Is the Solution to MLB's Uniform Dilemma Found in Vests?

MLB's new gear sparks debate among players, fans

by Nouman Rasool
Is the Solution to MLB's Uniform Dilemma Found in Vests?
© Hunter Martin

This playsuit fashion faux-pas at the very beginning of spring training may be stirring the interest beyond locker room chatter; the grapevine is making it a full-fledged, sartorial saga. The controversy? Unis that have been newly designed and apparently miss the boat on both looking good and being, at the very least, comfortable, as players and fans are left wondering what's up next for the league.

This year's uniforms have smaller lettering on the backs of the jerseys, perforated numbers, and, infamously, white pants that "turn see-through in the rear" when bending over to get into an athletic crouch. The rest of the team has not been shy to show their displeasure either, with comments varying from a simple "thumbs down" to more acerbic complaints about the poor look and fit of the pants, such as "they look like bad knockoffs." Although league officials have stressed that the only difference in the newly purchased fabric that the jerseys were to be made from, the players argue that the pants themselves feel different and are certainly not as well cut.

But this argument about the pants could be a way of sidetracking an even more important opportunity: another chance to overhaul baseball uniforms. By that "fault," the conversation has been allowed to drift into some quibbling over whether the aesthetic of the traditional baseball uniform strays too far from the norm.

Why stop there? How about this for a thought: bring them back, but as a fashion that better portrays something fresh, more comfortable for the players, and not at all nostalgic.

Uniforms Fall Short

Criticism has continued to the jerseys themselves, said to look "cheap" and "silly" while further negating any gains the material might have achieved in terms of improved breath ability or wicking.

However, it's not so much a result of the material as it is with the cut. The present uniforms lack even the slightest hint of flattery, making even the most athletically built of players look sub-peak. Baseball uniforms have always straddled a fine line between tradition and functionality, typically holding hands with a more conservative aesthetic-even "dweeby" is not too harsh a word for some.

That said, history shows that when given the chance to really break the mold, players embrace change. The Cincinnati Reds' '56 throwback vests seem to prove the point, as one can imagine how players basked in the opportunity for something different.

The vest is much more than a throwback; it was as much a part of the uniform as anything else in baseball from at least the 1940s with the Chicago Cubs, and it even had its moments in the sun, with teams as such as the Pirates, Marlins, and Diamondbacks winning World Series crowns while attired in vests.

The decline of the vest post-2009 aligns rather suspiciously with current malaise, hinting that perhaps it's high time they made a comeback. It's not only a fashion thing, though this also somehow pertains. These are the ways of the league trying to get some creativeness and personality back into the sport.

The uniform rut that MLB finds itself in, where teams wear a preponderance of blues and reds, speaks to the general state of creative decrepitude. For it's pushing toward diversity of design choices so the identity of each team may be carried out onto the field, it's a call for individuality on the part of these athletes from the point that each one currently begins to look like a cookie-cutter.

The trouble with the new uniforms is not that they are uncomfortable or ugly, but that it somehow represents a critique against the culture of profiteering and uniformity obsession rather than individuality and sensuality in the enjoyment of the game.

Baseball players because they are the ultimate performers and athletes really need to take the field looking and feeling absolutely fabulous if for no one else, than for themselves. It really is high time that MLB takes a long look at its approach to uniforms, and perhaps something as small but meaningful as the revival of vests could just do that.