Sports uniforms have long been ugly. That so many people like to wear the jerseys and hats of their favorite teams has little to do with aesthetics, although sports accessories have had an influence on the mass culture—or mess culture. Why teams had to over-design themselves out of the more traditional New York Yankees pin stripe uniforms is a branding issue, but as Todd Radom points out in his forthcoming Winning Ugly: A Visual History of the Most Bizarre Baseball Uniforms Ever Worn (Skyhorse Press), costumes were always a bit odd. They began with the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first baseball club and “fashion pioneers.” They originated the use of knickerbocker pants (knickers) and decorative hosiery. But other teams, like the St. Louis Brown Stockings, added Greek keyed collars and belts to their Victorianesque couture.
I question why anyone would want to be seen in the above, but brand/team loyalty triumphs good sense. And color trumps all. “When it comes to sports,” writes Radom, a designer of sporting logos and brands. “Sports fans are tribal in nature. Colors help to both define team identities and to propel sales of licensed merchandise.” Sports colors have the same emotional impact as flags of nations. Here are some of those decidedly ugly flags … I mean jerseys.