History of Baseball Uniforms January 10 2020, 0 Comments

Baseball is a unique American past-time, and the uniforms worn by its players are as unique as the sport itself. Baseball socks and stirrups are so much a part of the game’s image that they spring instantly to mind when many people picture the uniform, despite mostly having been phased out of the major-league look by the end of the 20th century. Following the style of the majors, competitive and recreational leagues have adopted similar uniform looks. Some pieces, especially the socks, have been picked up by women’s leagues as well. Here’s a look at the development of baseball uniforms through the years, followed by some frequently-asked questions about team wear.

Uniforms Designed to Distinguish Classes

The Baseball Hall of Fame explains that uniforms were initially adopted as a means of identifying baseball clubs, which were often an extension of gentlemen’s organizations, from the clubs organized by society’s lower classes and smaller towns. Since these “undesirable” teams often wore clothing that included bright red accents, big-league teams avoided the color and chose more expensive materials such as wool over the cotton worn by the working class.

Early Uniform Pieces

As one of the first baseball teams in the newly formed National League, the New York Knickerbockers are credited with setting the style that others would follow. They strode onto the field in April of 1849 wearing white flannel shirts, blue wool pantaloons and straw hats. Many others followed suit, and all teams had adopted uniforms by the turn of the 20thth century. Additional uniform developments included the following.

  • 1880: The first teams to begin wearing pinstripes are the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Washington Nationals and Detroit Wolverines.
  • 1904: Detroit Tigers add an initial “D” to uniforms; it is the sport’s oldest motif that is still in use.
  • 1916: New York and Brooklyn ball clubs begin sporting checkered uniforms.
  • 1922: Louis debuts its cardinal graphic of two birds atop a bat; it remains on today’s uniforms.
  • 1929: Cleveland Indians begin wearing numbers on the back of their shirts.
  • 1936: Chicago Cubs dress in jerseys with zippers up the front.
  • 1956: Cincinnati removes the word “Reds” from uniforms due to the “Second Red Scare.”
  • 1970: Pittsburgh Pirates move to a cotton-nylon blend uniform that is much more comfortable and cooler too.
  • 1976: Chicago White Sox wear shorts.
  • 1993: Marlins and Reds bring back a sleeveless jersey style.

Colored stockings debuted in 1951 to help distinguish between the teams. The colors were even used in the naming of some clubs, including the Chicago White Stockings (now White Sox) and the Cincinnati Red Stockings (now Reds).

Baseball Socks and Stirrups

The dye used in the making of baseball stirrups was thought to be a health risk in the early days of baseball, which is why players wore full-length white socks beneath them. These white socks, dubbed “sanitaries,” were thought to protect the wearer from the dye. It also meant the stirrups did not need to be washed after every wearing; players could change just the sanitaries after a game.

Changing Footwear Styles

Early players wore soft leather shoes, which stood up to the game well. With the installation of artificial turf in many ballfields beginning in the 1970s, detachable spikes were added to players’ shoes to help them avoid slipping on the slick turf. These were banned in 1976, however, and cleats have become the standard choice in footwear.

First Hats Were Fielder’s Choice

With no official headgear to start, players wore many different hat styles in baseball’s earliest years, including straw boaters, jockey caps and more. The straw hats that were part of the first uniforms were quickly traded in for baseball hats in first a pillbox style that is flat across the top and later, a design that is the forerunner of those worn today. It features a brim and peaked crown to help shield players’ eyes from the sun.

What Are Baseball Pants Called?

In the early days of baseball through much of the 20th century, baseball players wore pantaloons. They ended just below the knee. Although some major league players still wear them with the traditional stirrup socks, many of today’s professional ballplayers wear full-length pants.

Why Do Baseball Teams Wear Gray on the Road?

It is thought by many that teams who were traveling did not have access to “comforts of home,” including laundry service. So, they wore gray uniforms that would not show stains like the white uniforms many teams wore while playing home games. Regardless of the initial reason, it became a tradition to wear different colors when playing home and away games.

What Socks Do You Wear Under Stirrups?

Players wear white baseball socks called “sanitaries” beneath their colorful stirrup socks. They were initially used to protect players from dyes used in the stirrups, which were believed to be a health risk. Today, players have two options in socks: They can wear long white socks underneath stirrups or a faux-stirrup that is actually a one-piece sock designed to look like the two pieces of legwear.

What Materials Are Used to Make Batting Helmets?

Many batting helmets are made from tough, ABS plastic that is impact-resistant. Big-league players wear helmets made from carbon fiber, an even stronger material, needed for the hard-throwing professional pitchers. Additional protection is provided with special foam padding on the interior that absorbs shock.

When Did Baseball Players Start Wearing Long Pants?

Professional baseball players first started wearing long pants in the 1990s. The pants tapered to the top of the shoe, a design that prevented players from getting spiked cleats caught in the material. A looser-fitting style is also popular with some players, although they can and do run the risk of being tripped up by the folds of the pants or getting a spike hooked in the flowing pants.

Browse Baseball Socks and More

From high-society men’s clubs to America’s favorite sport, baseball and its uniforms have undergone many changes over the years. Whether you prefer a uniform in traditional lines or a more modern look, you have plenty of choices for both in today’s fashions. Browse baseball socks, hats and more for your favorites at Socks Rock today.