The American sports pastime has left an indelible impact on how men dress today. WGSN Senior Menswear Editor Jian DeLeon examines its effect on men’s style staples.
It’s the opening day of Major League Baseball’s professional season, the bat-and-ball sport that traces its origins to 18th Century England but has since become a global symbol of America and readily embraced in countries like Japan and Cuba. Its greatest players range from Babe Ruth to boundary-shatterers like Jackie Robinson, the first African-American of the modern era to play in the major leagues. Back in the sport’s heyday, male spectators wore natty suits to watch teams duke it out on the diamond, but now, baseball’s on-field staples have permeated just about every guy’s closet in some way, shape, or form.
Take for example, the ubiquity of the curved-brim baseball cap, which once represented someone’s favorite team, but now is a way for someone to show support for their favorite brand. Plenty of young men sported some variety of the cap at the recent SXSW festival in Austin. Now, traditional purveyors of the cap like Ebbets Field to designers like Saint Laurent Paris readily offer their own takes on the accessory.
Silhouettes like the baseball shirt have equally been reinterpreted by brands and designers alike. Steven Alan reimagines the uniform as a dressier shirting option for men while H&M follows the lead of streetwear brands like Stüssy and Supreme who have made it into a way to channel sports team style without rooting for a particular squad.
Meanwhile, acclaimed runway veterans like Dries Van Noten and up-and-coming labels like Kinfolk (one of our New York Menswear Brands to Watch) constantly revisit the satin baseball jacket as an outerwear staple for the spring/summer season. The snap-button, open bottom nylon coach’s jacket is another baseball-inspired silhouette that’s been gaining steam in menswear. Acne Studios has made one for a few seasons, and retailer Need Supply Co. collaborated with Japanese brand Neighborhood on an exclusive version. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal posits that the lightweight outerwear option is ideal for transitional spring weather and channels nostalgic ’90s style in a tasteful way. A coach’s jacket also served as the invite for Kanye West’s recent Yeezy Season 3 show at Madison Square Garden.
Beyond being a timeless well of inspiration via silhouettes, some of the sport’s greatest players provide the idea behind Roots of Baseball, a new sub-brand under casual sportswear purveyor Roots of Fight. Originally a lifestyle brand known for its graphic tees and knitwear paying homage to legendary pugilists like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, this new venture marks their first foray into the realm of team sports.
Channeling baseball greats Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente, Roots of Baseball aims to merge a sports history lesson, inspirational storytelling, and comfortable menswear staples.
Clearly, baseball’s influence in menswear is far from striking out. And as athletic apparel and sportier lifestyles continue to propagate the “athleisure” market, which is estimated to be about $97 billion, we can probably expect companies of all shapes and sizes will continue to mine the classic sport for more menswear items. With so many of baseball’s staples achieving a unique and iconic status, surely it will continue to provide seasonal home runs for independent labels and larger brands alike.