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A History of Baseball Pants

We all put our pants on one leg at a time, some of us just like to have enough room for four legs

Photo credit should read Anne COLE/AFP via Getty Images

If you missed the biggest news of the offseason, please allow me the pleasure of introducing you to Joey Gallo in the Rangers’ new threads.

Powder blue searched its entire life for this kind of harmony, auditioning young Michael Jordan and modern day Raheem Sterling in the years after their first hits with Ellis Valentine and other baby blue boomers. But apart from those gorgeous Cardinals alternates and some inspiring work at the collegiate level, powder blue remained mostly silent before finding someone who hits the notes quite like Gallo. Suddenly, everything in the universe makes sense again.

Listed at 6’5” and 235 pounds, Gallo still finds a home for his tree trunk legs in acreage of tailored polyester. As things stand right now, the Rangers’ roster is in flux, but their closet is in good hands. Though Gallo is just one man and thus, only capable of baiting viewers into thirst traps once every nine hitters, his teammates and their various fashion approaches offer something for everyone.

Texas’ big reveal not only highlights a different way to make the stale red, white, and blue colorway more exciting, but also the different ways that baseball players choose to wear their pants. Gallo and his manager Chris Woodward opt for the full-legged seersuckers while Jose Trevino and Willie Calhoun leave more to the imagination by draping their lower body in secrecy behind baggy curtains. Shin-Soo Choo and Delino DeShields, meanwhile, let their socks drive the outfit with a mix between football and horse jockey pants.

As painful as it is to admit, the Rangers look hot. Texas has put the league on notice with one swift back-to-school shopping spree, immediately transforming the Rangers from afterthoughts to head turners. These new uniforms feel like a major win from where I’m sitting, with the only note being that a white hat with a red brim would be a better pair with the baby blues.

In the Mariners’ relatively brief history, the organization has seen several life cycles of the classic baseball pant. Due to their fairly recent birth, Seattle missed out on the parachute pants Babe Ruth and other giants of the game wore. By the time the Mariners emerged from their cocoon for the inaugural 1977 season, powder blue was flourishing alongside stirrup socks and the era’s penchant for hip-hugging pants. Ruppert Jones’ pants clung to his quads like a child to their parent in a crowded mall.

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

This was essentially how the whole team – and the league at large – dressed in 1977. Vacuum sealed trousers that end just below the knee, complemented by the style of sock that is now an immediate signifier of the era.

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The M’s changed up their look slightly in 1981, adding stripes down the sleeves and pants, but remained terrified of excess fabric. For Seattle, the 80s were a decade of continual losing in clothes that fit like body paint. Powder blue kept its foot on the baseball world’s neck, but only under the condition that nobody’s pants could have a single crumb of breathing room. The result was a lot of men who looked like a Popsicle with ass.

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1987 brought an entirely new aesthetic to the Pacific Northwest, as the Mariners ditched powder blue and the trident logo but kept their video vixen pants. Mark Langston would have done numbers on Instagram.

Mark Langston

The Mariners of the 90s kept things tight to the crotch, as if the organization’s newfound success would magically evaporate if they climbed the size chart. When the blue, teal, and silver was unveiled, cloaking men with names like Little O, A-Rod, and Big Unit, it was done with glorious restriction.

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The turn of the century brought an excuse to leave the past behind and start fresh from the ankles up. New Year’s Resolutions are so passé, it’s all about New Millennium Pants Upheavals. Amid baggy pants’ hostile takeover, one courageous rebel remained, undaunted by his contemporaries’ wavering, confident in his own sartorial choices.

American League Championship Series - New York Yankees v Seattle Mariners - Game Two
Mariners v Yankees

Ichiro’s MLB pants may not have been as snug as his Orix Blue Wave joints, but they were still a blatant defiance to the increasingly popular style that would dominate the next decade and change. Uni Watch’s Paul Lukas famously used the term “pajama pants” to describe the flowy, billowing pants introduced in the 2000s. Part of the change also had to do, apparently, with bucking back against authority. As many Little Leaguers will tell you, high socks and short pants are the typical starter kit because that’s just what you’re supposed to do. Typically, players don’t have a whole lot of say on alterations or cuffing styles until they reach at least high-level club ball or college. In 2014, Gerrit Cole said of young players’ loyalty to the old-school look, “You have to earn long pants, and you want to be in whatever vibe your team is in.” In other words, to avoid the serious crime of disrespecting the game, you wear the pants that everyone else wears. If you get old enough, and good enough, then you can express yourself however your pants desire. But, importantly, and as Cole noted in that same article, long pants are simply more comfortable. Thus, the explosion of Gen X’ers and millennials opting for the laid back variety over their more oppressive forefathers.

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Things started to shift in the 2010s, as long pants remained the preferred option, but with the extra cloth erased. MLB scaling back its wardrobe policies also ushered in much louder socks, because nothing says “We have a lot of fun around here” like socks with palm trees on them. That newness brought a bit of pizzazz, but you could argue that the 2010s were the most straightforward era of baseball pants. Most players fell into one of two categories: standard pants that ended right above the shoe, or slightly wider ones meant to be worn with stockings. Obviously, there are some exceptions, as some guys decided pants are to legs as boa constrictors are to human life.

And, of course, we can’t discuss modern baseball pants biker shorts? without mentioning Hunter Pence: Beautiful Weirdo.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Entering the uncharted waters of the 2020s, it will be fascinating to monitor the next steps in the baseball pants life cycle. Recently, the Mariners have seen players like Kyle Seager let it hang a little, but also fitness maven Dan Altavilla who jumped at every chance to show off his assets.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners”n Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

On the minor league circuit, the kids are mirroring the trends of American fashion. While not quite skinny jeans, slim-fitting pants are the wave, and that influence has infiltrated the baseball diamond.

If you have children of your own who have taken to the great game of baseball, please let us know as non-creepily as possible what kind of pants are en vogue. Thank you.