pair of good-quality baseball stirrups will keep your feet protected and comfortable, allowing you to focus on the game.
Practical Value — Stirrups today offer greater functionality to players than ever before. Advanced features like breathable mesh vents, moisture-wicking fibers, odor-control technology, and antimicrobial protection not only keep the feet dry and cool, but also fight foot fatigue and soreness.
Visual Appeal — Apart from the practical value associated with baseball stirrups, there’s an allure to stirrup socks that draws style-conscious baseball observers to the players who show off the classic solid-color stirrups on the field.
Unique Look — In addition to drawing the eyes of baseball fans, stirrups also fulfill the players’ desire of individuality. Since baseball uniforms are subject to a variety of regulations that require players to wear uniforms of a certain color, trim, and style, baseball stirrups offer them the room to customize their look and put their own stamp on the game.
Team Solidarity — Baseball stirrups signify solidarity. The sight of nine baseball players wearing solid-color stirrups with unique pattern and a team logo looks magnificent and promotes unity and harmony among the team members.
High Socks vs. No Visible Socks — Our Take on the Matter
The old-school, classic look that famous baseball players like Brad Miller and Chris Archer have boasted proudly on the field for years now is likely to become one of the hottest sports fashion trend in 2017. With more customization options available today, baseball stirrups can be personalized in unique colors, patterns, and team logos, to fulfill the players’ need for exclusivity, as well as to showcase a unique team identity.
Here’s how Joe Zee, a fashion stylist, journalist, and the creative director of Elle puts it: “Seeing the hemlines grow longer and looser over the years, I am left scratching my head. I can see that loose, dropped-waist look working in the rap community, but chasing cool on the baseball field? Not so much. They should be chasing the ball.”
So, if you’re a professional baseball player, you want to give up long pants and join players like Brad Miller Bryce Harper in the glory of a striped or solid-color baseball stirrup sock!
Last Sunday the A’s and Rangers played in throwback uniforms and baseball purists (at least those that obsess over fashion) rejoiced. It was not the sight of Oakland players wearing vests or even butter cream yellow batting helmetsthat caused the celebration. Rather, it was the sight of seeing two teams of major leaguers wearing classic stirrup socks.
Aside from a few players like Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Juan Pierre andJamie Moyer, the sight of stirrups in the major leagues is rare. (Greg Maddux wears socks with stirrups sewn on, which only half counts.) The most popular look today seems to be having your pants pulled down around the tops of the shoes, which is actually how the early baseball players of the 1840’s and 50’s wore their pants. According to the Baseball Hall of Fame,
it was not until the1868 Cincinnati Red Stockings decided to don knickers and expose their colored socks that this style changed. Strange to think of Manny Ramirez’s long baggy pants being a throwback, but that actually seems to be the case.
The stirrup actually came about to provide players a measure of safety as well as comfort in the days before colorfast dyes. In those days a player who got spiked by an opponent could get blood poisoning if the dye were to run into the cut. As a result players wore white socks under their colored stockings, which are still today called “sanitary socks”.
Then the problem of fitting this double wrapped foot into a pair of spikes came up and thus the stirrup was born. With its double arched opening, it allowed the foot to fit into the spike while also allowing the player to wear two pairs of socks. Originally players did not expose much of their white under socks, but as the century progressed stirrups were stretched tighter and tighter until in the 1980’s players were actually cutting their stirrups and adding fabric to make for a longer and thinner look.
Then very suddenly players like George Hendrick of the Cardinals and Barry Bonds – then with the Pirates — began to wear their pants lower and a new trend was born. But the real trend that came about was one of individuality.
“What’s happening now, especially since the 1980s is that the uniforms are not worn uniformly,” said Tom Shieber, the senior curator at the Baseball Hall of Fame. “It used to be that the differences were fairly subtle with minor exceptions, but now everybody is interested in differentiating themselves from everyone else.”
Today we have players wearing everything from low pants almost to the bottom of the shoe to high socks that go up to the knee and everything in between. So while many bemoan the loss of stirrup socks and the trend of long pants, they should instead revel in the wide array of hosiery styles currently on display across Major League Baseball and appreciate the fact that in today’s era there is a little bit of everything.
(A quick thanks to the Baseball Hall of Fame and their incredible “Dressed to the Nines” website and exhibit as well as to Paul Lukas, who is one of the great proponents of classic baseball hosiery as well as the proprietor of the Uni Watch Blog. I think it’s safe to say that those are the two foremost stirrup experts around.)