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Nike’s New Template Has Ruined MLB’s Best Pants (Yes, Pants)

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Before we get started today: By the time most of you read this, I’ll be on my way to Kings County Supreme Court, where I’ve been summoned for jury duty. I have one additional post already set to go in the pipeline for today, and Phil has some content that he’ll run on Friday, so we should be okay at least through the end of the week. Here’s hoping I don’t have to serve any longer than that.

Now then: When we talk about Nike’s new MLB uniform template, we’ve mostly been talking about the jerseys. But every team also has new pants this year, all of which are adorned with diagonal-cut belt tunnels (see above). One thing I’ve been wondering is whether Atlanta’s side and back belt tunnels would retain their distinctive red/navy piping, which they’ve had for many years.

The red piping first appeared on the team’s belt loops in 1946, when the franchise still played in Boston. The piping was maintained for the team’s first 10 years in Milwaukee and then later reappeared in Atlanta, where it’s been a mainstay of the team’s uniforms since 1987.

(Trivia quiz: Can you think of the only other MLB team over the past 60 years or so that’s had belt tunnel piping? Answer at the bottom of this post.)

This is precisely the sort of detail I fixate on. So when I recently had a source providing me with pages from the 2024 MLB Style Guide, I asked to see the Atlanta pages so I could check out the belt loops. Unfortunately, the new Guide doesn’t show side or back views of the pants, and the front view was inconclusive:

But now that spring training has begun, Atlanta players are wearing the new pants, and I’m very disappointed to report that the piping is gone:

What a drag. You can see additional photos from the team’s first day of spring training here.

Atlanta isn’t the only team whose pants have gotten less interesting. For many years now, the Tigers have led the league in belt loops — a weird quirk, to be sure, but a fun team-specific detail. Alas, those days are now over:

To me, this is how the culture of uniforms (and uni-watching) dies. Not in grand strokes, but in small, incremental steps, as any hint of distinctive character gets homogenized and standardized out of existence. It’s death by a thousand cuts.

Trivia answer: Admit it, you’d forgotten that the Rangers had royal blue piping on their belt tunnels in 2006, ’07, and ’08:

Somehow that never looked right on them. Of course, if they had kept it, they’d have to scrap it this year. Sigh.

In case you missed it yesterday: These changes are all due to Nike, not Fanatics.

(My thanks to Twitter-er @MinSub4 for pointing me toward the Atlanta spring training photo gallery.)



Merch Reminder

In case you missed it earlier this week: Teespring has just announced an upgrade to its software, the main result of which is that product listings that originally launched with an earlier version of their software will expire at the end of February unless they’re taken down and then relaunched. This affects about 95% of the T-shirt listings I’ve amassed over the past nine years.

The 17-step (!) relaunch process is cumbersome and time-consuming even for just one product. The prospect of doing it hundreds of times is out of the question. So I’ve decided to let most of our Teespring product listings go dark at the end of this month.

Here’s what this means for you:

  • If you want anything in the Uni Watch Teespring shop, I strongly suggest you order it now. A few newer items, like the 25th-anniversary products, will still be available after this month, but most of the listings will sunset at the end of February.
  • Everything in the Naming Wrongs shop will go dark at the end of the month. So if you want any of those shirts, the time is now.
  • Likewise, everything in the Uni Rock shop will also vanish at the end of the month. So it’s now or never.

My thanks, as always, for considering our products.



Can of the Day

How often do you see a can with a word balloon on it?


Comments (38)

    Something very fitting about an article about piping (lines) having a picture of a player named Mendoza

    Tunnel piping aside, aren’t belts themselves an anachronism? It seems odd to be wearing a full-on belt similar to one you’d wear for dress pants when you’re playing a sport where you run and jump and generally want to athletic. And they don’t actually serve a purpose in baseball. Elastic was invented many years ago and the belt isn’t actually holding up the pants or anything. As much as I love uniforms, function should still go before form, and they really aren’t needed at all.

    I believe at some point a Nike rep had said that they could not believe the MLB still has their players wearing belts and that had led to some speculation that when they took over the uniforms that belts would eventually be on the chopping block. So far belts themselves are safe.

    Did the Braves/Tigers have to agree on this? Or, are they at the mercy of Nike and MLB? Because, I could see both of them putting their foot down on something, I would think, that would be easy to just do. It wouldn’t be changing the jersey/pants template. It’s just adding custom belt loops. Geeeeeeez. To me, that’s what always stood out about both teams uniforms.

    I’m almost positive the team had no choice on these two matters. As a fan of both teams, today is a dark day. Those two details were absolutely integral to the imagery of both teams. I’ve wanted a pair of game pants from both teams for a long while now. Damn you, Nike. I wish Wilson and Ripon would take things over from these clowns.

    “To me, this is how the culture of uniforms (and uni-watching) dies…”
    I agree. And this isn’t a criticism of Paul at all, but I can see how it is hard keep putting out quality work because of this, and why now is the time for him to walk away. Uni reveals and news are significantly more negative than positive now. Like I almost dread when a team is putting out a new uniform because expectation is it is that Nike is going to Nike it. Saying nothing for the excessive amount of temporary alternates that are +90% garbage, or in this case, pointless new design templates that ruin the existing aesthetics.
    Maybe it is just me, but lately the only uni news that seems positive is the release of a throwback or when a team just tells Nike to undo the changes and goes back to an old design full time (Bucs, Browns, Jets, etc).
    I can understand how hard it is for Paul to have a passion for sports uniforms and have to write about the continued decline of them. While certainly not of the same magnitude, it reminds me of one of my friends who is a police officer, his overall demeanor suffers from spending every day dealing with some of most horrible aspects of life; overdoses, suicides, child abuse, car accidents, etc.

    Well said. I am done caring about modern uniforms. I guess I still come here to get content about the older uniforms and throwbacks to my youth. I will live in the past. My favorite teams had great jerseys and I will remember those. The 1962-1973 Mets, the 1969-1978 Knicks and the 1970s-1996 Steelers.

    Horrible uniform redesigns have been around for decades. I go back to some of the 90’s NBA uniforms. There were some really bad ones. The one that really comes to mind was the Pistons switching to teal. Which, if I could define 90’s uniforms, it would be teal. Way overdone LOL

    Is Nike’s template really the culprit here, or just their laziness? Is there anything about it or the materials that made piped belt tunnels (or direct-sewn chain stitching for that matter) technically challenging or impossible, or do they just want to save a buck?

    Isn’t it really one and the same? Nike doesn’t care about details that don’t scream “IT’S NIKE, LOOK AT IT!”, which is why the basketball templates have weird notches and truncated stripes, and the football templates have weird seams. But the small stuff that distinguished a team (Tigers’ belt loops, Braves decorated tunnels, gigantic NOBs, Phillies and Cardinals chain-stitching) all goes away because it doesn’t make you think of Nike when you see it.

    Is Nike’s template really the culprit here, or just their laziness?
    It laziness overall.
    Not one human or company puts actual effort in to their work anymore.
    And as consumers, we have become lazy in the fact that we will accept anything, no matter how shoddy the work on the product is.

    I notice an improvement brought about by the new template is piping crawling over the top of the waist.

    “Not one human or company puts actual effort in to their work anymore.”

    Unfortunately, most of these decisions always come down to money. Considering the amount of detailed storytelling we see in most jersey launches I do believe the effort is put in. If making the belt loops custom means those pants cost more to make then my guess is Nike would rather slightly increase their profit than lose money on a detail the team won’t pay extra for. All speculation on my part of course.

    I’ve read complaints from the players about the pants. They claim there used to be three ways to measure/size the pants, now there are only two (waist, leg length). Not sure what the third measurement was.

    I meant inseam when I said “leg length”. Maybe cuff tightness or bagginess? The player said the pants used to feel “tailored” with the three measurements, but the new ones feel like “off the rack” pants bought in a sporting goods store.

    I’m guessing that third measurement is the thigh width. Some pitchers have absolute tree trunk thighs.

    I think the third measurement was hips. Either that or “rise” (distance between the where the pant legs begin up to where the belt loops begin — think “low cut” for jeans as a reference).

    I’m not 100% on this, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of these two.

    I would assume rise, if they’re complaining. A tailor can easily alter pants to be less billowy, but the rise is not modifiable.

    I think it’s hips; i. e. buttock size. I have a pair of game-used pants and they have a hip measurement on the tag in addition to waist and length.

    If the Packers can continue using an old Rebook template for their jerseys, I don’t see why some MLB team can’t say thanks but no thanks, and use tailoring that more suits their team’s traditional elements. Lets be honest, for baseball, more so than other sports that have continuous action, at a certain point, differences due to performance enhancing uniform materials are negligible.

    I have always had problems with new innovations sucking the fun and tradition out of sports. The way I deal with setbacks is to draw the world as I would have it: I’m in the midst of a project where the teams all have zippered jerseys and are wearing shooting socks in lieu of stirrups. I simply can’t be bothered by bad news.

    From a basic design point-of-view, I still don’t understand WHY they decided to place the MLB logo where it is when they (NIKE) know perfectly well that there will be a name on the back of the jersey. Makes no sense at all!

    I think an underlying theme of what everyone is complaining about is a subculture today of changing things for change sake, CFCS… take a look at state flags, TV reboots/remakes, comic book companies reinvent their universes every few years now, recent car company logo updates (Buick, Kia, Cadillac, Nissan), and I remember a recent article here where (some) Green Bay fans were asking their GM if they were going to change their logo anytime soon, (I mean sheesh).
    Hey I understand things evolve and change but when it’s forced, such as what Nike is doing, well, we all get to see the results together

    Nike doesn’t care about teams and their traditions. Nike cares only about promoting Nike.

    I don’t own a single Nike product, and I never will.

    I’ll say the unsaid. MLB has abdicated and is letting Nike drive the bus. they’re making all these uniform decisions, which are mostly horrible, and MLB is not pushing back. All the changes in uniforms means more money for Nike through fan sells. Now we get stupid City Connect uniforms nobody needed and take away from the traditional uniforms. Then we got All-Star uniforms rather than the interest and excitement of seeing all the players in their normal uniforms, which we may not see many of them through the regular season. This trend has gone over to New Era and all the different hats teams have to have now that just generates money for New Era without improving baseball.

    Looks like the new pants loops may also have an effect on our ability to see the customization (uni numbers, initials, etc.) on players’ belts, as many of those customized on the strap (rather than the loop) are worn where the pants loop now covers. I’m sure the belt companies will make adjustments in time, but i don’t know if they had any advance notice of this change.

    Nike totally dropped the ball.
    Bad, Bad, Bad!
    I really want to know who is working for their design team…. Obviously not qualified. This ENTIRE roll-out is disappointing, disastrous and lame. The Phillies should be pissed, The Braves have had their entire history changed, The stupid Dodgers should be pissed too.

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