Baseball is perhaps the last bastion in sports for the fashion-averse. With their press-conference podiums, the NFL and NBA have occasionally transformed into something of a post-game fashion show for those who choose to participate. Even the NHL is getting into the act. Baseball? There are a few outliers here and there, but generally … not really.
Why? Part of it might be the slow-to-change culture of the sport, though the marathon nature of the season has to be part of this. Who has 162 “going-out” outfits? That’s just too many.
Still, baseball has indisputably contributed one piece of iconic fashion to the world: baseball caps have transcended the sport to become such a cultural norm that it’s considered completely normal to wear caps that don’t even have baseball logos on them. The football helmet could never.
In this week’s version of MLB Tiers, we’re sifting the currently-worn on-field MLB caps into four tiers: iconic, good, just OK, and bad.
A quick explanation of the methodology: with the advent of alternate caps and kitschy designs for every holiday, we had to narrow it down to one design per team; ideally, the one they use the most frequently. (Besides, all of those “special” caps would have ended up in their own tier, titled “why do they keep doing this, please make it stop.”)
The only other rule? These rankings are completely subjective since there are not yet metrics or analytics for caps. If you disagree, feel free to express your love — or disdain — in the comments.
Tier I: Iconic Caps
New York Yankees
Could we start anywhere else? The Yankees interlocking “NY” logo is now over 100 years old and pre-dates the name “Yankees.” But when the New York Highlanders changed their name in 1913, they also adopted the navy caps with the white logo. That look has undergone minor tweaks — making the logo taller or thicker, for example — but has remained largely unchanged since then, a testament to the fact that they got it very right the first time. Love the Yankees or hate them, there’s no denying that they have the most recognizable logo in baseball, if not the entire sports world.
Their best design: With almost no competition, the white-on-navy is the winner.
Chicago White Sox
Yes, the Yankees are the gold standard, but the White Sox went from having one of the worst caps in the league — that cursive “C” looked like a lowercase “e” — to a cap that was mega-boosted to stardom by Dr. Dre (and shortly after that, Michael Jordan) in the 1990s. A dalliance with a similar script in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s almost got the White Sox to the top of the mountain earlier, but it just didn’t have the same appeal on blue and red caps. When they finally got it right, it revolutionized the modern era of baseball caps as fashion.
Their best design: Other designs had their charms, but the current white-on-black cap is an all-time classic.