Skip to Content

The Answer To MLB’s Pants Problem Is Vests

CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 07: Eugenio Suarez #7 of the Cincinnati Reds throws the ball against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning at Great American Ball Park on July 7, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As an aficionado of baseball uniforms, I have been following the saga of the MLB uniforms very closely. Spring training has barely begun and there are lots of problems so far: The letters on the back of the jerseys are smaller; the numbers are perforated; the white pants are transparent in the light, making it appear as if all the players are wearing diapers.

The players are unhappy, saying things to The Athletic like "thumbs down," and "these pants they made are terrible," and "looks like a replica." All of these things seem true, and because the players are vocally unhappy, and they also look weird and not cool, everyone is giving statements about the pants. League officials claim that only the jerseys have new fabric, and the pants are the same as last year. The players say the pants feel weird and aren't tailored correctly. I say that all this talk of pants is the wrong focus. We are missing the forest for the trees. The pants are only part of the issue here.

In this moment of pants discourse, we have an opportunity to rethink the paradigm of baseball uniforms. So why not dream a little. Why not ... vests?

You may be saying, But Kelsey, the pants are the problem, not the jerseys.

You are wrong. The jerseys also look stupid. They look cheap and silly. The new fabric may be more breathable or sweat wicking or whatever, but it looks like cheap shit from Shein. They are an ensemble! So the jerseys are also a problem.

What is the real problem here? The primary issue isn't fabric. It's fit! Players simply do not want to look stupid and wear uncomfortable work clothes. These are unflattering uniforms that make men at the peak of physical fitness look like schlubby regulars dudes. They do not want to look like regulars! They are professional athletes!

Baseball uniforms have always had this problem in some ways. With their buttons and belts and high socks, there's a kind of dweeby energy to baseball uniforms that only the coolest guys in the league have been able to hack. Those guys unbutton their jerseys. They wear tight undershirts. They try false-fronts. But they can only do so much with what is available. They do not get to wear padding like football players to accentuate their broad shoulders. They do not get to wear comfortable shorts like basketball and soccer players. They are being denied every opportunity to look cool, which is what they want.

Look how happy every single member of the Cincinnati Reds looks in these photos from the one game in 2019 where they wore 1956 throwback vests. They look thrilled! They also look hot and cool.

Baseball has a long and exciting history with vests. The Chicago Cubs were wearing vests as early as the 1940s. After the Reds introduced their vests in 1956, many other teams chose vests as well. And teams have won the World Series in vests (the Pirates in 1960 were the first, and then the Marlins in 1997 and the Diamondbacks in 2001). Since 2021, no MLB team has used the vest, and look what's happening now. Everyone hates their uniforms!

This isn't even a rules problem! It's a lack of imagination stopping clubhouses from making fun and cool choices about what players can wear. The MLB collective bargaining agreement has some rules about jerseys, specifically that sleeve length cannot extend past the elbow (not a problem with vests), and that sleeves cannot be cut (vests are tailored, no chop necessary).

The fact that every single team is having the same problem with their jerseys is also evidence of a lack of creativity within the league. The jerseys are boring across the board. Except for the Padres (brown), the Giants and the Orioles (orange), the Pirates and White Sox (black), the Athletics (green) and the Rockies (purple!), every other team's primary color is either blue or red. That's 23 teams whose primary color is blue or red! Boring!

The problem is that the unending reach for infinite profit and performance optimization has left baseball players with identical jerseys that fit poorly and look bad. This is workplace culture run amok! They are essentially being forced to dress like a kid working at Home Depot! This is supposed to be fun! They deserve better than to look like substitute players on a recreational softball league. They deserve vests!

If you liked this blog, please share it! Your referrals help Defector reach new readers, and those new readers always get a few free blogs before encountering our paywall.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter