Baseball Pant History
Imagine playing baseball in 90-degree temperatures and wearing quilted woolen trousers. Or pants that were so long and baggy you tripped over them sliding into first base. Hold on to your pants because that's the way it was more than a century ago, when baseball was fast becoming America's favorite pastime. Well, at least for the first decade or so of the game. Thankfully like the game, baseball pants have changed with the times. They started out long and baggy, raised to the knee, and then pant legs lowered and tightened. In recent decades baseball fashion became the variety show, anything goes. Baseball pants may not have been experimented on quite to the extent that the jersey and the cap have, but finding the right look took some time and practical hindsight. And shopping for the right baseball pants for yourself or your slugger may take some foreknowledge.
A Little History
From Pantaloons to Baseball Pants
The look and style of baseball pants have come a long way since the beginning of the game. The first men's baseball pants, or 'pantaloons' as they were called, were woolen blue and were worn by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club in the latter half of the 1840s. Trousers in the early days had built-in padding, or "quilting", so you can imagine how warm players must have gotten on those hot summer days outdoors. While the long baggy trousers were the style of the day, in the new world of baseball they did present a bit of a problem. Players tripped over their own pants, so teams experimented with various ways of gathering the bottoms to prevent this from happening. From buttons to belts, players used whatever they could to gather the baggy bottoms and get them out of the way.
Finally in 1868 clubs dispensed with the full-length pants and opted to wear knickers, a practical solution, and inspired by the game of 'cricket' the first to wear them were the Cincinnati Red Stockings. And so, stockings became a decorated feature of the baseball uniform. Now fans were able to distinguish one team from another, hence the names of many Major League teams that followed suit, such as the Chicago White Stockings and the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Some teams experimented with such striping designs as the "candy-cane" variety, notably the Washington Senators and the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1920s and again in the 1930s. Piping down the sides of pant legs became commonplace in the early 1900s. By the mid-1900s the pant leg was lowering, a style popularized by pitcher Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants, and eventually other star players adopted the trend but concerns about not being able to determine the "strike zone" or the bottoms of knees surfaced, so star umpire Bill Stewart in the 1950s requested that an end be put to long baseball pants, but was met with little success.
Around that time, the pant leg had begun to settle midway between the knee and the shoe, and by the 1970s pants were close-fitting. The Chicago White Sox in 1976 took a chance on wearing shorts during an opening game of a doubleheader, but it wasn't a hit with the players and by nightfall the team had switched back to pants.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, such star players as outfielder George Hendrick of the St. Louis Cardinals, and others had begun to dramatically change the look of baseball pants. Snug-fitting and lowering to the tops of shoes, and even lengthening to the extent that they had to be tucked into their shoes, baseball pants crossed the divide. Some trends eliminated the sock look altogether, while others in recent years have resurrected the baggy pants. A departure from the classic baseball, baggy pants hardly looked like the uniform the baseball world was accustomed to. Styles became mixed, and many players took fashions to extremes; some wearing long, loose-fitting pants, others holding to the traditional knee-length look, and still others completely eliminating the stirrups.
It wasn't until the 2002-2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement that baseball pants began to be regulated, limiting pant legs to the tops of shoes and pooh-poohing baggy pants.
The Baseball Belt
Belts have been a featured accessory of baseball pants almost from the beginning. Practically speaking, they held pants up. Fashion-wise, they were a place to show off team names and logos in colorful designs. By the mid-1900s teams took on their own signature belts. Eventually in the 1970s the industry opted to eliminate belts, and pants became elasticized. However belts were back in 1993 as clubs returned to the conservative pant look. Belt loops were added to baseball pants in the 1910s, in response to a rather obnoxious problem with the baseball pant design. It's said that players were illegally grabbing each other's belts during a game. Whether or not that was true, it proved the point that belts were getting in the way, so designers began experimenting with solutions. Adding belt loops and gathering the waistlines presented a couple of options. By the 1920s belt loops were a part of almost every pair of baseball pants.
Tips on Shopping for Baseball Pants
First of all, know what position you or your youth will be playing and with what intensity. Whether you or your slugger will be sliding into bases or protecting the outfield, or dodging for ground balls, durability and comfort are key to a long-lasting pair of baseball pants. For the more aggressive player, opt for the heavier more durable youth or adult baseball pants. Mellower players would do fine with the lighter design, which they'll especially appreciate during the hot summer months. Stick with reputable brands known for quality, and compare features and prices. Some kids' baseball pants have built-in elastic gathering at the bottom, others are tapered like the pros to offer choices. Youth baseball pants and adult women's or men's baseball pants come in a variety of color choices. Common styles and choices for adult or youth baseball pants: grey or white, but black baseball pants are also available, as well as the classic pin-stripe design, or solid colors with piping down the sides. Or you can opt for unhemmed baseball pants for a custom fit. You can choose between the traditional belted, no-elastic waist, and the elasticized waist. The main differences in kids' baseball pants lie in the variety of fabrics and designs. Some brands are made with a lightweight cotton-polyester blend; others are constructed strictly of heavier polyester. So some designs are going to be a little more durable (the heavy polyester) while others are going to offer more breathable lighter-weight options (the poly-cotton blend) during the hot summer seasons.
From youth to adult baseball pants, whatever you're looking for, there are many styles and designs to choose from. Knowing a little bit about baseball pants and being familiar with all the choices, you'll spend less time shopping and more time enjoying the ballgame.