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Since 1849, when the New York Knickerbockers became the first Major League Baseball club to wear actual uniforms, teams have treated their fans to more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert. This season, the championship-challenged San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals and Cleveland Indians are hoping that a sartorial substitution can bump up their standings. But will their new uniforms make the cut with a real-life fashion all-star?
Capitol Offense: The Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals, annual cellar-dwellers in the National League East, hope that emblazoning a colorful new “W” logo on the front of their chests can put a little heart behind their performance. Several versions of the logo will be substituted in and out of their uni rotation, but one number in particular stands out.
“I’m appalled by the big ‘W’ with the red, white, and blue flag colors on it,” says Armin Vit, principal at the Austin-based fashion design firm UnderConsideration LLC.
Vit thinks the new style is a big swing and a miss. “It looks like a squirrel more than a ‘W’ -- you can almost see a big tail in the back,” he says. “The real problem is that, at that size, it’s just not readable at all. If you’re watching the game on TV, you’ll be able to see it, but any the person at the stadium isn’t going to know what that woodland creature is on the players’ shirts.”
While Vit isn’t quite ready to burn the American flag, he’s also not a big fan of using it as a prop as subtle as Pamela Anderson’s starting lineup. “The color scheme seems like it’s trying way too hard to be patriotic, if that’s even possible for a team called the Washington Nationals. It’s kind of beating you over the head. It’s just too much.”
Military Misfire: The San Diego Padres
Historically, the Padres have probably made baseball’s most questionable uniform choices. They pioneered septic brown hats and jerseys in their 1970s editions and later decked themselves out with what looked like squeezable yellow mustard packets.
For the last several seasons, the San Diego Padres, who are neighbors to a massive naval installation, have added military camouflage uniforms to their closet. They break them out on Sundays and holidays to honor the armed forces, in Rambo-style brown, green and black. This year, they’re changing the design to “digital sand,” which offers a “more accurate representation” of actual U.S. military field uniforms.
“I had no idea that the Padres were using camouflaged uniforms, but it looks -- and you can quote me -- like S*&^,” says Vit. “It’s a very bad color on any person of any color or tint. The black edges are dowdy and they look really, really crappy. There is nothing redeeming about it. It just doesn’t work.”
Maybe they should honor the armed forces by giving free tickets to soldiers and sailors to fill all those empty seats instead.
No Reservations Here: The Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians, on the other hand, are looking to the future by reaching back in time. Their new road gray alternate uniform will showcase “CLEVELAND” with red block lettering on the chest. This recalls the road uniform of 1901, when the club became one of the American League’s charter members.
Block lettering was the signature of the early 1900s, so it’s a statement of longevity, says Vit. “Even though the recent “Indian” script typography is what modern-day Indians fans think of first, the block typography is a way for the franchise to say, ‘Look, we go way back, this is the original version of what we were. Isn’t that cool?’”
“Compared to current-day logos, it may be ho-hum, but it’s designed for Indians fans to make an association and connection with the team’s heritage. It looks like a baseball uniform should.”
Now, if we could just get them to play like a baseball team should. Just sayin’.
Photos: Getty Images
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