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The Three True Outfits

There is a new trend in baseball over the past decades. One that reflects a big change in the game: The three true outfits.

Until the 1940’s, there was essentially one way that players wore their uniforms: Baggy pants, tucked into socks. Everyone on the team looked the same; there was no variation in how the players wore their uniforms.

Then things started to tighten up. By the 1970s, the whole team was wearing their pants tight, tucked into socks. The style was dramatically different from before, but there was little difference between players. All uniforms were tight.

In the past decades, something different has occurred. Players on the same team technically wear the same uniform, but how the uniform is worn varies dramatically from player to player.

Some players wear their pants big and baggy, covering not only their socks but their shoes as well. Other players wear their pants tight. Still other players are somewhere in between, wearing their pants in a more standard size, slacks-style.

Other pieces of the uniform add even more variation across players. Socks are worn in or out. Hats are flat or curved, sitting straight on the head or off-center. Jerseys can be buttoned up or unbuttoned. Shirts can be worn under the jersey or not, and vary in sleeve length.

What was once one outfit has become at least three true outfits, if not more. Players wear their uniforms in a variety of ways, reflecting the increasing diversity of the players and the game.

People have been critical of some of the styles, particularly the baggy pants. A writer for The New York Times, for example, discussed the fashion criticism of baseball style in a 2013 article, “Baseball Pants, a Sore Sight for Eyes.” “The World Series is a showcase for not only the finest teams in the game,” he wrote, “but also, for about the 15th year running, the regrettable fashion trend of the baggy, pajama-pant look.” One member of the fashion industry concluded, “What was once a stylish game has gotten depressingly schlubby.”

But the styles being criticized are actually far older than 15 years; they are the styles of the past, the pants of Babe Ruth. Baseball players today are making traditional styles modern and choosing how they want to look.

This trend reflects trends in fashion overall. Rather than walking around in top-down-imposed, creativity-crushing, cookie-cutter versions of clothing and ourselves, we want to be freer today to express our individuality in our lives and in our clothing. This diversity and individuality is reflected not only in the clothes worn on the field, but in the style of play. Baseball players are making the uniform, and the game, their own. This is good for baseball.