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EXCLUSIVE: MLB’s Last Vest Jersey Is Officially Dead

In May of 2022, several reports indicated that the Rockies’ black alternate vest was being retired “for the foreseeable future,” ostensibly to “make room” for the team’s then-upcoming City Connect uniform.

The “make room” explanation never really made sense, because the Rockies could’ve kept the black vest and still remained within the “four plus one” limit (home pinstripes, road greys, purple alternates, black vest, and CC). But whatever the real reason was, the black vests went unworn in 2022, and again in 2023.

Despite that, the black vests were shown in the MLB Style Guide in 2022 and ’23, leaving open the possibility that they could still be worn. A source tells me, however, that they are not shown in the 2024 edition of the Guide, so I think we can now officially write this jersey’s epitaph.

The black vests were introduced in 2005. On at least one memorable occasion early that season — an April 10 game in San Francisco — the vests were paired with purple undersleeves, creating a combo from which I still haven’t fully recovered (additional photos here):

After that, the now-familiar black sleeves became the norm.

The black vests’ final appearance was on Oct. 3, 2021 — the Rockies’ season finale. The Diamondbacks also scrapped their throwback vests after that season (although they brought them back for a quick weekend cameo last season), so MLB is now officially vest-free. That state of affairs seems unlikely to change, if only because vests don’t sell well at retail. Tail, dog, etc.

For more about the history of vest jerseys in MLB, look here. And to see all my reports on the 2024 MLB Style Guide, look here.

Comments (40)

    I agree that the black/purple combo was shaky, but bid suggest having the sleeves the same color as the vest makes the vests sort of pointless.

    Let’s try that again.

    I agree that the black/purple combo was shaky, but I’d suggest having the sleeves the same color as the vest makes the vests sort of pointless.

    Fully agree. Maybe colored vests don’t work, and you cannot pair a colored vest with white sleeves.
    Moreover, I don’t think vests work for many teams. Even when it looks OK, it is kinda gimmicky.

    Throwing out the retail component, I’d argue these looked like shit (especially with black undersleeves) because they’re not wearing a vest at all — it’s a sleeveless jersey.

    True vests are cut much differently–these were just jerseys without sleeves.

    If the team didn’t go on that incredible run to reach the WS (I think something like 20 straight wins) in them, they’d have been gone long ago.

    Once again, people equate a team’s success with the (horrible) uniform in which they achieved success — and therefore view it much more positively than they would otherwise.

    I’d love for true vests to come back, but NOT the sleeveless jerseys somewhat prevalent in the aughts. Those were just bad on multiple levels.

    What do you mean by these not being cut like a “true vest”? Just that they are less form fitting and the arm hole is cut at the shoulder cap (rather than above)?

    The traditional baseball vest looks more like — for lack of a better analogy — a basketball jersey. Look at this photo of Reggie Jackson: link

    Notice how the top portion has thin (almost) loops with distinct cut outs well away from the end of the shoulder. What the Rockies, and other recent sleeveless jersey teams like the Reds wore, is almost literally a jersey without the sleeves: link

    I can’t say 100% for sure, but the manufacturing processes for the two are different. The sleeveless jersey simply doesn’t add the sleeves to the base, whereas the vest has a different design.

    Here’s another example of a vest: link

    Now, with that being said. When a few teams “reintroduced” the sleeveless/vest look, that was done during a time when almost all players wore their jerseys “oversized” and baggy — it was the style then (along with billowy pants) — think Barry Bonds (link) or ManRam (link).

    Had players been dressing in a more form-fitting uniform (as they did in the 1960s/1970s, and even today they’re getting back to this) when the “vest” was reintroduced, it might have looked a lot more like the classic vest of the 1960s. But when they reemerged on teams like the Rockies, it was during the heyday of the loose-fit, so what was produced as a vest was essentially just a sleeveless jersey.

    Could the more “NBA-esque” cut return? I’m sure it could. But for those teams of the 1990s/2000s they were wearing regular jerseys without sleeves.

    Gotcha was just trying to clarify the language – at first I thought you were speaking generally about “vests” rather than the specific cut of the early vest jerseys in baseball – i.e. both are “vests” but you don’t prefer the tailoring of the modern iteration (namely the distance from high-point-shoulder to where the sleeve cap would be).

    I am curious if at different points the “modern vests” have also been a distinct block rather than just the basic sleeve jersey sans sleeves. Some of those aughts designs give me a feeling they may have exaggerated that visual, and still opened up the armholes a bit (knowing the layering is different than a normal jersey) but i need to compare more images to tell.

    Not a sports uniform context, but having produced tees for some different brands, even a tank/vest that was meant to end right at the shoulder (where in theory you’d consider just removing the sleeves from something existing) would get tailored a bit differently. Visually it still feels like the sleeves were just lopped off, but the production was actually different to get that visual and the right feel on body.

    Would be fascinating to have the specs of a recent design compared to its sleeved counterpart (at least for my nerdy view of garments haha)

    Phil’s correct about this distinction between vest and sleeveless jersey. The pattern for a true vest is a 100% different cut from the sleeveless jersey.

    “Once again, people equate a team’s success with the (horrible) uniform in which they achieved success — and therefore view it much more positively than they would otherwise.”

    Do tell!
    And you’re of course correct that these sleeveless shirts are of inferior appearance to the true vests – such as Finley’s Kansas City A’s.

    They have a history of that in Denver. They Broncos changed their uniforms from the classic orange tops, blue helmets and the Horse+D Logo to the dark blue set they’ve been wearing since. They’ve stuck with it because they won the Super Bowl in the first 2 years of the uniform’s life. The Denver fans really don’t like that existing set…regardless of the fact they won 2 SB’s in it.

    These always felt like a bad workaround to the team wanting a black jersey but not wanting to bring back the sleeved one they wore in 1993 and retired afterwards.

    I loved it too. About the only problem I had with it was how bad the big NOBs looked with their three layers. If you’re going to do three layers, go number-only (something the Rockies started out doing at home when the franchise began). The circa-2000 Mets are another example with the drop shadow. Looks great with only a number; looks terrible when you have NOB letters.

    Good riddance! Agree with Phil! Though these always looked like a sleeveless jersey, never cared for vests on other teams anyway !

    But the costs aren’t important unless they’re couched in corporatespeak about improving performance somehow. It’s about competition, dammit! s/

    It was kind of not fair to post this late in the afternoon on a day when all of us Rockies fans were fully distracted watching coverage of Todd Helton’s Hall of Fame election. Just sayin’… ;^)

    Congrats to Helton, Kary!

    What’s your take on the death-knell of the sleeveless jersey?

    Thanks, Phil! I’m super excited about Helton’s election. As for the retirement of the vest, it’s funny you should mention that! I was just discussing that with some fellow uni-watchers earlier this afternoon, and this is what I said:

    [Regarding the Rockies’ old black vests] I don’t miss them. With all apologies to Paul, purple has always been the color they should have leaned into for alternate tops, not black. And the fact that they were basically just sleeveless jerseys instead of true vests was the real clincher for me. Good riddance!

    I may not love the vest, but it’s hard not to associate it with Helton [because of the postseason run back in 2007]. When he was most recognizable beyond Denver, he was wearing that vest. It’s no wonder why Phil chose it as the Rockies’ signature look in a Uni Watch column back in 2018. link

    That state of affairs seems unlikely to change, if only because vests don’t sell well at retail. Tail, dog, etc.

    I find it somewhat curious that there’s not much of a retail market for vests when NBA jerseys seem to sell well and they are similarly sleeveless.

    But tanks & beaters don’t have buttons. They are also more in the shape of a traditional vest. What MLB was trotting out in the past couple decades was a sleeveless shirt, which no one would confuse with an NBA jersey

    Relatively speaking, selling tank jerseys in basketball is tougher because many fans (particularly as they age) are less comfortable outfitting a sleeveless basketball jersey than the “shirt” silhouettes of other sports. This was part of the concept of the sleeved jerseys when they were poorly trialed on court – more fans would wear something with sleeves than without.

    We don’t have good data to back it up since obviously sport jersey sales are heavily driven by sport/team/player followings, but I think even anecdotally you can see more people wearing jerseys at games for non-basketball teams than basketball (particularly if you slice by age, older men for instance it’s way more common to see hockey sweaters with the most coverage, or football jerseys, than a basketball jersey).

    If you are afraid to show your arm flaps in a genuine NBA jersey then go the Patrick Ewing way and wear a t-shirt (or even a hoodie) under it (preferably in varsity grey). Great look for everybody! Never, ever bring back the sleeved shirts on the court or I wil send LeBron to tear them all off.

    I never found the Rockies’ vest attractive but I hate to see the era of the vest end. The Reds’ first vest era ended in the ’60s. Their second era started in the ’90s and ended in the ’00s. Hopefully, the Reds’ third vest era will begin the ’30s and I am still around to see it.

    Perfect description!

    I don’t think I’d ever seen those game photos against the Giants. That’s such a terrible goulash of uniform colors and elements that I actually liked it.

    Rockies have been in desperate need of a makeover for years. Might be the ugliest uniforms in MLB.

    I do like the purple pinstripes on the home uniform but maybe they should try silver or grey pinstripes instead. The grey road uniform they originally had was also OK. It is the black or purple tops and this vest that I do not like at all. You might be right: put in an overhaul. On the other hand: not with the current uniform supplier. I love the black hat with the purple squatchee and the black or purple bill.

    Really? Their main one was and is a straight knockoff of the Yankees home look, but with purple pinstripes and a different logo. That was intended to be a timeless classic and will never be changed, safe to say. There were also a lot of Yankee fans in Colorado in the old days so that was part of the thinking. Some of the alternates are rough though, so maybe that’s what you meant?

    The black vest and purple sleeves were a problem in MLB The Show for many years. Fans would tell the devs that the Rockies never wore purple sleeves with those jerseys and the devs would come back and say that what the style guide said and they couldn’t veer from the style guide.

    I can’t remember if it was ever fixed. I stopped buying the game after 17. Surely it had to have been fixed eventually.

    Anyway, they were never really vests in that game to begin with. They were just a regular uniform template with different colored sleeves and piping through the pits to create the illusion of a vest. Along with elastic waist pants, I don’t think that game ever had more than the basic uniform template design.

    As a Rockies fan I admit I may be blinded by 2007 but I always liked these! Sad to see them go.

    When I was in high school, our team spent two whole years raising the funds to get new uniforms for the team. Selling magazines and running concession stands and the like. What did we get? Vests of course! That was the in thing in the late 90s. Although we did beat the Rockies too it by a few years, and they looked exactly, to a T, like ours. So maybe they stole our look? But, the thing they did wrong is wearing undershirts with them. We never did once, it was a great point of pride. And being in the mountains, we often played games with temps in the teens and twenties. But I suppose you can’t expect that kind of grit from a bunch of millionaires from the flatlands. Still, I think that’s the only way to go with this style and a team should try it. I know the Reds did that same thing back in the day for one.

    The Rockies formerly had a white vest as well with purple pinstripes and a black and silver “CR” logo left (to player) of the buttons with black and silver numbers and NOB. This was quietly retired after the vest throwback fad had faded. Others are quite right that the black vest would have died long ago except for the 2007 World Series run. The Rox ended regular season wearing the black vests and won their final 14 of 15 games, all in black. This was needed just to reach a one-game wild card playoff game with the Padres, which they won in black vests with 3 runs in the 13th (Matt Holliday never touched the plate on winning run but didn’t need to with catcher interference). Rockies made the playoffs and swept the Phillies in 3, then swept the Diamondbacks in 4. All this was in black vests except D-Backs chose their own black jerseys to force Rockies to grey in one home game to try to break the luck of the black vest. This remains the best pre-world series playoff run ever and is the beginning and end of any meaningful success in Rockies history. The Rox opened the World Series in Boston wearing black, but the luck expired in game one and in the rest of the WS as the Sox swept the Rox.

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